We just completed the strangest season in Purdue basketball history. The Boilers earned a top 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but were upset in the first round by North Texas, the first time Purdue has ever suffered a first round upset as a top 4 seed. Five freshmen played extended minutes over the course of the year, and there were no seniors. In many ways this team exceeded expectations, yet also fell short of expectations given the early tournament exit. Also, everyone technically gets an extra year of eligibility now, so seniors like Trevion Williams can now return not only for 2021-22, but also 2022-23.
We have already had one player depart in Aaron Wheeler, but the rest of the team stands to return. That means expectations are sky high. I expect this team to compete for a 25th Big Ten championship and reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. It should be that good, if not better. We start our homework series with a large reason why those expectations will be so high.
Trevion Williams – Senior in 2021-22
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.
2020-21 Stats: 28 Games played, 26 starts. 25.2 mpg, 15.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 52.5% FG, 0% 3FG, 50% FT Team leader points per game and rebounds per game. First Team all-Big Ten (Coaches), Second Team all-Big Ten (Media). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award finalist.
Returning an all-Big Ten caliber player is an excellent starting point for any team. Tre achieved career highs in virtually every category except three-point shooting percentage, but he takes so few that doesn’t matter. Coming into the season he was 4 of 12 on his career but he went 0 of 3. I would like to see him add this to his game just as a “Great, we have to worry about THAT now?” aspect to his game. It would also improve his pro prospects, but it is a minor nitpick. If he develops one in practice over the summer giving him the green light for one per game if he is open beyond the arc could be beneficial. The downside is that it takes him away from the basket for offensive rebounding purposes, but with Mason Gillis on the floor at the same time that can be mitigated.
Tre was mostly great all season. He proved time and again that on the offensive end on the low block he was completely unguardable one on one. He is a player that demands a double team, and with his passing ability that can make him even more lethal as long as the recipient of his passes can knock down the open shot. That often cost him at least another assist per game. He would regularly find an open shooter only to have a missed three. He often had a cutter have a pass sail off his hands out of bounds when otherwise it was an easy layup. The backdoor cut with him, especially from Mason Gillis, was fun to watch. Those two had an excellent rapport on the court, and Tre was great at knowing where and when Mason was cutting.
As usual, Tre was lethal on the offensive glass. He had 104 offensive rebounds in 28 games, just an absurd number. In the North Texas game he kept Purdue afloat with nine offensive rebounds. He was just as good on the defensive glass, averaging a near double-double for the season.
When Tre really got going he was a “put the team on his back” kind of player. Yes, Purdue lost its final two games in overtime, but Purdue doesn’t get to overtime if Tre doesn’t dominate the second half of each game. Purdue doesn’t win in East Lansing, turning its entire season around, if Tre doesn’t completely destroy the Spartans almost single-handedly. He was not only brilliant in the post, he showed the most athleticism of his career with a few “wow” moments like his coast-to-coast dunk vs. North Texas. Here are some of his best outings this year:
Indiana State – 30 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists. 13 of 18 shooting.
Ohio State (Home) – 16 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists.6 of 12 shooting.
Rutgers – 21 points, 12 rebounds. 10 of 12 shooting.
Michigan State (Away) – 26 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 9 of 14 shooting. Game-winning basket.
Indiana (Away) – 22 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists. 9 of 15 shooting.
Michgian State (Home) – 26 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists. 13 of 21 shooting.
Ohio State (B1G Tournament) – 26 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists. 12 of 23 shooting.
Eight times this season Tre scored more than 20 points. He finished with 11 double-doubles. In that first Ohio State game he was a rebound and two assists from only the second triple-double in Purdue history. The combination of his passing skills (elite for a big man), newfound athleticism, rebounding, and post skills will have him on the short list for Big Ten Player of the Year in 2021-22 and even in the discussion for National Player of the Year. Should he average a double-double for the season and get to 4 assists per game we might have an All-American on our hands.
Tre was Purdue’s leading scorer, and with 33 more points he will become the 54th player in Purdue history to reach 1,000 career points. In a season of only 28 game she scored 435 points. Purdue will play at least 33 games next season (31 regular season, at least one in the B1G Tourney, and at least one in the NCAAs), so a 500 point season getting him to around 1,500 career points is expected. He would be the 25th player at Purdue to reach 1,500 points. He is also sitting at 630 rebounds. He had 256 in this shortened season, so another 300 gets him to 930, tying him with A.J. Hammons for 3rd on our all-time list. Should he return for a fifth season in 2022-23 he will obliterate Joe Barry Carroll’s record of 1,148, and with 370 next year he can be only the second player in school history with 1,000 boards.
There are only two downsides I can see. First, Tre often struggled to get going in the first halves of games. Against North Texas he scored only two points before halftime as the Mean Green built a lead. He was a crucial part of comebacks from large halftime deficits against Michigan State, Ohio State, North Texas, Valparaiso, and Illinois, but part of the reason we were trailing at halftime though is because we struggled to get him going early.
The second is the most obvious one: free throws. Tre led the team with 106 free throw attempts on the year. He hit only 53 of them, however. Some of the misses felt huge too. His only attempt vs. North Texas came after his dunk and would have given Purdue its first lead since 3-2, a key psychological thing in a game where Purdue struggled. He was 2 of 5 against Ohio State in that overtime loss. He has shown improvement at the line, going from just 35% to 50% in two years. Hitting 8 of 12 at Michigan State was also large. His form is good, but what has made Purdue very good in recent years is a series of big men that can hit above 70% at the line, too. Zach Edey was 71% this year. Matt Haarms was 69.5% in his best season at Purdue. Isaac Haas was 68.9% for his career and above 75% as a freshman. AJ Hammons was 69%. If Tre can even get to 60% that would help tremendously.
These are obviously small nitpicks. Even if Tre shoots 50% from the line again he is still likely to be all-Big Ten and a Player of the Year candidate. When he really gets going, few players in the country can reach his level. As a senior, he can be dominant. I just want to see him be more consistent in the first half, improve his FT percentage to 60% if he can, and maybe develop enough of an outside shot to keep teams honest. Even without those, he will still be one of the best players in the Big Ten.