INDIANAPOLIS — Purdue enters the 2021-22 season as one of the favorites to win the Big Ten based on the size and depth of its frontcourt.
But mixing and matching that talent on the floor will be one of the challenges for Boilermakers coach Matt Painter this season.
Painter was asked at Big Ten Media Day at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Friday how much 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey and 6-10 forward Trevion Williams could play on the court at the same time. Williams is a two-time All-Big Ten standout who has led Purdue in scoring and rebounding in each of the last two seasons. Edey earned All-Big Ten freshman honors in 2020-21, averaging 8.7 points and 4.4 rebounds. Over the summer, Edey helped lead Team Canada to a bronze medal at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Latvia, averaging 15.1 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
“Our matchups, with our team, will really be determined more defensively than probably offensively,” Painter said. “I think we can use that size together in snippets right now. It just depends how skilled your [power forward] is or if we feel we can flip that matchup offensively to where we might have some struggles offensively but not as many as you're going to have at the other end. And what you can live with.”
Painter played Edey and Williams together during some stretches in practice this week.
“It’s OK,” Painter said. “It’s hard to do, offensively. From turnovers to spacing, it’s a little bit harder. Really cool in a rebounding drill, though. You get all of the rebounds.”
Williams is willing to take on the challenge of guarding on the perimeter if needed.
“I’m definitely capable of guarding a [power forward] or even switching onto a guard,” Williams said. “Coach has been doing that a lot in practice, really, trying to play me and Zach on the same team. Obviously, we couldn’t do it last year because we just started it out. It took some time to get used to, but numerous times we’ve tried it in open gyms. Just trying to get used to it as much as possible. It’s more so on me being able to guard multiple positions.”
Overall, Purdue’s frontcourt depth is strong, with the return of starting forward Mason Gillis and the addition of freshman Indiana Mr. Basketball forward Caleb Furst and 2020 Gatorade Player of the Year Trey Kaufman-Renn. That has made competition intense so far in practice. Williams said Edey is now finishing jump hooks from both sides, while Furst is showing perimeter ability out to the 3-point line. Kaufman-Renn, slowed by a hand injury over the summer, is starting to catch up.
“It’s been unreal,” Williams said. “I genuinely feel like we have more than three potential starting lineups. I think coach can put anyone out there and I’d feel OK with it.”
IZZO ON FIFE
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has no hard feelings when asked about Dane Fife leaving his program as an assistant to accept an associate coach job at his alma mater, Indiana.
“It was a good deal for Dane,” Izzo said. “Even though he was a Michigan kid at heart. I remember recruiting Dane, and if it would have been anyone else but Bobby Knight, I think we would have got Dane, personally …
“It’s a great situation for him. It’s good for Mike [Woodson]. He’s got a guy that’s been in the league, 10 years in the league in a position he played there. Like myself, when you get Mark Montgomery back, when you get home-grown guys, they are important at this level, I think. That’s my own opinion, so other than two games a year I wish him all the luck in the world.”
COLLINS ON KOPP
Northwestern coach Chris Collins gave a positive endorsement to Miller Kopp, who left his program as a transfer to join the Hoosiers during the offseason.
Kopp made 122 career 3-pointers in three seasons at Northwestern. Last season, the 6-7 Kopp averaged 11.3 points, shooting 33% from 3-point range.
“I'm still appreciative of what Miller did for us for three years,” Collins said. “No one works harder. He's really competitive. Became a good player. Double-figure scorer in the Big Ten. He's going to add a lot to Indiana, those things that I mentioned. He comes every day. He's about the right stuff. He wants to win. He's a great teammate. He can really shoot it. He'll be a veteran guy for that team.”
Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry was among the most excited coaches on the podium Friday night. An Indianapolis native, Shrewsberry built his reputation as a former assistant at Butler, Purdue and with the Boston Celtics under former Butler coach Brad Stevens to land his first head coaching job.
“As an Indiana kid, this is my home,” Shrewsberry said. “Indianapolis is my home. To be able to stand here in front of you and represent Penn State University is a proud moment for me.”
Most expects have picked Penn State to finish in the bottom half of the conference, though the Nittany Lions return some key players, including swingman Myles Dread and forward John Harrar.
“I'm excited about our team, right?” Shrewsberry said. “There's no outside expectations that I really care about except for the expectations I put on myself, and the expectations we have in our locker room.”