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32 Days to B1G Basketball: Is Kendall Stephens the next Ryne Smith?

Today we continue our daily countdown towards the tipoff of the Big Ten basketball season.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, Ryne Smith. A pesky (and cocky) three point specialist that you either loved or hated. He wasn't particularly known for his defensive ability, though he got better on that side of the ball, and it was a rarity to see him shoot the ball inside the arc. No, really...his senior season he shot a whopping 34 two pointers in 1006 minutes. That's one two point field goal every 29.6 minutes while he average only 28.7 minutes per game.

So while Smith shot 86% of his shots from beyond the arc, he did it well, hitting on almost 41% of his treys. It should probably be mentioned that his career numbers were also skewed thanks to a not-so-hot start his first two seasons. Anyway, the point of today's countdown post is if Kendall Stephens is the next Ryne Smith for Purdue. So let's get to the point.

I think the answer to that question depends on how you want to approach it. If we're going by what Stephens has done on the court for the Boilermakers, then the answer is yes. If we're going by what Stephens should do on the court during the rest of his career here, then the answer should be no.

Stephens freshman season was very, very similar to what we saw from Ryne Smith, with the wing shooting about 77% of his shots from beyond the arc at a 37% rate. He did shoot it a bit more from inside, attempting 1.6 two pointers per game, but somehow shot considerably worse from inside (30.8%) then from deep. Stephens game became mainly limited to him being utilized as a three point specialist and very little else. That is relatively apparent when you see that the wing only added seven offensive rebounds total, 1.8 rebounds per game, 0.8 assists per game and only made it to the line 37 times, or just over one attempt per game.

That being said, he was what Purdue needed. While he definitely had an itchy trigger finger, Purdue's inability to shoot from the perimeter meant it commonly relied exclusively on Stephens from outside. While Smith's career at Purdue usually included a cast of guys that could hit from outside, no one else that consistently shot from deep last year was particularly good besides maybe Terone Johnson, who improved considerably here in his senior season. So while Stephens shot 32% of the teams treys, it was a role almost forced on him, likely leading to why he was so heavily utilized from deep.

The biggest reason why I don't think Stephens is the next Ryne Smith stems with injuries. A shoulder injury cut Stephens senior year short and a groin injury while at Purdue hampered the freshman throughout the year. Kendall's lack of being healthy heading into the season ate into his ability to develop muscle and strength, leading the undersized wing to be physically challenged when it came to the rough play of the Big Ten. With a healthy offseason it should allow Stephens to work on bulking up and allowing him to get inside and bang it out with opposing wings.

Stephens size, speed and wingspan already means the wing should see an increase in his rebounding if he can develop enough size heading into the fall. He's shown flashes of getting inside with an effective pull up and has the physical ability to became a bigger threat from more than just the perimeter. Also, he's considerably more athletic than Smith, allowing him to be the better defender.

I almost feel like Stephens could make a Nik Stauskas-esque jump his sophomore season in terms of development (not B1G POY jump, but in terms of skill set). At the very least I see Stephens possibly being groomed to be the teams next D.J. Byrd, a cocky three point shooter than can make plays on defense and get to the bucket when the opportunity presents itself.