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Purdue Basketball Off-Season Homework: Braden Smith

The sophomore is another player looking to build off a great freshman campaign. 

Ohio State v Purdue Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

If you read Gabi’s Tuesday homework article on Fletcher Loyer, this may seem like a bit of déjà vu. Braden Smith, alongside Fletcher Loyer, came to Purdue and started as a true freshman, something that doesn’t occur regularly in Matt Painter’s system. It took Braden Smith 3 games to set the tone, scoring 20 points on just 8 shots against Marquette. 2 games later against #6 Gonzaga, Smith put up 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists in the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament. This tournament put Purdue on notice so that the spotlight was shining on the Boilermakers and Braden Smith was shining back. Smith was awarded Big Ten Freshman of the Week and really started to show how well rounded a player he was. In the ACC/ Big Ten Challenge against Florida St, Smith flirted with a triple-double, recording a line of 13/9/7. This was one of seven games in which Braden put up at least 5 points, rebounds, and assists (and there were 5 more in which he missed it by just one rebound or assist). Another area that Braden excelled in was free throw shooting. Only twice throughout the entire season did he miss multiple free throws in a game, and he never missed more than two in a game. These were not just garbage time free throws either, as many came in clutch times throughout the year. Overall, Braden finished the season shooting very well with a 43.8 / 36.7 / 86.8 clip. It is definitely within reason to think that Braden could be a 50-40-90 guy next season. Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Braden Smith is a dawg on the court. He can play scrappy (I compared him to Brad Davison on the podcast) when he needs to and the weight on his shoulders didn’t seem too big for him despite being a freshman. I think this was evidenced by him being named to the All- Big Ten Freshman Team and being an All- Big Ten Honorable Mention.

Oh, and his passing skills are flashy and incredible.

Ok, I hyped Braden Smith up, but I do also need to point out some of the negatives (there were many more positives though). Two things that Smith struggled with throughout the season were shooting consistency and turnovers. For consistency, I think it’s best to show the shooting numbers over a 6-game stretch in February. Braden’s shooting numbers were as follows: 1-8, 8-10, 1-7, 8-12, 1-1, 2-11. Not only did the shot percentage vary but also the number of shots taken. Obviously, the opponents and gameplans change each night but this stretch saw 4 of Purdue’s 6 losses for the entire season. Of course, this by no means falls only on Braden (his 8-12 night was in the loss to Maryland), but if he can consistently get shots off and make them at his clip, Purdue jumps to another level. The other concern with Braden is his turnovers in his freshman year. It’s been a recurring theme that Purdue struggles against the press and teams really took advantage of that last year. Credit where it’s due, Braden took the brunt of the press and really got a rhythm going until the FDU game. I think both of these aspects of Braden’s game improve with more time in the system and simply with age. Hitting the freshman wall is a real thing and it’s hard to play basketball at this level, especially as a 19-year-old. I believe that Braden will be just fine.

It takes a lot of talent to be a starter on a Matt Painter team and to start as a freshman, you’ve got to be a special player. Braden Smith is just that as his freshman year showed true flashes of talent. Of course, as with all freshmen, there are areas in his game to improve upon. But, he is clearly a rising star in college hoops, and he’s not a freshman anymore, so watch out, Boilermaker fans.