Former Purdue guard Eric Hunter Jr. announced this afternoon on social media he will transfer and play his final season of eligibility at Butler.
Hunter, who was a four-year contributor for the Boilermakers and a member of the Big Ten’s All-Defense team as a senior this past season, declared for the NBA draft while maintaining his NCAA eligibility in early April and weeks later also entered the transfer portal. He has one year of eligibility left because of the extra year the NCAA granted to all players during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hunter, a Tindley Prep product, played 128 games for the Boilermakers, starting 74. He was a member of three NCAA Tournament teams, two Sweet 16 squads and was a freshman in 2018-19, when Purdue won the Big Ten and reached the Elite Eight.
The 6-foot-4 point guard scored nearly 850 points in his Purdue career and averaged 6.2 points and two assists during his senior season. He was the Boilermakers’ best 3-point shooter in his final year in West Lafayette, knocking down 43.6% from beyond the arc with his left-handed stroke.
Without Hunter, the Boilermakers are thin at point guard. The only true point guard sure to be on the roster next season is incoming freshman Braden Smith, the 2022 Indiana Mr. Basketball, who, in addition to being just 5-10 and 165 pounds, is coming off a foot injury that bothered him during his senior year at Westfield. In other circumstances, Purdue might have chosen to redshirt Smith – coach Matt Painter has preached for several years about the value of a redshirt season for players who are likely going to have long college careers – but that seems unlikely to be an option come the fall.
Purdue’s best option outside of Smith among players on the current roster is 6-6 Ethan Morton, who handled the ball on a regular basis in high school. He has shown some skill as a creator in his first two years at Purdue and had a nearly 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in a small sample size this season, but using him at the point would take away from Purdue’s frontcourt depth as he played a lot at the forward spots this past season. On the other hand, between Mason Gillis, Caleb Furst, Trey Kaufman-Renn and maybe Brian Waddell there might be enough of a crunch at the forward spots as it is. Maybe it would be best to move Morton into a more full-time role in the backcourt.
The Boilermakers could also turn to the transfer portal for reinforcements at guard. Indianapolis native and Kansas State guard transfer Nijel Pack spurned them for Miami, but they are still courting 6-0 Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter, the reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year, who averaged 11 points and 4.9 assists while shooting 39% from the field last season. The Cyclones' Hunter has visited West Lafayette and put the Boilermakers in his top six transfer options along with Gonzaga, Tennessee, Kansas, Louisville and Texas.
Purdue's situation at point guard became an issue in large part because of the unexpected entry of the team's presumed returning veteran at the position, Isaiah Thompson, into the transfer portal. Thompson eventually transferred to Florida Gulf Coast and it's hard not to wonder whether he might still be on the roster if the Boilermakers had not so aggressively pursued Pack as a potential starter at the position.
Now, the Boilers have no Eric Hunter Jr., no Thompson, no Pack and are vying with a coterie of blue bloods for Tyrese Hunter. Everyone expected they would have a lot of production to replace heading into the 2022-23 season because of the departures of Jaden Ivey, Trevion Williams and Sasha Stefanovic, but point guard was not really a position of concern until Thompson decided to leave, as well.
Whether it becomes a problem during the season depends largely on Tyrese Hunter's decision and the development of Morton and Smith. Purdue would probably rather not go into the season relying on two players without a ton of collegiate experience at the position.