Four star prospect Isaac Haas, a 7'2" center out of Alabama, committed to Purdue about a year ago on November 18th. Haas had a variety of offers from all over the nation, including UCLA, Alabama, Tennessee and Northwestern. He ultimately chose to commit to the Boilers just four days after visiting UAB.
The news of Haas' commitment was seen as a major get for Matt Painter, especially with the assumed departure of Hammons that was predicted to happen either after last season or this current season. The addition of Haas meant the Boilermakers would have a viable option to backup Hammons if he returned and if the big man departed for the NBA it would add a much needed center to the teams roster.
Everyone knows the five spot is anchored by Hammons, a center that is one of the best in the Big Ten with a potential professional career hanging in the air. That being said, one of the major issues that became apparent last season for the big man was his issue to get taken out of games early and often thanks to committing too many fouls. Even more problematic is whenever Hammons was forced to ride the bench early he struggled to get into sync, usually looking out of order for the rest of the night. If one thing carried over from last year for the Indiana native it was definitely the issues with fouls, committing four fouls in every game last week at the Maui Invitational.
Look no further than the Kansas State game, with Hammons only playing about a minute in the first half thanks to several early fouls. He would end up playing only 10 minutes in a 9 point loss and was essentially a non-factor on the day. In the past that meant Painter may have had to turn to Travis Carroll or Jay Simpson, both of which struggled to fill the role as a backup. As for Haas, the true freshman ended up scoring 19 points and adding 6 rebounds during his 20 minutes filling in at the five spot. That more or less was the role the duo played throughout their time in Hawaii, with the 'backup' Haas actually playing more minutes than Hammons in every game (as well as every game this season outside of the second game versus IUPUI).
The ability to have a counterpart to Hammons that can provide a similar level of play is a huge addition for the Boilers. While Hammons may struggle with fouls time and time again this year, if Painter has Haas on the bench their won't be a drop off in production. Even better is the reality that Painter doesn't have to force Hammons back out with fouls (or if he gets winded) as Haas can hold his own, allowing Hammons to stay fresh and last throughout an entire 40 minute game. Look no further than the end of the BYU contest to see how important Hammons can be to this team, nailing the game winning shot at the end of overtime.
While I've pointed out the benefit Haas has had on depth and adding to the overall talent of the depth chart, it shouldn't take away from the fact that he's more than handled his own so far and could start if need be without much of a problem. So far through six games this season Haas has recorded double digits four times thanks to shooting an impressive 75% from the field. He's the third leading scorer on the team, behind only Vince Edwards and Kendall Stephens (both of which average over five minutes more per game and shoot more frequently), while also second in rebounds and proving to be another a solid shot blocker down low.
When everything is said and done it looks like the class of 2014 might actually pan out for Painter after a decent amount of misses on the recruiting trail as of late. While Haas was originally billed as a guy who could be a decent backup and develop into the starting center going forward, the freshman has shown that he's already capable enough to lead the show down low when need be. The addition of Haas helps add depth to a frontcourt that was thin last season and now gives Purdue a deadly center duo while negating one of their best players biggest issues (unnecessary fouls).
If Haas can keep it up Purdue is going to have a major weapon off the bench and will prove problematic for opposing Big Ten teams when they have to face two different bigs that measure in at over seven feet this winter. It's starting to look like Purdue may be ready to turn the corner sooner rather than later.