For the second year in a row my son was heartbroken to lose his favorite Purdue player a year early. Last year literally cried (look, he’s six) when I told him Carsen Edwards was leaving. This year he was like, “So we can see Matt Haarms in the NBA?”
We’ll see, buddy, but not next year.
This is just a stunning move in my opinion. It seemed to come out of nowhere because it was just a given he would return. We loved our big, goofy Dutch center and he loved Purdue. He was going to shake off a down year (partially marred by injury) can come back strong.
Now he is gone, so how do we replace him?
First, let’s look at the scholarship grid:
Purdue Basketball Scholarship Grid
|Aaron Wheeler||RS Junior||RS Senior|
|Sasha Stefanovic||RS Junior||RS Senior|
|Emmanuel Dowuona||RS Soph.||RS Junior||RS Senior|
|Mason Gillis||RS Freshman||RS Soph.||RS Junior||RS Senior|
|Brandon Newman||RS Freshman||RS Soph.||RS Junior||RS Senior|
Barring a one-year graduate transfer in return, There is no immediately known and experienced replacement. Emmanuel Dowuona now has a clear path to the floor and Zach Edey is probably avoiding a redshirt. They are options 1A and 1B at the reserve center spot behind Trevion Williams. Also, anyone from outside the program would only be a one-year guy. It is extremely unlikely coach Painter is adding a 2020 high school grad this late in the game. The latest he has added one in recent years was Sasha Stefanovic, who committed in February of his senior year of high school.
The other factor is the 2021 class. Haarms was only taking a spot for one more season, and that means Purdue still only has one spot left in 2021, counting Caleb Furst. When Trey Kaufman, Harrison Ingram, and Max Christie (though Christie is unlikely) are out there you keep that spot open unless Painter comes out of absolute nowhere and grabs the highest rated uncommitted recruit left (Rivals No. 2 Jalen Green) in the 2020 class and said recruit ends up being a one-and-done.
Right now the 247 transfer portal has the following players listed as immediately eligible centers on the market:
Gorjok Gak – Florida – A 6’11” former 3-star prospect that only played in two games last year and in 46 over the last four seasons. He missed the entire 2018-19 season, so that is two games in two years. Not exactly inspiring.
Mattias Markusson – Loyola Marymount – A 7’3” center from Stockholm that averaged 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and one block per game at Loyola Marymount.
Arkansas has already reached out to Markusson, so he has some high major interest. He also shot 20% (1 for 5) from three. Does Painter at least give him a call now? Markusson was described in our group chat as looking like Haarms and Isaac Haas had a baby, so he could be a good one year solution, but it sounds like Painter has had mere hours to digest finding a replacement.
There is another interesting find if you search “Immediately eligible power forwards”:
Rapolas Ivanauskas - Colgate - He averaged 13.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists as a 6’10” big man for a Colgate team that went 25-9, but got upset in the Patriot League final. He also shot 43% from three (43 of 99) in 2018-19. He even has some very, very modest Big Ten experience because he started his career at Northwestern and played in three games in 2017-18 (scoring zero points).
The biggest thing is that Purdue now will have to get a longer look at Emmanuel Dowuona and Zach Edey’s redshirt chances now seemingly gone. Purdue loses as major defensive presence on the back line as Trevion Williams, while very skilled offensively, is not the defender at the five that Haarms was. With a rotation of Williams, Dowuona, and Edey at the five you have one very experienced junior and all-Big Ten candidate, a redshirt sophomore who has played sparingly, and a true freshman. Dowuona or Edey appear to be the big winners here. One is going to get a lot more playing time than we thought.
This also affects the four, where Haarms occasionally played with diminishing success when Williams was on the floor. This competition is now wide open, with Aaron Wheeler and Mason Gillis operating with no safety net. Short of Williams playing some four with Edey and Dowuona at the five this position relies so much on Wheeler and Gillis unless Purdue goes four out, one in offensively. Ivanauskas could look really good here.
Team-wise, Purdue will have another year of being experienced without being old, per se. Nojel Eastern is now the only player left that will be a senior and exhaust his eligibility. Williams, Eric Hunter Jr., Wheeler, and Sasha Stefanovic form a core of solid juniors. Dowuona and Isaiah Thompson are the lone sophomores. Then you have four freshmen. In theory, if Purdue turns things around with 23-25 wins in 2020-21 you set the stage for a fantastic 2021-22 because you lose only the defense of Eastern. If you get Ingram, who would be an upgrade over Eastern at this very second, the skies of high expectations will burst open.
In the long run, this helps the development of Edey and Dowuona, but we enter next season with both being virtual unknowns at the collegiate level. Someone is going to have to step forward.