Matt Painter and Purdue found out very early on that Braden Smith was here to play. Not only was he named a starter, something that Matt Painter rarely entrusts to freshmen, but he became a leader on the team and a floor general to boot. In the season opener against Milwaukee, Smith set a Purdue freshmen record with 7 steals. Two games later, Smith scored 20 points against Marquette and then two more games later, 14 against Gonzaga in a run the propelled Purdue up the college rankings. Alongside fellow freshman, Fletcher Loyer, the duo was doing things not seen since the Baby Boilers era at Purdue. Braden Smith is just the third Freshman in Big Ten history to record 340 points, 150 assists, and 140 rebounds. The other two: DeAngelo Russell and Magic Johnson. Clearly, Smith is in good company and that’s part of the reason he earned a Freshman All-Big Ten nod as well as an honorable mention for All-Big Ten.
This season, look for Braden Smith to expand his scoring abilities. So far in Purdue’s exhibition games, Smith is shooting from deeper areas and taking 3’s off of high ball screens. Any new type of consistent scoring could really put him over the top. Some other things to work on for Smith is the turnover numbers. Towards the end of the year, they began to creep up and some of the errors were from driving into no man’s land and having nowhere to go with the ball or trying to thread a really tight needle for a flashy play. With so much talent returning to Purdue, it should be easier to continue to gel with his teammates and take the sophomore leap that we hope he will.