For a team that has won sixteen games in a row, there is certainly plenty of credit to go around. Not nearly enough of that credit has gone to the senior guard Dakota Mathias. There’s a few reasons for this. He isn’t a physically imposing force like Isaac Haas, he won’t blow you away off the dribble like Carsen Edwards and he doesn’t exactly have highlight reel potential like Vincent Edwards.
Dakota Mathias is the type of Purdue basketball player that fans of the program have become used to over the past few decades. He isn’t a brand new, fancy sports car you show off to your friends. Rather, Mathias is the old beat-up pickup truck you load your toolbox into and take to work every single day.
Having now played in 126 games in his time at Purdue, Mathias has certainly seen it all. He was the first domino to fall for Matt Painter in this senior class that has completely changed the trajectory of the Purdue program, and it’s been his selfless attitude that has endeared him and this team to fans from the very first day.
Mathias has developed so much since his freshman season, and has turned himself into one of the best shooters and defenders in the conference. According to Basketball Reference, Mathias’ defensive rating (which measures estimated points allowed per 100 possessions) has improved each and every season, and this year sits at 90. As a freshman, that rating came in at 102.2.
At the same time, his offensive rating as a freshman was 101.6. This season, thus far, comes in at 130.7. Per 40 minutes in his freshman season, Mathias shot 32.2% from beyond the three point line. This year, that number is an impressive 45.8%. Any way you look at it, both Mathias and the Purdue coaching staff deserve massive praise for the work and dedication that it takes to see these types of payoffs on the court.
Despite being one of the best perimeter defenders and shooters in the conference, while boasting the 34th highest individual offensive rating in the country, Mathias has become the fourth or fifth most talked about player on his own team. Meanwhile, he seems to be just fine with that. As long as they’re racking up wins like they have been, he’s content to continue being a superstar in his own role and contributing to the Purdue basketball battle scar club, as he did in Ann Arbor on January 9th.
Despite not having the prototypical NBA athleticism or overwhelming physical talent, Mathias has managed to turn himself into a stud in the Big Ten through his hard work and he continues to be largely overlooked at a top tier player in the conference. With per game averages of 12.7 points, 4.6 assists, 4 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game on 47.6% shooting, he continues to prove any and all doubters wrong.
Even on the rare occasion that the shots aren’t falling on a particular night, Mathias’ even keel demeanor and experience allow him to keep his composure and contribute to the team in ways other than just scoring the ball. Against Wisconsin on January 16th, Mathias shot 1-5 from the floor. However, he contributed outside of scoring with five assists and four rebounds while playing his same stifling defense that Big Ten foes have become accustomed to.
Mathias was the first piece in what has turned out to be one of the best recruiting classes in program history, has never demanded any spotlight outside of the realm of team success while always getting better and playing in a way Purdue fans appreciate.
While it’s certain that he wouldn’t seek the praise, it’s far past time for him to get quite a bit of it.