WEST LAFAYETTE − It’s the narrative that won’t go away.
Matt Painter knows it.
The players for Purdue’s men’s basketball team know it.
Losing as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament to a 16 seed is a historic moment that will forever be tied to the Boilermakers. It’s compounded by the fact Purdue lost to double-digit seeds Saint Peter’s and North Texas the two NCAA tournaments before that.
The good news for Purdue is every major contributor but Brandon Newman and David Jenkins is back from a team that went 29-6 and won the Big Ten regular season title by three games along with a Big Ten tournament championship.
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Purdue enters the season with high expectations, both internally and from national media. Can this roster change last season’s narrative, where being on the wrong end of one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history overshadowed what the Boilermakers accomplished?
Let’s have a look at the roster breakdown, listed numerically.
0 − Mason Gillis, F, RS-Sr.
The traditional Purdue grit guy, Gillis may not be a high-profile scorer, but his defense, hustle and rebounding ability are not underappreciated by the Boilers. Gillis is a leader of this squad and started 15 games last season before a back injury saddled him for a short stint. He’ll also have moments that showcase he can score. Just ask Penn State, which saw Gillis light up the Nittany Lions for a career-high 29 points on 9-of-12 from 3-point range last season.
1 − Caleb Furst, F, Jr.
One of two former Indiana Mr. Basketball winners on the roster, Furst, like Gillis, is a consummate team guy who likely could produce a big stat line elsewhere but buys into team success. Furst, who started 21 games last season, took a big leap from freshman to sophomore year. He may not see as many minutes this season as Purdue is logjammed at his spot, but Furst is now a savvy veteran capable of adding key production for a deep roster.
2 − Fletcher Loyer, G, So.
Loyer came to Purdue known as a sharpshooter. We saw it in spurts last year, but he clearly hit a freshman wall, whether anyone within the program will admit it or not. Loyer also showed he’s unfazed by the big moment, providing the game winner at Ohio State and silencing Michigan State’s student section with clutch free throws late. Consistency will be key in Loyer’s sophomore season after being Purdue’s second-leading scorer his freshman year.
3 − Braden Smith, G, So.
Here’s the Braden Smith conundrum. As a freshman, he started all 35 games at point guard and played more minutes than anyone but the National Player of the Year. Smith averaged 9.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists. And yet, somehow, he’s undervalued by most outside of West Lafayette. It’s odd to say for a team with the best player in the country returning, but Smith might be Purdue’s most important player. However, he’ll need to be more aggressive as a solid shooter. Last season, Smith often deferred when perhaps he shouldn’t.
4 − Trey Kaufman-Renn, F, RS-So.
Buy stock now. Kaufman-Renn could be Purdue’s breakout player. Last season, he was Zach Edey’s backup and Edey rarely came out of the game. Now playing the 4, Kaufman-Renn and Edey could coincide and provide mismatches galore for opposing defenses. Matt Painter said last season Kaufman-Renn will be an All-Big Ten player before he leaves Purdue. Painter isn’t one to just throw out projections like that unless he truly believes it.
5 − Myles Colvin, G, Fr.
This was something Purdue severely needed last season, an athletic wing who can shoot, get to the basket and is athletic enough to finish above the rim against anyone. As a true freshman, Colvin will have growing pains. But if fans are patient, Colvin could be a constant on highlight reels.
11 − Brian Waddell, F, RS-So.
The son of a former Painter teammate, Waddell was a late addition when Painter scooped him up after he led Carmel to a Class 4A state championship in 2021. Waddell had to heal from an injury and last year his role was limited. He’s transformed his body and will supply depth.
15 − Zach Edey, C, Sr.
Obviously, the consensus National Player of the Year needs no introduction. Edey had several reasons for withdrawing from the NBA draft, but the biggest was for postseason success. Don’t be surprised if Edey’s numbers take a dip this season. That doesn’t mean he’s any less valuable. That could be for the better of the team as a whole. Playing with and against professionals in the summer on Canada’s national team can’t hurt either.
20 − Josh Furst, F, Fr.
A walk-on and younger brother of Caleb Furst, Josh Furst comes in already familiar with Purdue basketball and associated as a winner, helping Fort Wayne Blackhawk to state championships in 2021 and ’23.
22 − Chase Martin, G, Sr.
Martin has been around college basketball more than anyone on the roster. A walk-on and son of former Purdue standout Cuonzo Martin, he’s been along for his father’s journey when he Purdue’s associate head coach and later a head coach at Missouri State, Tennessee, California and Missouri.
23 − Cam Heide, F, R-Fr.
Last season, early arrivers to Purdue games got to witness the Cam Heide dunk show. Without ever playing in an official collegiate game yet, he’s already provided some impressive moments with his leaping ability in games during Purdue’s European trip in the summer and during last weekend’s intrasquad scrimmage. Not sure how big of a role he’ll play this season, but when he has opportunities, Heide will find his way onto some top play lists.
24 − Sam King, F, So.
A walk-on, King played in four games his freshman year. At 6-8, the former Columbus North standout is valuable as a big body to simulate what Purdue’s front line will see in Big Ten play during practices.
25 − Ethan Morton, G, Sr.
One of the anomalies of Purdue’s season a year ago was what happened to Morton’s outside shot. As a sophomore, Morton shot better than 44% from 3. As a starter most of last season, and while taking nearly three times as many attempts from beyond the arc, Morton’s percentage dropped by 17. His best asset a year ago was as a defender and captain. However, he could provide a key role as a backup guard and has seemed to add a few new elements to his offensive repertoire.
32 − Jace Rayl, G, Fr.
Rayl was a member of Kokomo’s state runner-up team last season, but his role with that team was limited. He’s now a walk-on for the Boilermakers. His last name should resonate with basketball historians in this state. Grandfather Jimmy Rayl was a star for the Indiana Hoosiers after winning Mr. Basketball in 1959 and later played for the Indiana Pacers.
34 − Carson Barrett, G, Sr.
Yet another son of a former Boilermaker teammate of Painter’s, Barrett joins the distinction along with Waddell and Martin as father-son combos who won Big Ten titles with Purdue. The walk-on had four points against Ohio State last season and the local product from Central Catholic has played in 15 career games.
44 − Will Berg, C, R-Fr.
Berg is an imposing presence at 7-2. In terms of playing time, he’s behind Edey. A native of Stockholm, Sweden, Berg offers a different element than Edey with the ability to step outside and hit shots. Berg also has international experience, having played for Sweden’s U16 and U18 national teams.
55 − Lance Jones, G, 5th
Jones comes to Purdue after a stellar career at Southern Illinois, where he was known for his shooting ability and defense. Jones also is athletic enough to take players off the dribble. He should have a major role and could be a veteran starter that will help Smith and Loyer. Jones already has more than 1,500 career points and has a chance to finish his collegiate career with more than 400 rebounds, 300 assists and 200 steals.
Sam King covers sports for the Journal & Courier. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @samueltking.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Purdue basketball roster breakdown: Are these Boilers built for March?