Mason Gillis was one of my favorite players to watch this past season. He personified Purdue basketball. He played with a ton of hustle and grit, often impacting games that went far beyond the scoreline. A prime example was the win in East Lansing. He did not score a single point in the game, took only two shots, and had just one rebound. He might have made the two largest plays of the year since that was the game that seemed to turn everything around.
First, he got his ass on the floor after Trevion Williams missed the potential tying free throw. He found a way to tie up the loose ball, giving us another possession thanks to the fortuitous possession arrow. After Tre hit what would be the game winner what did Gillis do? He planted himself in the middle of the transition defense. He not only called out assignments during the helter-skelter push up the floor by MSU, he also challenged Aaron Henry’s last minute attempt without fouling, making an already difficult attempt even harder.
That’s two plays that did not score up in the box score, but they were two of the largest plays of the entire season. This is why I called him a billionaire’s Grady Eifert.
Mason Gillis – Redshirt Sophomore in 2021-22
2020-21 Stats: 28 Games played, 23 starts. 22.2 mpg, 5.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.3 apg, 46.5% FG, 35.2% 3FG, 81.4% FT
After having not played a competitive game the previous two years it was great to see the energy Gillis brought to the floor. From day 1 you could tell he was tired of sitting and hungry to play. His first major contribution was a 9 point, 6 rebound, 3 assist game at Miami. Against Notre Dame in the Crossroads he had a 12-9-1 game that earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Week. He had a 12 and 5 in the home win over Penn State, an 11 and 9 with two steals in the win over Minnesota, and 11 with three assists in the win over Northwestern.
Mostly he was just the consummate glue guy. Need a rebound? Mason was there. Need a screen? Use his linebacker-sized frame. Want a garbage basket off of an offensive rebound? Oh hi, Mason. Looking for an open corner three? There he is. See a loose ball? Mason will find it. Mason is the type of player that has long been essential to Purdue basketball, and as long as he does that he will play.
An underrated part of his game was his free throw shooting as well. He was a bit of a closer at times (remember: I consider the guy fouled intentionally while leading as “the closer”, and they deserve saves like baseball pitchers). In the home win over Michigan State he was 8 of 8 at the line. All 8 of his points came from there, and they were all in the final 3 minutes of the game. He was 6 of 6 at the line in the home Penn State win, going 4 of 4 in the final minute.
Going into 2021-22 Gillis will likely split time at the four with Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman-Renn depending on matchups, how much time Furst plays at the five, and how much TKR plays at the three. The departure of Aaron Wheeler gives more minutes in the rotation there, but given his style of play there is little doubt coach Painter will have him play.
As a complimentary player Mason’s role will be to do the little things and take advantage of his offensive opportunities. Each game he gets about two open looks from three within the flow of the offense. He shot 35% from three, but I would love for him to get north of 40%. He was third on the team with 44 offensive rebounds, and that often led to found baskets.
Mason is already a very smart player. He had a great rapport with Tre, knowing exactly when to back cut for an easy basket. If anything, Tre’s tendency to rifle passes from 3 feet away cost us a few points, but that was mostly on Tre needing just a little more touch.
I really have no complaints about Mason though. He had a role and filled it perfectly. He is a better version of Grady Eifert, who was a starter on a near Final Four team. Just run, rebound, defend, hustle, and hit those open looks as they come. When you play like Mason you will play at Purdue. Period.
And we could get four more years of this.