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Purdue Basketball: Into the Portal!

Matt Painter has a roster spot to fill. Things just got a little more interesting.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 27 Indiana at Purdue Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you’re reading this article, you know Purdue has a 7’3 hole to fill on their roster with the exodus of Matt Haarms. I’m not as bothered or surprised by the Haarms transfer as some people, but losing a player like Haarms obviously hurts some aspects of the 2020/2021 squad. That said, no sense dwelling on the past or crying over spilled hair gel. Haarms is gone, Purdue has an open roster spot.

What is Painter Looking For?

Nothing says that Purdue has to make a 1 for 1 pick up to replace Haarms. It’s safe to say that with Purdue’s glut of guards, you won’t see another guard thrown into the mix, but I could see Painter going with either a 4 or a 5 to fill the roster spot. When I look at the roster, I see more of a need at the 4 than the 5. I’m not sold on Wheeler and Gillis taking the majority of minutes at the 4. We know Trevion Williams can hold down the 5.

When Haarms first announced his transfer, Painter said he would be looking for a 1 year grad transfer because he wants to save that scholarship for the 2021 recruiting class. While I still think Painter would prefer a 1 year grad transfer, a longer commitment from a talented player could also be on the table (more on that later).

I’ve also come around on the type of player best to fill the hole on the roster. Initially, I was all-in on a stretch 4. If you’re going to build a roster around Tre in the post, you need spacing, and with Wheeler misfiring all last season, I’m not confident Purdue has a stretch 4 on the roster. I’ve changed my mind on that (somewhat). I think an athletic 4 capable of cutting to the the basket and finishing at the rim would also work with Tre’s passing ability.

Having another physical big on the floor could also help Tre on defense. You know other teams are going to attack him on defense, but depending on match ups, pairing him with a more physical 4 would allow Painter to adjust his defensive match-ups if the opposition has a dominant center. I still think a stretch 4 would be ideal, but I wouldn’t be upset with a beefier option at the 4.

Available 1 Year Grad Transfers

Levi Stockard III - 6’8, 240 - Kansas State

I cover Kansas State, so I’ve seen Stockard play a good bit. He’s a functional big with experience playing both the 4/5. I anticipate Stockard moving down to a mid-major, because he has won a good bit and Kansas State (E8 and Big12 Championship) but hasn’t progressed past a decent bench option.

That said, he were interested, he’d be an easy 1 year grad transfer for Purdue. He comes from a similar system, is known as a hard worker, and plays competent post defense. He’s not a guy that’s going to push Purdue over the top, but he could come in handy against a team that plays a physical 4/5 combination and his 100 games of experience would be useful if Tre ends up in foul trouble. At the same time, he only averaged 3.7 points and 2.6 rebounds a game coming off the bench for a dreadful K-State team. The only way I see this as a possibility is if Painter has no trust at all in Dowuwana as a back up to Tre.

Marcus Santos-Silva - 6’7, 250 - VCU

Santos-Silva is getting a good bit of buzz right now. He led VCU in scoring and rebounding last year, averaging 13 points and 9 rebounds a game. I’m counting him as a 1 year grad transfer, but that’s a bit of a question mark. He hasn’t graduated yet, and as of now is considered a sit one-play one transfer until he finishes up his needed course work at VCU. He’s also exploring his NBA options but won’t hire an agent.

If he’s a 2 year commitment, I don’t think Painter would be interested. No offense to Silva, but Purdue has some big fish on the line in the 2021 class, and needs the roster space. If he’s a 1 year grad transfer, things might get interesting. My main issue with Silva is he’s basically a Tre Williams clone in terms of playing style (minus his passing ability). He does all his damage inside the lane. In 3 years at VCU, he didn’t attempt a single 3. To further compound his fit issues, he’s a dreadful free throw shooter. Last year he shot 57% from the line. Putting him on the floor with Nojel and Tre would be an open invitation to foul Purdue early and often. The thought of those 3 on the court at the same time during crunch time makes my blood pressure rise and my eye twitch.

Santos-Silva would only transfer to Purdue if he were guaranteed a starting spot at the 4. The Boilermakers would be a rebounding beast with Tre at the 5 and Santos-Silva at the 4, but the floor spacing would be a nightmare. Again, some of that could be nullified by Tre’s passing ability.

In my opinion, Santos-Silva is a quality player, but not a fit for Purdue.

* Update

Jalen Johnson - 6’7, 205 - Louisiana (Ragin’ Cajuns)

As I mentioned, I think a several players are going to be available late as grad transfers this year. Jalen Johnson is a good example. Johnson announced today that he is entering the transfer portal as a 1 year graduate transfer. He’s originally from Baton Rouge, but initially signed with St. Louis out of high school.

Johnson started 20 games as a freshman, averaging 7.5 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. He shot 36% from deep and 73% from the line. He started 24 games as a sophomore, averaging 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds a game. More impressively, he shot 39% from 3 (on 132 attempts) and 77% from the line. He decided to transfer closer to home after his Sophomore year, and after sitting a year, started 33 games with Louisiana University, averaging 15.5 points and 6.6 rebounds a game.

While his scoring increased last season, he struggled from deep, shooting only 29% from behind the arc. He was the definition of streaky though, it’s not that he struggled shooting in every game, but when he struggled...he reaaaaaaly struggled. He went 0-8 against Detroit. He went 0-6 against South Alabama. He put up back to back 0-5 performances against Texas State and Georgia State. At the same time, he went 3-5 against TCU, 3-4 against Southeastern Louisiana, 3-6 against Louisiana Monroe, and 3-5 in a game against Georgia Southern. He can shoot, but sometimes he shoots too much.

My only question regarding Johnson is his ability to hold up as a 6’7, 205 pound power forward in the Big10. He looks like more of a wing than forward, and at some point Purdue needs some size inside to compete on the boards against teams like Michigan State and Wisconsin. Out of the currently options, though, I think Johnson best fills Purdue’s need for a 1 year grad transfer who can shoot and play the 4 (even if he’s undersized).

It will be interesting to see if Purdue gets involved.

Multiple Year Transfer

Francis Okoro - 6’9, 235 - Oregon

This is where things get interesting. Okoro was a 4*, top 60 player, coming out of Normal Illinois in 2016. At one point, Purdue was thought to be the leader for Okoro, but he spurned both Purdue and home state Illinois to head out west to Oregon.

As a freshman at Oregon, Okoro looked like budding star. He started 22 games for the Ducks. The rugged freshman contributed more than his stats indicate (3.1 PTG, 3.2 REB). He played with incredible energy and was a physical presence on defense. His scoring and rebounding picked up as the season progressed, putting up 10 rebounds against Arizona State and Washington, and hitting 10 points and 7 rebounds against Arizona. He even managed a 6 block game against Utah in the Conference Tournament.

After a promising freshman season, everything fell apart for Okoru as a sophomore. He fought through multiple injuries and dealt with the emotional trauma of his fathers untimely and unexpected death. His offensive game failed to develop, his rebounding declined, and he went from averaging 20+ minutes a game early in the season, to seeing spot minutes off the bench at the end of the year. He looked like a shell of the physical, energetic player I saw as a Freshman (I watch a good bit of Pac12 basketball due to a life long battle with insomnia). I wasn’t surprised when his name appeared in the transfer portal.

I was surprised when I saw this tweet.

Okoro is a 3 year scholarship investment. Even if the 1 year waiting period is waived, according to Jeff Borzello, Okoro plans on sitting out the 20/21 season to recover from the shoulder and ankle injuries that held him back as a sophomore at Oregon.

This leaves Purdue in a tough spot. The coaching staff has put in serious work into the 2021 recruiting class. Caleb Furst is already on board, and with there are several high profile options available for the remaining 2021 scholarship. At the same time, Okoro is an intriguing talent that Painter may see as a promising reclamation project. If he recovers physically and mentally from his Sophomore year at Oregon, he’s a high upside, high floor prospect. Purdue could potentially use him at either the 4 or the 5. Best case scenario, he improves his offensive game during his redshirt year and becomes a double/double threat. Worst case scenario, he is a high energy defender and rebounder that scores on put backs and dunks.

In theory, if Okoru is receptive to playing at Purdue, Painter would have to decide if a former 4*, top 60 player in the hand is worth more than a potential 4*, top 100 player in 2021 class. It’s also possible (and probable in my opinion) that the Boilermakers end up with an extra scholarship in the 2021 through attrition anyway. That scholarship, however, probably wouldn’t open up until after the 20/21 season, and their top priority players could be off the board.

It appears that Purdue, if nothing else, reached out to the big man to gauge his interest. He’s going to have plenty of options, but you’ve got to think there is a level of comfort with Purdue because of the time Painter invested in recruiting him out of high school. Illinois would be another potential landing spot, but he was recruited by Groce, not Underwood, so that relationship would need to be established.

If you’re looking for Purdue sports intrigue, Okoro just provided some.

Other Potential Option

Painter sits on this scholarship and waits to see if a grad transfer he likes opens up late. Purdue isn’t going to play a 13 man rotation anyway. If a player Painter likes doesn’t become available, he give a 1 year scholarship to a walk-on and banks it for the promising 20/21 class.

I’m in favor of this strategy, but I could potentially be talked into Okoro, depending on how confident Painter is in landing another high 4* player in 2021. 3 years of Okoro (1 redshirt and 2 on court years) wouldn’t be the worst thing that happened to the Purdue basketball program.

We’ll monitor this situation and keep you updated if we hear anything.