Was Jaden Ivey the breakout freshman of the year in the Big Ten? According to the Rivals rankings the following Big Ten players were rated ahead of Ivey:
Khristian Lander – 26 – Indiana
Adam Miller – 34 – Illinois
Andre Curbello – 38 – Illinois
Hunter Dickinson – 40 – Michigan
Clifford Omoyuri – 42 – Rutgers
Mady Sissioko – 46 – Michigan State
A.J. Hoggard – 75 – Michigan State
Ivey was the No. 79 recruit in the 2020 class, Purdue’s highest rated guy, but there were a lot of guys with higher expectations. He then had 12 in his debut against Liberty, but missed several weeks with a foot injury and took a bit to get back into it. It really wasn’t until mid-January that he really got going. Once he did, Purdue turned things around as well. By the end of the year he went from “hey, we hope he develops into a solid contributor for a few years” to “We might only have him one more season because he could be a first rounder.
Jaden Ivey is the type of player that you need if you’re going to win championships and go far in March. He’s a dawg. I am ridiculously excited to see where he goes from here.
Jaden Ivey - Sophomore in 2021-22
2020-21 Stats: 23 Games played, 12 starts. 24.2 mpg, 11.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.7 bpg, 0.7 spg, 39.9% FG, 25.8% 3FG, 72.6% FT.
For much of the season I spoke about Jaden Ivey in whispers. There were so many times, especially when we saw the early flashes, where I quietly said, “He is going to be sooooo good.” I whispered it because my Purdue-related PTSD didn’t want to jinx him.
The 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting against Liberty was nice, but then there was the foot injury. He missed a few games and only had 8 points in three games against Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Iowa in his comeback. The Christmas Day win over Maryland was a nice 11-5-4 from him, then he was quiet until scoring 13 at IU.
Then you have at Ohio State.
Purdue’s best teams have had that “I need to take this game over right now” guy. E’Twaun Moore was that guy. Carsen Edwards was that guy. Trevion Williams did it quite a bit this past season. With 3:34 left at Ohio State Purdue trailed 60-54 after Duane Washington Jr. hit a three. On the next possessions Ivey followed with his own three, and after a turnover he cut it to one with a basket with 2:38 left. Later, with the game tied thanks to a Sasha Stefanovic three and a defensive stop Purdue had the ball with 25 seconds left.
At this point there were several options. Do you go to Tre, one of the most dominant post players in the country and a guy with 16 points already? Do you go to Sasha, who has hit a few big shots in his career and was hot with 15 points? The shot clock was off. It was a situation where the worst case scenario was overtime.
We know what happened:
I am a basketball curmudgeon. I am usually not a fan of the step back three with the game tied on the final possession. I want to get it to the big guy down low or drive to the basket where you get a higher percentage shot or get fouled. Too many times the step back three is the hero ball move and it very often does not work. It’s pretty damn awesome when it does though.
The game-winner by Trevion Williams at Michigan State changed the trajectory of the entire season. Ivey’s game-winner at Ohio State gave him the boost of confidence he needed to turn into a star.
That is what I love about Jaden. He wants those moments. It is in his DNA. He has that Carsen edge to him. He wants to take the big shot. He wants to drive the lane and dunk on you. He wants you to be afraid he is going to drive the lane and dunk on you. He is the leading candidate to get the next poster dunk in Bloomington on some poor, unsuspecting Hoosier next January or February. He is that guy that thinks he is the baddest mf’er on the floor and he can back it up. You need that.
Jaden took off after that game-winner. By the end of the season the dawg in him was really coming out. He tormented Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament with 19 and in the NCAA game against North Texas he tried to single-handedly win a game where everyone was struggling with 26 points, but on 24 attempts.
We saw on both ends of the floor that Jaden is a player who lurks. He is a predator, just like Carsen, but with better defense. He has that elite athleticism and attitude that makes him so dangerous. Defensively he can fly out of nowhere to block a shot or jump a passing lane for a steal and score. Offensively, that “I am going to dunk on year head” attitude leads to drives to the basket.
In 2021-22 we will see a more polished version of Jaden, and that is scary to the rest of the Big Ten. He did what he did in the second half of this past year while still being so raw. There were some little things beyond his scoring and athleticism that stood out though. He was tied for second on the team in blocks with 16. He was third on the team in free throw attempts, a product of that attacking mentality. His passing quietly became an asset, as he moved to fourth in assists.
Perhaps the largest reason Purdue will be a preseason top 10 and maybe even top 5 team is Jaden. He has all the tools and if he puts it together he is an all-Big Ten type player dropping 20 per game. It’s just a matter of polish and work. He has that edge that Carsen had. You need a guy like that. Like so many others on the team, it is just about consistency. Jaden Ivey taking 24 shots is a lot, but he really needs to be hitting 15 of those instead of just 10 like against North Texas.
He will also take off as he becomes a smarter player. He is a hunter, but he will be hunted defensively, so his passing and distribution on his drives can be a huge element to Purdue’s success. I love his confidence from three, but we need him to get north of 35% as opposed to his 25.8%. To be fair, this area improved greatly as the season went on. Before his game-winner at Ohio State game he was just 6 of 33 from long range. He finished by going 19 of 64 starting with that shot.
Finally, we need to talk about him going to the floor so often. He’s almost a little too reckless in his drives, and that raises the stakes for injury when he is knocked wildly to the floor on a drive. It scares me every time, but he always hops up. There is always that chance he won’t hop up. If Purdue is leading the Big Ten by two games and in the top 5 in late February before going to Minnesota he is not allowed to get on the plane under any circumstances whatsoever. We cannot risk him on the Demon Wood of Xibalba in the Barn. Period.
Other than that, Ivey is a special player. He has that look in his eye that you want and need if you’re going to go a long way in March. He is hungry too, and has a championship pedigree from his mom’s playing days. Big Ten Championship #25 and ending 42 years of March Misery rest on him, and I think he can handle it because he wants that moment. He wants to seize it.
That’s how you become a legend.