Do the Purdue Boilermakers have the best frontcourt in the Big Ten? What about the nation? Those questions probably shouldn't be answered until the end of the year, but on paper, Purdue is stacked. They start at the 5 with a defensive juggernaut with a ton of experience and even more to prove, behind him is a 7'2" bundle of energy and excitement. At the 4, Matt Painter has his best recruit ever with a work ethic that might even exceed his immense talent, his cohort at the position is a player who may be hungrier than any of the other after injuries derailed his first freshman season.
With that, let's take a look at Purdue's frontcourt.
Isaac Haas, Sophomore, Center
Haas still has a lot of developing to do as a player on the court, but it has been off the court where the young man has been most impressive to me. I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone get as excited on the sideline as Isaac. His energy has been a big positive for this team and his friendship and competition with A.J. Hammons seemed to help both players as the season went on. Haas still needs to put in some work and add some polish to his game, but having such a unique talent on the bench is a luxury no other team in the country can claim. Haas averaged 14.6 minutes last season, but I would not be surprised if he saw less playing time this season with the addition of Swanigan. Expect to see some improvement from Haas this season and a breakout season next year as a starter.
"I'm working on conditioning and having a better feel around the basket. Maybe not being so just absolutely physical; maybe having a little bit of finesse to what I do, and that maybe will get me out of foul trouble this year."-Isaac Haas during the offseason
A.J. Hammons, Senior, Center
The number 4 man on the BTPowerhouse 25 has some unfinished business to attend to. Rapheal Davis won the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year award last season. His teammate, Hammons, may be the biggest thing, both figuratively and literally, standing in the way of him retaining the crown. The big man in the middle led the conference in blocked shots last season, averaging 2.8 per game, but he may have to improve on that if he wants to wrest the crown from the hands of his teammate on the perimeter.
His other goal? Winning a championship, specifically a national one. While that aim is quite lofty, there is no doubt this team should be improved from last season. Hammons could be even more effective in the lane than he has been in the past with the addition of more size and talent on the floor next to him. After three years of intermittent and inconsistent dominance from Purdue's anchor inside, could this be the season it all comes together for the center from Oak Hill Academy?
Jacquil Taylor, RS Freshman, Power Forward
Taylor has had injury issues since high school, and last season he played in six games before being sidelined. Jacquil was granted a medical hardship waiver and will get a second shot at a freshman season this year. Taylor likely won't see a lot of time this year, but his size, 6'10" 240 pounds, gives him the ability to slide into the 5 spot if Matt Painter wants to go to a quicker lineup without losing too much size. Taylor actually has a made three-pointer and four blocks in his short 42 minute college career, which is good indicator of his potential range and defensive ability. Remember his name, because he could be a very important piece for the Boilers in the next few years.
Caleb Swanigan, Freshman, Power Forward
Swanigan may be the most talked about freshman in America this offseason, especially with the NCAA dragging their feet on approving his eligibility and the great story about him last week from Bleacher Report. Swanigan's recruitment was already a saga with his initial verbal commitment to Michigan State and subsequent flip to Purdue, where he signed a letter of intent and eventually enrolled. Since then, we've talked about how good of a player he will be this season, earning 19th on the BTPowerhouse 25, and his recent performance in Purdue's scrimmages.
Assuming Biggie is deemed to be eligible in time for the season, I expect him to have an immediate impact for the Boilers. He has more range than you think and after the scrimmages it seems concerns over spacing may have been a little overblown. Swanigan hit a couple of threes and was 13-16 from the free throw line combined during the scrimmages.
AJ Hammons even remarked that Swanigan is "more versatile than I thought. He can step out to the 3 more and dribble more than most bigs. That's going to help us a lot."
Purdue has enough frontcourt talent for two Big Ten teams, especially when you add in wings Vince Edwards and Basil Smotherman who have both shown the ability to play the 4. Their size and talent up front is something few teams in the country can match. Will it be enough to win a Big Ten championship?