Carsen Edwards is one of the few certainties for a program in transition. The old guard is out and with them, they take nearly 50 points a game. Who will help the National Player of the Year candidate with the scoring load? That’s what we’re hoping to find out here, and to satisfy your degenerate souls, we’re laying odds.
Odds so far:
Eric Hunter Jr. might be the easiest freshman to fit into the picture of second leading scorer because we just saw two years ago what an explosive scoring guard can do off the bench for Coach Painter. Hunter will likely try to emulate Carsen Edwards freshman year where the diminutive guard came onto the court and immediately started flinging the ball up and attacking the basket, scoring over 10 points a game in just over 23 minutes per game. A similar role could be at play for Hunter, and it’s likely there will be four or five other players behind Carsen that will be threatening the double-digit scoring mark but not going much over.
Hunter is not Edwards when it comes to physicality and strength, but the lefty from Tindley Prep is an explosive athlete that knows how to score the ball. He averaged 29 points in his senior season, and he’ll be on a team that needs both shooting and players capable of getting his own shot. He was over 50% in his junior season from 3, but he also played at a very small 1A school.
Hunter has stepped up to his competition his entire career. He dropped forty points his junior year of high school when his team faced eventual 3A champion Crispus Attucks.
Hunter has a nice balance to his game. He’s an explosive driver with good pace, and can shoot the ball off the dribble. He’s used to the ball in his hand and used to handling the attention of the defense. Coach Painter has grown more and more flexible with letting young guys play their way through mistakes on the offensive end. Caleb Swanigan and Carsen Edwards really cleared the way for big time high school players to come in and not just stick to the system, but explore the avenues of their game that made them effective.
If anything will be a hindrance to Hunter, it will be his size on defense. He’s 6’3” with a decent wing span but he’s only 165 lbs. That’s tiny. For comparison, Carsen Edwards is just 6’1” but he weighs 200 lbs. and that physicality really comes through on the defensive end. You can’t bully him, but Hunter is going to get pushed around, especially if he’s asked to guard wings. This can be mitigated, of course, when you have a 6’6” point guard, but Hunter will have to prove his worth on the defensive end. Painter loves having a point guard that can press the ball handler the entire way up the court and delay a team getting into their offense. Eastern is incredible at this. Those extra few seconds a point guard has to shield the ball to not get it stolen that pauses an offense is invaluable. Those are seconds ticking away without the threat of scoring and all of a sudden the offense has to force up a bad shot.
But Hunter is a special offensive talent. He will be able to create for other players and for himself. Edwards can’t actually score all of the points even though there will be times this year where he’ll try. Hunter’s lack of size might match really well as a direct replacement for Carsen while Cline and Eastern, both bigger guards, stay out there. Hunter and Edwards together will be a tough sale against the wrong teams, but with stretchy and versatile players like Aaron Wheeler and Nojel Eastern, it’s doable.
It’ll come down to how quickly Hunter asserts himself and translates his game to the rigors and difficulties of division 1 basketball. If he’s good enough to force Coach Painter to play him, Painter has the versatility of roster to make it work. If his offense isn’t a consistent threat, it might be difficult for Coach Painter to find the minutes for Hunter that a lot of people expect.
Eric Hunter Jr.’s odds to be Purdue’s second leading scorer: 6/1