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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 5

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Page 59 of 87

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 5 60 BY BRIAN NEUBERT I n the most likely of scenarios, Purdue will return another very good, highly experienced roster, with all the pieces in place for another 20-plus-win season and NCAA Tournament trip. But under reasonable scenarios, the reigning Big Ten champion could also see its frontcourt decimated by de- partures to the professional ranks, triggering a rebuild of sorts now, essentially a year early. All-American Caleb Swanigan has declared for the NBA draft, and though he's left his options open by not imme- diately announcing with certainty he'll forego his final two seasons of eligibility at Purdue, a safe working assump- tion would be that he has indeed played his last game as a Boilermaker. But seniors-to-be Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas — each of them in a far less solid position draft-wise than Swanigan, who cemented his status this season as a nearly certain draftee — have also declared, maintaining the option to return for their senior seasons while going through the NCAA's newly extended NBA evaluation proce- dure. Edwards went through it last year and returned; this is Haas' first foray in the process. All three players have until May 24 to decide if they're staying or going. Purdue would be wise to expect Swanigan to depart. "I haven't talked to an NBA guy yet that doesn't say (Swanigan should) go, so listen to them," Coach Matt Painter said. "They're the ones in charge. They're the de- cision-makers. He had a brilliant year. I don't think any- one's going to work harder or prepare more." Painter's been preparing to lose Swanigan this spring from the moment the big man decided last spring he'd re- turn for another season. Painter and his staff have been recruiting post players for next season all year. That pro- cess is ongoing. While Swanigan's departure can essentially be as- sumed, it's Edwards' and Haas' situations that make it pretty much impossible to forecast much about the Boil- ermakers next season. If they're both back, that's two potential All-Big Ten players and half of Purdue's projected four-man senior class back for a chance to defend the Boilermakers' con- ference title. If they're both gone, then Purdue's strong senior class — guards Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson make up the other half of the group — is cut in half and the Boilermak- er frontcourt is new, inexperienced and a total wildcard. If just one or the other are back, then somewhere in the middle the truth lies. Point is, Purdue can't look ahead to next season with any certainty until it knows who's on its team, and the moving parts are big ones, in more ways than one. But if general pre-draft speculation and such can be be- lieved — and all underclassmen have the weeks ahead to change such perceptions — then the writing on the wall would suggest that Swanigan goes and Edwards and Haas stay. If that scenario unfolds, Purdue has the makings of an- other top-25 sort of team, perhaps a Big Ten contender that can again enjoy some NCAA Tournament success. Swanigan would be a massive loss, as is the case any time a team loses an elite player, which the sophomore big man was this season in every sense of the term. Having improved — considerably in most cases — in just about every phase of the game, Swanigan led the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding in conference games, won the league's player-of-the-year award and was named a first-team All-American by everyone that matters. He was a finalist for both the Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award, the two most prominent player-of-the-year awards in the game. Swanigan was Purdue's centerpiece this season, its foundation, the player who influenced everything and ev- eryone on the floor. Without him, Purdue would need someone to elevate MOVING PARTS As of right now, Purdue is an unknown heading into next season

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