Will he play?
Coach Matt Painter has been more and more willing to hand out redshirts. This is a luxury for a coach, an entire extra year to hone a player’s mind and body to the rigors and challenges of college basketball. He used two of them last year on 6’9” wing Aaron Wheeler, and the sharp shooting guard from Crown Point, Sasha Stefanovich.
Basil Smotherman, before leaving the program and school, took a redshirt after his sophomore year because it looked like there would be a log jam on the wing.
Emmanuel Dowuona might be looking at a similar situation in the post this season. Matt Haarms after his redshirt season, looks locked in at the starting center spot after coming into the spotlight with spectacular blocks and a whole lot of hair flipping.
Fellow true freshman Trevion Williams comes in as the more heralded of the two front court players, and more of an offensive threat. Williams is a rare big man, full-sized but skilled and capable of having an offense run through him. Something Coach Painter has had a lot of success with the last few seasons, first with A. J. Hammons then Biggie Swanigan and Isaac Haas.
For Dowuona, his skills lie on the defensive end. He’s 6’11” with long arms, quick feet, and good instincts. The game of basketball is still relatively new to him. According to Purdue’s website, he’s only been playing for the last four years after giving up soccer. He appears to be a high-energy and effort guy, but offensively lacks the finesse and moves Purdue big men are known for. He seems an obvious candidate for a redshirt.
But it’s easier to redshirt your freshman when you know what you have on your team. You know what you have when you start four seniors and have Caleb Swanigan’s and Carsen Edwards’ on your team. This year will be different with just Grady Eifert and Ryan Cline as the teams only seniors.
Which means for the first time in a while, Coach Painter won’t have a big man to lean on that’s been able to be a focal point on offense and an anchor on defense. It’s still not clear where Aaron Wheeler will be most effective. Is he strong enough to bang in the post and provide spacing on offense? Can Evan Boudreaux defend the rim well enough to play the five? How good of shape is Travion Williams? Can he defend at all? Will Matt Haarms expand his offensive game and decision making while not giving up offensive rebounds by chasing blocks?
With so many questions, it might be difficult for Coach Painter to put a ‘do not touch’ tag on one of his most tantalizing defenders. Purdue will run the offense through their guards next year, and a potential rim-running/rim-protecting big man might be just what the team needs.
Coach Brantley and company have proven capable of developing big men. Dowuona’s athleticism and defense will be a tantalizing piece for Coach Painter. Much like last year, don’t expect him to make the decision until he sees what he has on the court.