The interesting thing about this new post-Covid era we live in is that we don’t really have a clear picture of what year someone is in a sport if they were on the roster during Covid. Mason Gillis is heading into his fourth year with the program and what will likely be his last. However, to quote Lee Corso, “NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!” because Gillis still has the opportunity to come back next year and use his Covid year. Do I expect that to happen? Absolutely not. Could it happen? Sure. Regardless of that slim possibility I think Gillis is attacking this fourth year as his final one. As such, I know he wants it to be his most successful one yet. In order to do that the work needs to be done in the offseason to make it happen. So, let’s look at what Mason Gillis can do this offseason to make his final year his best.
It’s no secret that I’m a Mason Gillis fan. I’ve you’ve followed the site Twitter account, read my articles about the team, or listened to the always great Boiler Alert podcast you know my feelings about him as a player. I love the way that Gillis plays the game. He always seems to find himself in the right spot to grab those rebounds for easy buckets.
Gillis has more or less been the same player for the past three years he’s been at Purdue. Gillis came into Purdue as an almost fully formed player. He’s always been a guy with a big frame who is strong and can bully you. That has stayed consistent throughout his time at Purdue. It made a huge difference for him his freshman year as he had a body that looked like it had been a few offseasons. That gave him the ability to withstand an always brutal and bruising Big Ten season. That freshman year he averaged 5.2 points and 4.1 rebounds in 22 minutes per game. Exceptional results for a freshman playing a very tough position.
However, if you know about his freshman year you basically know about the next two years. The numbers have fluctuated a little bit here or there included a high in minutes during his sophomore year of 23.5 and a high in points during that same season of 6.8 but overall it hasn’t been too terribly swingy. His sophomore season also saw his rise as a true deep threat. He shot 41.4% as a sophomore which was up from 35% his freshman year. He also took more attempts that sophomore season so it really gave us all a lot of hope that much like Cuonzo Martin or Keaton Grant that Mason Gillis had come back to campus with a three point shot and woud become a better player for it. Unfortunately, that shooting came back to Earth in his junior year. The percentage fell back down to 35% on still more attempts. That though doesn’t tell the whole story.
Mason Gillis had one absolutely electric game this past season. We all know it. The game against Penn State when he went 9-12 from three and set a Mackey Arena record for made threes in a game. What a show he put on. To have Robbie Hummel on the mic while he did it was just icing on top of the cake. It was a great moment. But, it belied a bigger problem that Gillis had. Overall in his junior year he was 37-104 from three point range for the aforementioned 35%. Take out that Penn State game and his percentage falls to 30% a full 11% drop from his sophomore year. I understand this is a bit of cherry picking but it’s to illustrate my point that the biggest piece of homework Mason Gillis can do this offseason is find both his confidence and his range on his three point shooting.
When the team struggled in the NCAA Tournament against Fairleigh Dickinson the three point shooting was if not the main reason certainly top two. Gillis contributed to this by going 1-7 for 14%. Purdue has other players now that can be relied upon to take those shots but Gillis needs to remain a player who can shoot five threes a game and consistently make two of them. That 40% shooting truly added another dimension not just to Mason Gillis but to Purdue as a whole.
On the defensive side of the ball Gillis certainly doesn’t lack for effort. The senior to be gives it his all out there and sometimes that’s to his detriment. Sometimes Gillis’ body can get ahead of his mind and he can make some boneheaded mistakes. The question you want to balance if your Matt Painter is what do you prefer, a guy who will lay his body on the line and give 100% each and every time down the floor resulting in 1-2 silly plays a game but also some great decisions, or a player who slows down a step and looks like a different player with fewer mistakes but less upside? It’s a balancing act. If Gillis can find a way to stay locked in on defense while allowing the game to come to him (cliche I know) it can make a huge difference for him.
Gillis’ heart and hustle have always been the difference makers for him but slowing down a bit on defense and finding that range again on offense will allow him to take his game to the next level. If Purdue sees the return of 40% shooting Mason Gillis? Look out Big Ten and look out NCAA.