Can he do everything?
It’s always kind of baffled me a bit that there was so much… resistance towards Vincent Edwards. For four years, he was always the real glue that held the team together. It’s easy to look at someone like PJ Thompson or Dakota Mathias and think of them as the cliché piece that helps the rest of his teammates excel while they toil out of the spotlight. But it’s always been Edwards.
He did everything for Purdue, but he doesn’t look like a glue guy. He’s tall and long, capable of spectacular chase down blocks and splashing threes and big-time transition dunks. He’s the perfect modern basketball player with the athleticism to guard and play nearly every position, but there was always a sense that he could do more. Which is probably true. He could have scored more. He could have had more assists. He could have grabbed more boards. He could have shut down more players.
Instead, he was a chameleon changing his skin to cover for the team around him.
Time softens everything. My guess, by the start of the season, Purdue’s new starting four will have to live up to the memory of Vincent Edwards with every minute.
Evan Boudreaux is not Vincent Edwards.
Boudreaux’s career is a curiosity. While it’s nothing now for a team to have a transfer to their program, Boudreaux’s path out of Dartmouth was both heavily considered and planned and a major audible. After two impressive seasons at Dartmouth, Boudreaux decided he wanted to transfer to better competition. He didn’t just leave though. Instead, he chose to sit out a year of basketball to get his degree at Dartmouth and then transfer.
His initial destination was Xavier. When coach Chris Mack agreed to take the Louisville basketball job, Boudreaux’s recruiting opened back up. Purdue and Coach Painter swarmed back in. They had a spot open at the four where Boudreaux naturally fits and the need for experience after losing four senior starters.
Boudreaux looks exactly like the type of player to thrive in Mackey Arena. He’s from Indiana, plays hard, and can shoot. Although his efficiency dipped his sophomore season after nearly doubling his three-point attempts from his freshman season, he was still above 35% and will help to space the floor. He’s a hard-nosed, go get the ball rebounder. His defensive rebounding percentage for both his seasons was above 26%, putting him in the top 30 rebounders in the nation.
But most importantly on offense, Boudreaux is always up to stuff. He doesn’t just stand around idly. If he has a mismatch down low, you can bet your ass he’s going to get his ass into his guy and move him wherever he wants and then seal him off. He sets hard picks at the right time. He flares out when he senses space. He’s great at knowing when to cut backside, especially against a zone, and he doesn’t appear to get frustrated when he doesn’t get the ball. Instead, he resets, sets another hard screen or seals his man off at a new angle.
This will be a guard heavy team, with Carsen Edwards and Nojel Eastern having the ball in their hands a lot. All this extra stuff is going to make their lives easier on the periphery. A big man stuck guarding Boudreaux is going to find it a very difficult decision to help off of Boudreaux if they know he won’t stay in one place.
But can Boudreaux pass? He’s had assist rates of 8.5% and 7.2% in his career. Coach Painter’s motion offense is probably good for a 2% bump on its own, if not more. Everyone moves and moves the ball in places where you should pick up an easy assist game more a game. But Boudreaux’s game is best when the ball is in his hands. He’s got incredible pace. He knows where the defenders are, how to get them on his body, and then get the ball onto the glass.
His dribble penetration game relies heavily on the threat of his shot, but he has good pace here, too. He keeps the defender on his hip and always has his eye on the rim. But teams will have this scouted. The athletes will be better. He’ll still be able to bend defenders, but it will be tougher in the Big Ten to get these in between shots off. He might not be able to entirely shield a far superior athlete from still getting to his shot. He’ll need to instead get the defense off-balance and then make the next pass for someone else to take advantage of.
But the biggest ‘everything’ he’ll have to do is play both the four and five, a decision that will come down to how well he can defend. The five might be a more natural fit for someone who relies on position and being strong in the post than trying to guard this new evolution of wings masquerading as power forwards. But he’ll need to be effective at chasing quicker guys, still being able to help, and not be the kind of liability that’s made certain match-ups terrifying the last couple years. (Hi, Michigan!)
Of all of Painter’s big this year, Boudreaux is by far the most proven and the best shooter. We’ve seen over the last few years, this motion offense with a shooting five is almost unstoppable. Add in the fact Boudreaux is capable of bullying smaller defenders if he forces a switch, and he clearly heightens the offensive ceiling of this team. But it can only work to full effect if Boudreaux can defend and slide into whatever role is necessary at the time on offense.
It’s this transition that might be toughest from going to a small school to a basketball powerhouse. It isn’t your show anymore.
But Boudreaux’s skill set, energy, and make-up as a person points directly to someone who should shine just stage left.