If you watched or read or obsessed in some of our cases over Purdue basketball last year you know they were generally referred to for two things. Of course, monster NPOY Zach Edey and for starting two freshmen in the backcourt. Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith came in as true freshman and not only played but started for the Boilers all season.
It’s hard for high schoolers to come in adjust to college ball; the arenas are bigger, the fans are louder, and the play is more physical. With nothing to lose and everything to prove, Loyer started off the season shocking us all. He shot nearly 40% from 3 the first half of the season including a game winner against Ohio State on the road. He set a program history record against Penn State hitting six 3-pointers and earned himself Big Ten freshman of the week. He was a big part of our free-flowing offense and success to start the year.
But he was a freshman and like most freshman do he hit his freshman wall. Teams were defending him better and he seemed to lose his stroke by the end of the season. The second part of the year his 3-point shot dropped to 22% and frankly was looking a lost at times. His confidence dropped and had a hard time handling ball pressure from physical teams.
But again, this was his first year and luckily he has time to improve. It’s no secret that the freshman to sophomore jump is usually the biggest one we see. He’ll have a season under his belt, a full off-season at Purdue to get better, and knows what is expected of him. Plain and simple we need Loyer to hit the 3. It’s his role on this team like it was Ryan Clines and Dakota Mathias and all the ones before him. He needs to be an elite shooter, a reliable shooter, for Purdue to compete. We know Edey and the rest of the bigs will take care of the paint. We need Loyer to score.
As a freshman he averaged 11.7 points and 2.4 assists, nothing to hang your head about but I expect his numbers to go up this year. Besides being a reliable shooter, I’d like to see his ball handling skills to improve. It wasn’t hard to figure out Purdue last season; press the hell out of them and make the guards uncomfortable. Iowa did it, IU did it, Rutgers did it, and Penn State did it at the end of the BTT championship and about cost us the game blowing the lead. Loyer will be a big factor in that, maintaining his composure and making teams pay at the other end for pressing.
I’m sure the players and coaches are still a little sour about the end of last season. They’ll be hungry, they’ll be angry and I assume they are putting in the work to avenge the FDU loss. Loyer has now experienced a Big Ten season, a March Madness, and I expect to see great things from this year.