The bad news for Purdue fans is consensus All-American Caleb Swanigan will likely pack up his bags and leave West Lafayette for the NBA this summer — although he hasn’t officially declared for the Draft. The good news for Purdue fans, though, is the Boilermakers won’t lose much else.
Purdue just completed its best season in five years. The Boilermakers won the Big Ten regular-season title and made their third Sweet 16 appearance under head coach Matt Painter. Although the season ended with a disappointing blowout loss at the hands of the much more talented Kansas Jayhawks, Purdue fans are already optimistic about the future.
A big reason for the optimism, despite the likely loss of Swanigan, comes from the returns of the rest of the team’s core group. Purdue will lose just two seniors, so there won’t be much of a void to fill for Painter and his staff in the offseason.
The Boilermakers will lose Jon McKeeman and Spike Albrecht to graduation.
While it’s never easy saying goodbye to your senior players, especially this day and age as one-and-dones become the norm and superstars quickly bolt for green pastures. Seniors are the guys who have stuck through the ups and downs and become leaders within a program based primarily on their experiences both on and off the court.
For example, McKeeman and Albrecht have taken home various academic and sportsmanship awards throughout their college careers. Each player put in extended time, as well, via redshirts — McKeeman from injury and Albrecht as a graduate transfer from Michigan. Those types of guys are always valuable to a program.
On the court, though, Purdue isn’t losing a ton of production.
Combined, Purdue’s two lone seniors averaged just 14.3 minutes per game. McKeeman logged court time in just 16 games this past season. Prior to that, he played in 11 games combined during his freshman-junior seasons.
McKeeman averaged just 0.3 points per game this year and 0.33 for his career. To put it in perspective, Swanigan clocked more minutes in his first two games in a Purdue jersey (53) than McKeeman did during his career as a Boilermaker (52).
Essentially, McKeeman was a practice player for Painter. A valuable asset, absolutely, but won’t make or break the future of Purdue basketball.
Albrecht was a bit more productive, averaging 1.6 points and 1.3 assists in almost 13 minutes per game. He never lit it up — his season high was just 7 points (twice) — but had plenty of Big Ten experience and was Purdue’s only player with tournament experience past the first round heading into this season thanks to three appearances with the Wolverines.
Still, Painter knew Albrecht would be a Boiler for just one season. His experience was valuable and the hope was to be an asset for a potential tournament run. If he imparted any wisdom on Purdue’s younger guards, his work was worth it.
But at the end of the day, Purdue isn’t losing a ton of court time and much from the stat sheet.
McKeeman and Albrecht are two high-character guys with strong academics and five years worth of college basketball experience. They’ll be missed around campus but are surely off to successful post-basketball lives.
Purdue will look to add a couple more pieces to fill in the small gaps — probably more gritty practice guys and off-the-court leaders who can continue to push the climbing Boilermakers in the right direction.