Coming into Purdue the son of a Purdue legend, Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer, two time Big Ten champion, and member of a squad that went to the Elite Eight cannot be easy. There will always be comparisons, there will always be people who wish you played more like your dad, and there will always be this feeling of trying to live up to what your dad accomplished. It’s a tough road to take. Brian Waddell though is doing just that as he followed in his dad Matt’s footsteps to head to Purdue.
Waddell hasn’t had it easy thus far at Purdue as he came in as a late addition to the recruiting class with the explicit understanding that he would be redshirting. It takes a great deal of maturity to understand that a redshirt is necessary to your career. Waddell didn’t come in as some unknown kid who Painter plucked out of obscurity, he was an Indiana HS Senior All-Star. He was a two time state champion he averaged over 15 points during a state title winning season at Carmel. The kid can play ball. During his redshirt year he suffered a knee injury that required surgery but still worked his way back into shape in order to see the floor during his redshirt freshman year.
During his redshirt freshman year Waddell appeared in 17 games with a high in minutes of 20 against the Milwaukee Panthers. He scored just 9 points all season with 5 of those coming in the win over Austin Peay. It’s understandable, because Waddell didn’t look to score, instead he was doing his best to come back from injury, get used to the college game, and not make mistakes. Sometimes in your first season in college ball that’s all that can be asked of you. Waddell eventually fell out of the rotation as things tightened up with his last game appearance of more than 5 minutes coming in December against Florida A&M.
Waddell has the measurables to make a real difference at his position. He’s listed at 6’8” and 195 pounds. That hasn’t been updated for a year and I would bet money that he’s up to or over 200 pounds by now. Waddell will need that extra weight and strength in order to earn those hard minutes in the Big Ten. We’ve heard stories over the last few years of college scouts coming to look at some of Purdue’s players but coming away impressed with the way Waddell plays the game. That speaks to his skillset and size.
Last year’s Purdue team had one noticeable problem, they couldn’t consistently shot the three. Brian Waddell’s easiest and most surefire way to get consistent playing time is to hone his jumper so that it’s perfect. And by perfect I mean really really really really really really really really really good. Purdue just showed an inability to hit three point shots last year even when they were wide open due to the gravity of Zach Edey playing in the low post. This was obviously most evident during the game against Fairleigh Dickinson when Purdue shot an abysmal 5-26 from beyond the arc. Waddell received no playing time in this game which makes sense given the trajectory of his season but should Purdue find themselves in this spot next season my hope is that Waddell is ready to go. There’s reason to think he is the shooter Purdue is looking for. During his senior season he shot over 40% from three. He’s known as a good shooter, and having a good shooter at the forward position has often resulted in Purdue’s best teams.
Waddell faces two problems that he needs to rectify in order to gain those minutes. First, and the one most out of his hands, is the roster crunch. Waddell is ostensibly a forward at 6’8” and lacking the quickness to play guard. That means he’s going up against guys like Mason Gillis, Caleb Furst, and maybe even TKR for minutes. These guys are not easy to move out of the lineup. Mason Gillis is in his last year with the program and definitely has proven himself worthy of playing starter minutes. Furst is heading into a junior season that I believe could be his breakout year and TKR has shown an ability to play down low at the 5 as well as on the perimeter. So, whose minutes does he take? That’s a tough question, but as I stated above, his best bet to do that is differentiate himself by being able to hit the three point shot consistently. If he can do that, he will find minutes.
The second problem that Waddell faces is much more in his control. His defense. We haven’t seen enough of Waddell to know what he’s capable of on defense but what we have seen leads me to believe he’s a step slow out there against some of the conference players he will be paired against. He needs to work on his lateral quickness as well as his ability to read the offense and fully understand his position and role. The man to man defense Purdue plays is incredibly difficult. It takes a lot out of you and requires you to be disciplined. There’s no doubt in my mind that Waddell can do these things, but it’s just a matter of if it’s this year or next. With his new now fully healed this is the best opportunity Waddell has had at Purdue to begin to remove himself from the large shadow his father casts.