The 2023-2024 Men’s Basketball season is as highly anticipated as any athletic season in Purdue Athletics history. With the returning National Player of the Year, two seasoned guards who shined as freshman last season, and adding a freshman who came off of a Team USA U-19 appearance, the tension is high. It is even higher coming off what many consider one of the worst loses in NCAA history with the #1 seeded Boilers dropping their opening round game to #16 seed Fairleigh-Dickinson.
With the game tomorrow afternoon and Zach Edey not in attendance due to being with Team Canada at the World Championships, let’s take a look at five things to look for in the scrimmage.
#1: The Development of Cam Heide & Miles Colvin
This may end up being one of the biggest factors that differentiates Purdue from last year to the upcoming season. Heide and Colvin will clearly be the two best athletes on the floor for Purdue and could end up being the first time Purdue can put two highly athletic and skilled wings on the floor at once. That’s a big jump for a Purdue program that has, at times, struggled with athleticism.
With Heide at 6’7 and 205lbs and Colvin at 6’5 and 200lbs, the athleticism they have places them on a pedestal above everyone else on the roster). Yes, Fletcher Loyer is a very good player and he is going to only get better from last season, but he is not the athlete that these two guys are. Seeing them on the floor together will be a peek at what Coach Painter may turn to at times when athleticism is needed on the perimeter.
#2: The Sophomore Duo
Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer were absolutely surprises last season. Many Purdue fans knew the kinds of players they could be but few could predict that they would be as good as they were last year. Yes, they struggled down the stretch and seemed to not be able to fight through adversity late in the season, but that is an issue for a lot of true freshman players trying to weave their way through a major conference and then handle the lights of the NCAA Tournament.
The development of these two players will be key for Purdue’s success and hopefully attaining their first Final Four since 1980. Can Smith flash a more consistent style of being a playmaker without the turnovers like he showed in the early season? Can Loyer be most consistent in his scoring without the volume he needed to get there at times last year (just 21 of 74 for 28% from the field over the final 10 games)?
Look for Smith controlling the tempo of the game more from the point guard position on both ends of the floor. His experience last season gained in that regard will be invaluable. Loyer will need to show a greater ability to score on all three levels so teams don’t choke him out on the three point line. He will also need to prove he won’t be a liability on defense as teams went directly at him over the last half of the season.
#3: How Does Lance Jones Fit?
Coach Painter knew he needed some experience at the guard position to help bolster the roster. After getting a very good transfer last season in David Jenkins, the Boilers were able to find Lance Jones from Southern Illinois. A 6’1, 200lb guard, Jones will be looked at to play both guard positions along with possibly being a scoring option coming off the bench. He has proven capable of being a 40% three point shooter in his career but seemed to struggle when more scoring was needed for his team’s success. Luckily at Purdue, he will be needed more for what he does best: defense.
Jones was a two time First Team Missouri Valley Conference Defense and has the ability to shine in that role this year for Purdue. Jones’ ability to defend at a high level and be a very good spot up three point shooter may lead him to valuable minutes late in games this season.
#4: Trey Kaufman-Renn’s Expansion of his Game
This is one that has seemingly gotten the most buzz through this summer preparation for the Boilers trip to Europe. Kaufman-Renn, by all accounts, is having a heck of a summer and may vault himself into starting at power forward alongside Zach Edey. It has been reported that he feels confident after his first season on the floor and has expanded his game to be more consistent from the three point line and being able to score more off the dribble.
The last time Purdue had this type of low post scoring ability was with Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas playing alongside one another and that didn’t go very well. That being said, there are some big differences between the two different duos that make it much more likely for success with TKR and Edey (beyond the statistics that showed they could be last year).
The issue will be what can TKR do at the power forward position to not be a liability on the defensive end. A team going small may still give him struggles alongside Edey but he can leverage that with an expanded game on the offensive end and especially with his low post scoring ability, which was incredibly advanced for a young player.
#5: William Berg’s Recovery & Progression
Berg has been an intriguing prospect since he was identified by the staff in Europe. At 7’2, he moves well and shoots the ball from behind the arc at a good rate. A traditional ‘European center,’ he didn’t come to Purdue as an accomplished low post scorer but there isn’t a better place than Purdue with Coach Brandon Brantley to develop those skills. What will Berg look like in his first really public appearance for the Boilers?
His development took a bit of a hit last season with some foot injuries that required some surgery but according to Chris Foreman, Purdue’s communications director for Men’s Basketball, William will play in Europe and has been practicing all summer to get ready. We may very well get a peek at the future of the center position from Berg as his workout videos showed a big man with a smooth shooting motion and good lateral quickness as well.
Don’t forget, you can follow the Boilers’ European Trip by grabbing a subscription with Flo Hoops for $29.99 per month.