Is the hype for real?
It’s a bit of a subjective question, something based on someone else’s appraisal and not at all specific, but the buzz has been quietly building since the Brewster Academy forward came to campus.
First of all, Aaron Wheeler was listed at 6’8” by 247 sports coming out of high school. Since this is the internet and I can make these claims without having to follow through, I’ll say this: if he isn’t closer to 6’10” than 6’8” today, I’ll eat my laptop.
He’s skinny, sure, but give me a super stretch wing with the capability of defending all five positions than a girthy beefcake anyday. Aaron Wheeler is the model modern-day player. A perfect complement to an offensive and defensive system based on versatility, switching, and doing a bit of everything.
In high school, Wheeler seemed to threaten a triple-double whenever he was on the floor. His jump shot might not be his biggest strength, but he should be a threat from the perimeter. His movement is fluid, his handle is solid, and from the limited World University Games minutes, it seems like he knows how to play his role.
So maybe that’s really the question because for that team, with all those seniors, his rule was simple: don’t get in the way and if the ball is really high up in the air, go grab it.
The kid is a leaper. Stories of grabbing oops thrown up 12 foot in the air, nearly over the backboard and being brought back down by the kid from Connecticut started last year. He’s been officially on the ‘be on the look out for’ list by Vincent Edwards and Jacquil Taylor as soon as the season ended. The feeling seems to be that of all the newcomers, it will be Wheeler that will make the biggest impact.
Purdue will need him to be. For the first time in a long time, there’s no all B10 big man returning or a Vincent Edwards to fill the swiss-army role. Even though Evan Budreaux’s transfer will help fill the big man need and Matt Haarms is already way ahead of schedule defensively, Wheeler is the one with the potential to fill in the gaps both as a big man and as a wing. His athleticism will cause problems at every level of the court: in transition, as a pick and roll guy, and against slower defenders off the dribble.
Purdue’s season is going to come down to a couple of their question marks becoming definitive yes’s. If Purdue’s going to have a special season, the answer will have to be that Wheeler isn’t just good or decent, or a year away, he will have to live up to the hype from day one.
Thankfully for those curious, once again Purdue will benefit from their players going to play overseas in the summer. Instead of the whole team, both redshirt freshmen, Sasha Stefanovich and Aaron Wheeler, will be traveling to Italy to play for the USA East Coast team. It will have been over a year for either of them to play competitively and this will help get some of the jitters out for both of them.
For us, we’ll get to start forming our answers.