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Isaac Haas is Making the Most of his Season in the Spotlight

The senior big man is taking full advantage of his time to shine

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The first three years of his time at Purdue, Isaac Haas lived in a very strange reality. He was by far the biggest man on campus, yet was never even the biggest piece in his own position group. As Purdue has developed its reputation as “Big Man U”, Haas has patiently waited for his time to sit behind the wheel of the Purdue front-court.

As a freshman, Haas sat behind former Purdue great A.J. Hammons. The raw talent was there, but he struggled to stay on the floor for both conditioning reasons and foul trouble. Per 40 minutes as a freshman, Haas averaged 20.8 points and 11.2 rebounds. However, he also saw per 40 minute numbers of 5.9 fouls and 4.4 turnovers.

In his sophomore season, things got even more complicated. Purdue had landed a blue chip recruit, five star guy Caleb Swanigan from Fort Wayne. Now, with Hammons, Haas and Swanigan all in the middle for the Boilermakers, where would all the minutes come from?

While there was never any real evidence of any discord between players or coaching staff, Haas did see a very slight dip in minutes from 14.6 to 14.3 per game. However, with an all around improved team, Haas saw a huge jump in his numbers. Per 40 minutes in 2015-16, Haas averaged 27.4 points and 10.3 rebounds, with an offensive rating of 119.5. The buzz around his pure talent became more and more evident as the year went on, and he was also becoming a smarter player on the floor, dropping his fouls to 4.4 per 40.

The following offseason, it appeared that Haas might finally get his time in limelight. Hammons had graduated and Caleb Swanigan had put his name into the NBA Draft to test the waters. After waiting until the last minute, Swanigan decided to return to Purdue for a chance to bolster his stock. Thus, Haas would be playing something of a supporting role in the front-court for the Boilermakers once again.

Isaac Haas started at the five for the first half of the year, but the tide began to turn in a December 17th game against Notre Dame that season. Down big at half, Matt Painter decided to start the second half with Swanigan at the five. The Boilermakers rallied, won the game, and four games later, Haas was a full time reserve the remainder of the year.

His numbers saw a dip in that junior season, down to 25.9 points per 40, with an offensive rating down to 110.3. The team, however, won the conference title and reached the Sweet Sixteen, so his individual numbers could not have meant less to him in wake of the success the Boilermakers had as a unit.

Now, we fast forward to the start of this season. With Swanigan gone to the NBA, Isaac Haas stands alone as the main piece in the Purdue Boilermaker front-court. In his lone year in the spotlight, we’re seeing by far the best version of him.

With his unparalleled size and unique, complete arsenal of offensive moves, Haas is the centerpiece for a four out, one in motion offense that has the Boilermakers as one of the most efficient and deadly offensive teams in America.

Surrounded by shooters, Haas is causing teams to pick your poison defensively. If you’re going to play him one-on-one in the post as Michigan, Indiana and Maryland have tried recently, he’ll just bury you under the basket and impose his will. If you admit the mismatch by sending a second defender, he’s become such a gifted passer out of the post. While his initial pass doesn’t always lead to an assist, it gets the defense in rotation they typically can’t recover from, leading to an open three or a dunk.

This season, per 40 minutes, Haas is averaging 26.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and only turning the ball over 2.6 times. With an offensive rating of 130, he is without question the piece that this Boilermaker offense is built around.

Riding an 18 game winning streak and being undefeated in conference play is certainly a good spot to be in at this point in your senior season, but Haas and this team appear to be far from done. For Haas especially, it’s his one chance to really shine for this team and he isn’t done cashing in on it.