You can say all that about Brian Waddell. While Purdue has been in some highly publicized battles for top recruits and it is still regularly pulling in top 100 guys, Brian Waddell was none of these. He was officially unrated according to 247 and was a three-star on Rivals. Rivals only lists his other two offers as Wright State and Miami (OH). Purdue didn’t even offer until April of 2021 when he was a senior in high school, and even then, it was under the condition of “if you commit, you will redshirt in year one. No exception.”
When the offer came though, he committed almost immediately. Long time Purdue fans remember his dad as the point guard for Glenn Robinson. Matt Waddell came to Purdue from Tipton HS in the early 90s and backed up some guy named Matt Painter at point guard. He ended up being better than Painter, starting 93 of 127 games and winning a pair of Big Ten titles in his last two seasons. His best season was his junior year in 1994 when he averaged 11.3 points and 4.8 assists as Purdue won the Big Ten, got a No. 1 seed, and reached the Elite 8. Sure, having the nation’s best player and No. 1 overall draft pick helped, but the elder Waddell had a major role on that team.
His son is a very different type of player. While Matt was primarily a point guard with decent size at 6’4”, his son is a very versatile wing that projects more as a small forward at 6’7”. Like Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman-Renn in his recruiting class, Waddell won two state championships in his last three years of high school and was denied a three-peat by COVID cancelling the 2020 tournament after the sectional round. All three had won their sectionals and were among the favorites in their respective classes.
Waddell blew up in his last couple of years. On Carmel’s 2019 state championship team he was a little used reserve as a sophomore, playing in just 12 games and going just 4 of 5 from the floor on the entire varsity season. Peter Suder, who was then a freshman and who will play at Bellarmine this fall, played more and had a bigger role. Suder even had 14 points in the championship game, while Waddell didn’t see the floor.
Two years later we saw a different story. Suder was still a solid D-1 recruit averaging 11.7 per game, but Waddell blew up. He averaged 15.8 points per game, shot 72% from the field, 40% from three, and had 20 points and 10 rebounds in Carmel’s 51-46 overtime win over Lawrence North in the state championship game. He was 8 for 8 from the line and hit a pair of clutch free throws with less than 30 seconds left in the overtime.
That was his final competitive game, and it led to a Purdue offer. He came to West Lafayette and knew it would be a developmental year, but even that was mostly lost. We saw him for all of four minutes in the exhibition game against Indianapolis, where he had two assists, but days later he suffered a torn ACL, costing him a ton of practice time. The 2021-22 season was all about developing and putting on muscled (he is spindly at 6’7”, 190 pounds), but the torn ACL put a lot of that on hold.
Step one for him obviously is to get healthy. He’s approaching 6 months post injury, so it is likely he hasn’t seen a lot of basketball action just yet. I fear that missing all of last season in the gym is going to be a big delay, as we haven’t seen many guys who had to redshirt their first year due to injury contribute a lot as freshmen. He needs to bulk up a little (though I supposed upper body workouts could still be done this past winter), and study.
I do like that he comes from a very strong program. Carmel is one of the most well-coached teams in the state and famously does not beat itself. They won 91 games in his four seasons with the team and made the state finals in three of those four years (they were runner-up to Warren Central with David Bell when he was a freshman). It is really a testament to how strong they are of a program when he was primarily a JV guy for two years, but they were still very good.
The current composition of the roster means there will be minutes there for him. I see him primarily as a three, and that is a spot that is pretty much wide open at the moment. He has a good outside shot and he can get to the basket well. He played against several Division I prospects in his career, as Carmel’s schedule is loaded with Indiana’s best each season in the likes of Cathedral, Zionsville, Lawrence North, Lawrence Central, etc. They are also a strong defensive team, often among the state’s best every season. I liken their style ot that of a boa constrictor. If they have a 4 point lead in the fourth quarter it feels like 15 because they don’t turn the ball over, they play patiently on offense, they hit free throws, and they are very strong defensively. They squeeze the life out of you at the end of games, and after playing in that system I think it helps him tremendously in terms of the mental aspect of the game. This is the same program that gave us Ryan Cline, so if Waddell has a similar career arc, that would be great.
I think those traits translate very well to Waddell’s role at Purdue. I love his size on the wing on both ends. He needs to be able to hit open threes and cut to the basket on offense. Defensively, I like his wingspan and think he can be disruptive. This is someone who played against basically every top player in Indiana during his career except Furst and Kaufman-Renn. He even had multiple games against incoming freshmen Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer.
As long as he can prove he is healthy I think he will be a valuable reserve.