When I decided to do this series I wasn’t sure where to start. Do I do incoming seniors on down? Freshmen first? Numerical order? If I started with the seniors I know there would be certain elements that would probably get upset (think about it) that I started with a certain player. I figured that the most dispassionate way would to be reverse numerical order. Thus why I started with Sasha Stefanovic. That brings us to another junior-to-be.
Trevion Williams – Junior in 2020-21
2018-19 Stats: 34 Games played, 8 starts. 10.2 mpg, 5.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 54.2% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 35.7% FT
2019-20 Stats: 31 Games played, 22 starts. 21.5 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.5 apg, 51.5% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 47.9% FT Team leader points per game and rebounds per game.
Tre has come a long, long way. Early in the 2018-19 season he could barely get off the bench. He even had a pair of “DNP – Coaches Decision” on his ledger. Then he came in and provided a spark in the Notre Dame game in Indianapolis with 10- points in just nine minutes. Suddenly he was a regular in the rotation, grabbing rebounds and doing the dirty work inside. While Purdue lost that game, it was a spark that ignited us into the most memorable season of the last 20 years.
This year, even though he was not a full time starter, he was an invaluable member of the team. He finished as Purdue’s leading scorer and rebounder and had some big games along the way. He had a double-double eight times, topped off by a monster night in Ann Arbor where he had an impressive 36-20 and almost single-handedly dragged Purdue to a win.
Tre is always going to draw comparisons to Caleb Swanigan, which is a bit unfair. Both are solid power forwards that might be a bit undersized for the five, but when they are at the five Purdue has the potential for a devastating small ball lineup. Biggie was a double-double machine, while Tre has the potential to be that in his final two seasons in West Lafayette. I also think that Tre is a little more polished around the basket with his post moves. There were times this season where he made some nearly impossible twists and turns to score at the rim.
Much of that is because he has slimmed down considerably since he arrived at Purdue. His Rivals recruiting profile listed him at 290 pounds, which is... generous. Per a Detroit News article he was down a total of 50 pounds from his high school weight to 265 before the season started, so you do the math. That has made him much quicker and more lithe for those shots at the rim, and he is a better rebounder too. He had 104 offensive rebounds this season, and it seemed like at least once per game he would grabbed a wild, errant shot and calmly put it back to rescue a bad possession. When you can steal 2-4 points per game that way it helps tremendously.
If there was a significant deficiency in his game it is at the free throw line. As one of Purdue’s top grinders in the paint he is going to go to the line a lot, and for the most part he was not great. I think Tre has great form at the line, but his free throw percentage dropped from 51.4% to 47.9%. When he led Purdue in free throw attempts (45 of 94) that is a significant issue, especially when close games were a bit of a problem this season. With overtime losses against Florida State (2 of 6), at Michigan (3 of 6), and at home to Rutgers (2 of 2, so not on him at the line in that one) free throws can be a huge difference.
Those losses cannot be laid entirely at the feet of Tre.. Everyone misses free throws from time-to-time. When the guy that gets to the line most is hitting less than 50% of the time, however, that is a concern. We don’t need a hack-a-Tre strategy emerging where our best rebounder becomes a liability at the end of games.
If Tre can just get to 66.7%, hitting two of every three, that would be a major step forward. I’m not asking him to be automatic at the line like Reggie Miller, but he needs to be better. The difference between 47% and 67% can be the difference between 16 wins and 18 wins as we saw this season.
A second thing I would like to see him work on is his three-point shooting. Now hear me out here: Do I want him to start bombing away with reckless abandon? No. Absolutely not. That’s not his game. Would I like to see him have the Nemanja Calasan “You get two looks and only two looks per game” green light? I am not opposed to it. When he is a danger to step out and shoot an open three (like Biggie) it makes Purdue’s offense more versatile.
We have seen a very limited sample size in his career. He is 4 of 12 from long range in the last two years, with at least one of those being a desperation heave he hit at Michigan this year. Still, there is some promise there. That promise can become the dreaded “something else to worry about” for opposing teams. If you doubt me just look at Nojel Eastern. A supposed point guard, Nojel is 3 of 16 in his career from three and hasn’t hit one since he was a freshman. If he has the ball behind the three-point arc teams are playing 5 feet off him because he is not a threat. I want Tre to be a threat. I think we all would feel more comfortable with Tre shooting a three than Nojel.
There is a lot of good with Tre though. His rebounding, especially on the offensive glass, is excellent. He can steal you a few baskets a game on second chance points alone. For a big man he is an exceptional passer and I would love to see him get to 3-4 assists per game. He could be a little quicker defensively and if he was able to take that power dribble and flush one as opposed to getting blocked at the rim that would be great, but those are minor things. Tre is going to be a centerpiece of Purdue the next two seasons. With just a little more polish he can be an all-Big Ten caliber player.