It is no secret that Purdue is going to look to its junior class for leadership. 2022-23 is a bit of a transition year, especially with no scholarship seniors currently on the roster. The news that Eric Hunter Jr. is now in the transfer portal has placed a bit of a pause on plans too. It seems very likely he will likely take advantage of his fifth COVID year after previously saying he wouldn’t, but will it be elsewhere. Yes, he can return to Purdue, but much of it seems contingent on how the portal works in regards to Nijel Pack.
As far as returning players go, there are four juniors that will be at the forefront. I have already talked about three of them in this series, so let’s go to the fourth one.
Ethan Morton – Jr. in 2022-23
2020-21 Stats: 23 games, 0 starts. 8.7 mpg, 0.6 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.9 apg, 25% FG%, 28.6% 3FG, 0% FT% (No free throw attempts)
2021-22 Stats: 37 games, 0 starts. 14.8 mpg, 2.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 47.7% FG%, 44.1% 3FG, 68.4% FT%
Morton’s career has been interesting so far. In a way, I kind of wish he had redshirted in 2020-21. He had a bout with mono and ultimately did not do a whole lot in limited playing time. He was only 5 of 20 from the field, 4 of 14 from three, and scored just 14 points. He did show flashes though, as he had 20 assists. He scored only six points in Big Ten play, but he did hit a pretty big three in the win at Indiana. Only once in conference play did he play more than 10 minutes, and he did not play at all in either postseason game.
The year could end up being a pseudo-redshirt year, however. Because of the COVID rules he will be able to have a fifth year on the back end of his career in 2024-25 if he so chooses. That becomes the best of both worlds. Purdue would still get four productive years out of him AND he got 23 games of competition in his “redshirt” year. Brandon Newman, Zach Edey, and Mason Gillis are the only other players currently on the roster that have the COVID year possibility left.
If you consider this past season Morton’s redshirt freshman season as a result it was pretty good. His minutes took a huge jump and while his scoring wasn’t particularly high, he was a solid contributor with his passing and defense. At 6’6” he is a bigger guard for us, and that helps a lot on both ends. His near 5:2 Assist to Turnover ratio (50 assists, 17 turnovers) is stellar. He was great at taking care of the basketball, and it would be interesting to see how many hockey assists (basically where his pass set up another pass for an assist) he had. His best game was probably in the NCAA Tournament win over Texas, where he had eight points, hit a pair of threes, had two blocks, and played solid defense in 22 minutes.
Morton comes into 2022-23 as the returning leader in steals with 22 and assists with 50 (both assuming Hunter does not come back). The departures also mean that Purdue is going to rely on him a lot more. I expect a big minutes jump for him, and I would not be surprised if he began the season as a starter. His versatility is what will keep him on the floor. He can be a ball handler that facilitates the offense and he can play on the wing. He can defend at least three positions as well.
I want to see him continue to evolve as one of Purdue’s better defenders. His three-point shooting will also be key. He proved he can knock down open looks within the offense this year, but he wasn’t called on to do it at a volume level. He was only 15 of 34, but with more minutes and a larger role I can see his attempts triple. Since he hit at a team best 44.1% clip that can be very good in the long run.
Ethan is a typical run, rebound, defend, and hit open looks guy. He has a very good basketball IQ and is good at picking his spots. I can see him being the “most improved” player on the roster with a big jump in all statistical categories. He needs to use said basketball IQ to play within the offense and contribute in the spots he finds. His ceiling is probably Dakota Mathias. Dakota also made a big jump in his junior season across the board. He saw his minutes increase by 12 per game, scoring by 4 points, assists by 1.5, and three-point percentage hit 45%. All of those are reasonable expectations for Ethan.