Ultimately, unless you’re picking out of the five-star bin constantly, the question for every freshman is whether they’re ready. The jump from high school to college is phenomenal. Everyone is bigger, faster, stronger, quicker, and smarter. The coaches spend their entire lives studying the game and gaining every advantage possible for those thirty some contests against coaches and schemes they’re very familiar with.
High school basketball isn’t easy... except when you’re someone as gifted as Eric Hunter. Then it kinda can be. There just aren’t that many kids in the country that can measure up to someone who is both quick, explosive, and can shoot. They aren’t found in every high school.
Which is why it’s so exciting that Coach Painter landed another guard with the potential to be the kind of on the ball creator that he’s lacked in his system consistently. Carsen Edwards jump last year was a revelation after a freshman season that was both spectacular and catastrophic depending on the game and sometimes just the minute. His ability to create points out of nothing kept Purdue’s head above water in stretches when the offense couldn’t find a rhythm.
So it’s tantalizing to picture a Purdue roster with two of those players. (There’s an argument that Eastern can be this type of player as well, but it’s still too hard for players that can’t shoot to consistently find buckets anymore.) Hunter is also a smaller guard, at 6’3” he has a few inches on Edwards, but his 165 lbs. frame is sleight. Edwards ability to muscle through players, especially on the defensive end, allowed him to be a dog of a defender at times, and absorb contact on the way to the basket at the other end. It’s hard to imagine Hunter going up against the bigger guards in the league and having the same impact, but his shot-making and quickness make him a threat at all times.
Purdue doesn’t have the luxury of four seniors this year. Mathias is gone. Thompson gone. Vincent Edwards gone. They were all the perfect fit for someone like Carsen Edwards. They could all shoot incredibly well from the floor. They could all pass, and they all knew where to be. Cline should be able to make a decent replacement for Mathias, but Eastern is never going to threaten 50% from beyond the arc like Thompson and you can’t expect Wheeler to immediately step on the floor and be Vincent though Evan Boudreaux will at least provide the spacing.
It will come down to Carsen making plays when he’s on the court, and players like Hunter to make defenses honest next to him.
And then there’s the horror of when Carsen goes to the bench. Which leads us to the major question for this summer for the freshman.
Can Eric Hunter be effective enough of a scorer to be the focal point of an offense in three to four minute stretches?
Maybe he’ll struggle getting bullied on defense, but if he can hit shots right away and get his teammates involved, it will be worth it to keep him on the floor. Especially when Carsen goes to the bench. You can pair Hunter with Eastern and Cline to give him size behind him on the defensive end. Dowuona seems like a natural match for Hunter, a big bad inside that can deter drives and act as a roller on what could be a dynamic pick and roll for the next four years.
It’s possible this is the most important question for this Purdue team this year. Can they survive the minutes Carsen has to go to the bench to rest?
It won’t be all up to the freshman from Tindley, but he’s likely the most apt to provide an answer.