Eric Hunter Jr. was Purdue’s most consistent player last year. He’s a lead guard that can do a little of everything on offense while playing tough defense at the point. He led the team in starts with 30 last season. That’s why it hurts so much to start the season with him on the bench due to a pre-season injury.
Hunter suffered a compression fraction in his tibia. This knee injury will keep Hunter sidelined 4 to 6 weeks into the season though recent remarks by Coach Painter suggest his recovery is going well and he might be back before then.
Hunter saw his role dramatically increase last season after being a bench player for the Elite Eight Boilermakers that nearly made it to the Final Four.
Hunter struggled at times with the added offensive responsibility. He’s one of the all-time leaders in points in Indiana high school basketball history, but he’s struggled to get to the rim at the collegiate level and his jump shot has been decent but not lights out.
He averaged 10.6 ppg on 35.5 percent shooting from range for the year.
He was second in the teams for points, assists, steals, and three-pointers made.
Hunter has turned into a really good, aggressive defender on ball. He’s got long arms, good balance, and quick feet. At times he was the most effective guard defender on a team with Nojel Eastern.
He would be a much needed, calming presence in a back court that this year will feature three freshman. Hunter’s biggest value is that he can play across from almost any type of guard. He guards above his size, can shoot, and initiate offense as a second threat.
He fits along Jaden Ivey particularly well, who should excel at getting to the rim and create open shots for others. Hunter is definitely a better catch and shoot three point shooter though he’s flashed a effective and classic mid-range game off the dribble.
Hunter fans will applaud him for his solid game, his lack of mistakes, and him not being afraid. He’s not someone you want to run your entire offense through, a role that he took at times last year simply because no one else could or willing.
Hunter is smart, fast, and plays hard every possession. His flaws last year were exacerbated by a team that lacked ball handlers and other threats. Expect Hunters shooting numbers to improve significantly when he returns to the court. His raw numbers might not change much in terms of points, but expect for his assists to elevate - he’ll actually have other players to pass to that can score.
Hunter has added to his game each year. Even with this injury and the pandemic, expect him to be a leader on the floor for a young Purdue squad in story lines, but don’t be surprised if he starts to emerge as more of the scorer he was in college. Junior year in Coach Painter’s system is when the motion offense really starts to slow down for his guards.
Along with more scoring efficiency, Hunter will continue to be one of the best defensive players in the conference. A mention on the all-defensive team would not be surprising.
And somehow, we’re just two days away from Purdue basketball though it will be a little longer until we Hunter out there with them.