There’s a sports story being made here. Grady Eifert, a famous athlete’s last name, a legacy name, came to Purdue humbly, a walk-on, playing only in blow-outs his first two seasons, and will leave the team after next season as someone that has filled in for Vincent Edwards in the starting line up and played big minutes in NCAA tournament games. Vital minutes. If it weren’t for a couple huge rebounds and defensive plays against Butler, Purdue might not even have made it to Boston and their second straight Sweet Sixteen.
But that made for TV special is a script for another day. He’s got one more year to write his swan song.
So what does the scrappy, surprisingly athletic wing have to do this summer to take the next step? This might be the easiest question of the summer. Three-point shooting.
His percentage is actually pretty impressive! 40%! His form looks fine, if not a little slow. The only problem, he took just five three-pointers in his 300 minutes on the floor. He was open a lot. Almost all the time as the season went along.
Here’s my caveat: his role was not to take shots. Purdue had a lot of weapons last year and a lot of shooting. Eifert excels on moving off the ball, on swinging the ball, and crashing the offensive glass. He’s incredibly smart, works hard, and doesn’t need the ball to be effective. None of this should change. But on most possessions, defenses tended to leave him so open that he just has to shoot it.
Purdue’s roster is full of a lot of unknowns. They’ve lost their best shooter and defender, their best all-around player, and their post presence. Purdue will have talent and athleticism next year, but also a whole lot of youth. Eifert’s defense will have to stay on the court next year. His consistency will be a bright light in what could be stormy conditions of chaos on the court. Purdue needs him on the floor.
And his only real negative is that he’s not respected as a shooter. Push those 5 attempts all season to something like 1 a game, make a decent clip of them, and then all of a sudden defenses can’t collapse on the bevy of athletes Purdue will have driving to the hoop.
Purdue will struggle to find a balance between spacing the floor and defending on the other end. Nojel Eastern is probably Coach Painter’s best defender, but the point guard can’t shoot. Playing him and Eifert together will make Carsen Edwards job even harder. Teams are going to focus enough on the small guard from Texas as is.
But if Eifert can provide a bit of spacing with his shot, Coach Painter will be able to lean more heavily on defense-centric lineups when games are close and play Eifert on the wing instead of playing the four where he’s sometimes undersized.
Eifert actually had the highest offensive rating on the team last year by shooting over 60% from the field and never turning the ball over. Add in the defense, and that’s a player you want on the court. If he finds a consistent shot, he’ll stay there.