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Purdue Basketball: This is the Big We Were Looking For

Is Trevion Williams the next great Purdue big man?

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The answer seems to be a resounding yes.

After breaking into double-digits in minutes played just once in the first 14 games of the season, Trevion Williams has played 20 minutes or more in the last three.

While Evan Boudreaux’s back injury opened the door for Williams to contribute more on the floor, it was Williams work off the floor that made his rise possible. Williams suffered an injury towards the end of his high school career that caused Williams to come to West Lafayette severely out of shape. At the beginning of the season he couldn’t get through a single practice without having to stop, now he’s able to play 25 minutes in an overtime game against the best Center in the nation.

Williams has lost over 50 pounds since coming to campus.

Before Trevion Williams breakout against Michigan St. on the road, the Purdue team was quietly reeling. While not suffering a ‘bad’ loss, they had given away much needed ‘great’ wins on the road against Florida St. and Texas, and got handled easily in Indianapolis against Notre Dame. (Coincidentally, the score ended up being closer than it should because Williams had his first breakout, things to come game.)

Purdue’s team was looking like a one-man Carsen Edwards show which struggled to find a consistent rhythm to their offense.

Coach Painter has always thrived when he had a big man he could give the ball to down in the post. For the past four seasons he had one of the most efficient post-scorers in Purdue history, Isaac Haas. When the big man went down in the NCAA tournament last year, the offense struggled to find the same consistency in the Sweet Sixteen despite three seniors in the starting lineup.

This year, Purdue’s team depended almost entirely on Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline getting open and making threes, and the results were mostly uneven.

Matt Haarms was never suited as a give it to him in the post and get a bucket big man like those that came before him. Despite his height, his small frame doesn’t allow him to bully B10 defenders in the post. He has to settle for difficult and off-balance hook shots in the post.

Evan Boudreaux was supposed to help with the offensive hole left in the wake of Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards, but he’s struggled against the athleticism and height against elite bigs. He hasn’t been able to finish around the rim, and his ability to stretch the floor hasn’t been realized either. He’s just 7 of 23 from the three-point line this year.

For Williams, he brings an old-school bully ball that mimics what we saw with Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan, and rebounding at an elite level. His 31.5% defensive rebounding rate is just slightly under Biggie’s his sophomore year. While the sample size is small, the results are undeniable. In the last 3 games Williams has grabbed 36 rebounds in 67 minutes of action. He’s grabbed at least 4 offensive rebounds in each game, including seven against Wisconsin and Michigan St..

He’s also scored the ball consistently and efficiently. Over those three games he’s scored: 16, 9, and 13 points. He’s done it in almost exclusively out of the post, by grabbing offensive rebounds and taking on his defender in the post. He has shown great patience and even better touch with his hook shot. He’s surprisingly crafty as a finisher.

But his revelation has been as a passer. In just 15 games, he’s making a claim for best big man passer in Coach Painter’s tenure. He’s certainly the most willing.

His assists numbers don’t fully flesh out the affect his passing has made. Part of that is that assists are a silly kept stat. There’s still no tally for passes leading to fouls, or passes that lead to blown lay-ups. (Looking at you, Hunter.) But it’s clear the young man has a sixth sense when it comes to finding cutters. If you cut and you’re open, the big man is going to find you. He’s balanced this exceptional passing with an even rarer commodity; he doesn’t make bad passes.

Williams has 7.9% turnover rate. That is the lowest on the team by more than 2%. He is just a true freshman who has been thrown into the heart of B10 play. His majority of minutes have come against the best front court in the conference and the best center.

While Williams is only now becoming a real staple in Painter’s rotation, his star is fast rising. Now that his body has caught up with the mental part of his game, he has been a force to reckon with. It’s no coincidence that Purdue is starting to play their best basketball of the year. They’ve won 5 of their last 6, including their first road win of the season against a ranked Wisconsin team.

It’s just in time, too. IU comes to town Saturday.

Williams has been a paint crew all on his own this season, but in front of Purdue’s Paint Crew he’ll look to leave his first mark on the greatest rivalry in college basketball.