Purdue forward Caleb Furst has returned to practice in recent days after missing time in the team's health and safety protocol, coach Matt Painter said.
Furst, a Fort Wayne native and Blackhawk Christian graduate, had been the Boilermakers' starting power forward all season, but did not play in the team's non-conference finale against Nicholls State on Dec. 29 because he was in the protocol.
Painter was non-committal about the true freshman's prospects of playing tonight, when No. 23 Wisconsin visits Mackey Arena. The 17th-year coach noted the Boilermakers have plenty of depth in the frontcourt, meaning they have the luxury of easing Furst back in slowly rather than rushing him back. Mason Gillis, who started 23 games as a redshirt freshman in 2020-21, made his first start of the season in Furst's place against Nicholls, a game Purdue won 104-90. Gillis is somewhat undersized for a power forward at 6-foot-6, which could be a factor on the glass against Wisconsin – the Badgers feature a frontline with four players 6-9 or taller and two 7-footers. Furst stands 6-10 and, if he's healthy and in shape (Painter noted he has not had a full practice since before the Boilermakers played Butler at the Crossroads Classic on Dec. 18) he could make a difference on the glass, though Gillis is a tough, aggressive rebounder in his own right.
Furst is averaging 6.2 points on 54% shooting (including 33% from 3-point range) and 5.8 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per contest. He is on the court warming up with his teammates little more than an hour before the game.