Here we are at the end of the Purdue basketball homework series. I don’t know the incoming freshmen well enough to speculate on what they need to work on, but they are incoming freshmen and there will definitely be an adjustment period as they get ready to come to the college level. Also, walk-ons Jared Wilbrun and Matt Frost, while talented, don’t appear so far to have a Grady Eifert-like breakthrough into the rotation. I definitely appreciate their contributions, but Eifert is a once-every-ten-years type of player that climbs from walk-on to starter.
Our last player is one that should be very hungry to get on the court.
Mason Gillis – Redshirt Freshman in 2020-21
By the time Gillis played in 2020-21 it will be his first competitive game in over two years. He missed his entire senior year of high school (minus a ceremonial “start” and basket on senior night) with a knee injury. He played 15 minutes and had 1 point and 6 rebounds in the exhibition win over Southern Indiana early in the year, but that was not a competitive game, really. The rest of the time has been balanced between rehab and practice.
That has to be a factor when it comes to getting back on the court. Yes, he has had plenty of practice time and he has battled Purdue’s currently players on Cardinal Court, but there is a big step from practice to full-time Division I basketball in front of 14,000 people, especially when you haven’t really played in front of anyone in two years.
My theory (and this is just a theory) has been stated many times here: that Gillis and Brandon Newman were redshirted in part because Painter thought Evan Boudreaux and Jahaad Proctor were going to hold down the fort at their respective positions. They are now gone, and it is time for Gillis and Newman to shine.
Gillis projects mostly as a 3 or a 4 in Painter’s offense. He averaged 21.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists as a junior at New Castle High School before his injury. He also shot 59.5% from the floor, which is an incredible number. New Castle won a class 3A regional that season and went 27-3 before losing to eventual state champion Culver Academy in the semi-state 65-60. His team clearly missed him his senior year, as New Castle went 13-11 and lost to Delta in the sectional.
Gillis is a versatile player who will likely battle Aaron Wheeler to play at the four. He had 71 3-point attempts in his junior season and shot 45% from three. It wasn’t a huge part of his game, but he clearly had the green light. I also really like his rebounding numbers, but they may have been slightly inflated by him being the best player by far on the floor at any given time during his junior season. New Castle has stepped down from its heyday in the North Central Conference. It is now a 3A school that only plays a few 4A schools a year. He still had wins over state powers Bloomington South and Hamilton Southeastern his junior season and one of his few losses was 61-59 at Carmel.
Ultimately, we need Gillis to come out of his redshirt year strong. Purdue’s track record of “forwards coming out of injury and a redshirt” has not been strong. Jay Simpson and Jacquil Taylor are the two that come to mind. It is not Simpson’s fault he had an undiagnosed heart condition that forced his retirement, while Taylor had the rotation in front of him kind of freeze him out.
I do think this past year has been beneficial for him. With Boudreaux gone and Wheeler struggling I think he knows he has an opportunity in front of him. It has been two years of hard work to get to this point, so it is time for him to seize that opportunity.