For now, Matt Painter waits and recruits.
The veteran Purdue coach controls what he can control. Uncertainty is part of the process in 21st Century college basketball when you have good players, and Painter certainly does.
He waits to see if his three NBA Draft entrants — forward Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards, and center Isaac Haas — return for another season. He will gather information and pass it on.
He recruits to maintain the momentum from a Big Ten championship season and a Sweet 16 berth. Coaching excellence means nothing without the talent to execute it.
Swanigan, Edwards and Haas have until May 24 to decide whether they’ll stay in the draft or come back for what could be another Boiler championship season.
Swanigan, a former Indiana Mr. Basketball out of Homestead projected as a late-first-round pick (draftexpress.com has him going No. 29 to the San Antonio Spurs), seems likely not to return.
Edwards and Haas are not projected to get drafted, although the juniors could if they are impressive enough in NBA team workouts and — if invited — at next month’s NBA Combine.
Swanigan returned from last year’s draft attempt determined to make the necessary improvements and did he ever — winning Big Ten MVP honors and earning All-America accolades while averaging 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
That improvement from his freshman season is exactly what could inspire Edwards and Haas if they return.
“(Swanigan) is really kind of the poster child for today's player in terms of going in the draft, listening to what NBA people say and then improving on the things that NBA people told him he needs to improve on,” Painter said. “He was not this good of a shooter last year. He wasn't in this kind of shape last year, his rebounds per minute, his decision making — everything that they told him he needed to work on, he did. He got better and his team won.”
Getting Edwards and Haas back would be huge. Edwards is one of two Boilers to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 three-point baskets. E’Twaun Moore (now with the New Orleans Pelicans) is the other. Edwards averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 rebounds this season.
The 7-2 Haas has averaged 24.8 points per 40 minutes over his career. Last season it was 12.6 points and 5.0 rebounds.
If they return you have the foundation for another title run.
As far as recruiting, Painter is on the hunt to sign a big man this spring in anticipation of Swanigan’s departure. The top target is 6-10 Malik Ondigo, who visited Purdue earlier this month. Texas Tech, Colorado and Nevada also are in the mix. Another possibility is Alabama forward Garrison Brooks, another 6-10 prospect.
Earlier this month guard Indiana All-Star guard Sasha Stefanovic from Crown Point signed. He joins Eden Ewing, Aaron Wheeler, Nojel Eastern and Matt Haarms, who signed in the fall.
Beyond that, Purdue is among the many top programs after Class of 2018 standout Romeo Langford of New Albany, who is ranked No. 3 nationally.
Other Class of 2018 prospects includes Ohio forward Pete Nance (No. 39), Indianapolis guard Eric Hunter (No. 75), Bloomington forward Musa Jallow (No. 85), Pennsylvania shooting guard Robby Carmody (No. 99), South Bend forward Damezi Anderson (No. 103) and Lafayette point guard Robert Phinisee (No. 122).
With former associate head coach Jack Owens now running the Miami of Ohio program, Painter hired Steve Lutz away from Creighton. Lutz is a strong recruit known developing mental toughness in players. That’s an attribute Purdue players are known for under Painter and, before that, Gene Keady.
No matter what happens with Swanigan, Edwards and Haas, Purdue will return a strong nucleus with veteran guards P.J. Thompson, Dakota Mathias, Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline.
Mathias had a break-through season which included making the Big Ten all-defensive team. He shot 45.3 percent from three-point range, and needs 89 three-pointers next season to set the Purdue record. He had 72 this past season. He averaged 9.7 points and led the Boilers with 133 assists.
Thompson averaged 7.4 points and 2.9 assists. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.92 was among the nation’s best and was second only to the 4.04 he had as a sophomore in school history. He also shot 40.2 percent from three-point range and 70.5 percent from the line.
Carsen Edwards was the only Big Ten freshman to total at least 45 three-pointers and 35 steals. He joins Robbie Hummel and Moore as the only Purdue freshmen to have at least 360 points, 60 assists and 30 steals. He averaged 10.3 points.
In two seasons Cline already has 87 three-pointers, and he’s done that as a reserve. He averaged 5.4 points.
Painter and his staff also continue to work with current players. Skill building was huge in producing 53 victories over the past two seasons. No matter who stays, goes or comes, that's a top priority.
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