Brian Waddell hadn’t heard all that much from Purdue the past few months, making the call he received from Matt Painter earlier this week a bit of an eye-opener.
Just days after the senior from Carmel High School led the Greyhounds to a state championship, Painter was calling the son of former Boilermaker teammate Matt Waddell to offer a scholarship.
“I hadn’t really talked to Coach Painter much over the past year, maybe a few text messages here and there,” Brian Waddell said. “That was the first time I’d talked to him on the phone a little bit and he told me about the transfers. He told me he’d been watching me play throughout the year and he ended up giving me the offer.”
Purdue did lose two scholarship players to transfer, as forward Aaron Wheeler and more notably (because his scholarship would have been a multi-year one from here on out) center Emmanuel Dowuona.
So while everyone in college basketball combs the transfer portal for late adds, Painter looked right down the road, essentially, to a familiar program, and a familiar household. Matt Waddell played for Gene Keady from 1992-95, overlapping for a few years with Painter (1990-93).
Immediate help, though, may not be the best way to describe It.
Painter offered the scholarship to Waddell with the caveat that if he accepted, he’d redshirt as a freshman next season.
He wouldn’t play at Purdue right away, but that didn’t deter Painter.
“He thought the way I play, and the way Carmel plays, kind of complemented the way they play,” Waddell said. “That I know about everything you have to do to be able to win and how I’ve been around a winning atmosphere the past four years and how I’ve been able to do a lot of small things beside just making shots (to win).”
So now what?
The 6-foot-7, 175-pound Waddell has a group of low- and mid-major suitors who’ve been recruiting him for quite some time, with continued interest from Loyola, as well. Wright State, Incarnate Word and Miami (Ohio) are some of those who’ve offered and prioritized him.
He goes way back with Purdue, though.
“Since I was a kid, it was always kind of my dream, imagining playing in Mackey through college,” Waddell said. “I was really excited about (the offer). It felt like something I’d been working for my whole life.”
That said, Waddell says he won’t rush into anything. The NCAA’s spring signing period starts next Wednesday, but runs through the summer.
“It’s definitely going to be something that’s going to be hard to turn down, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to commit right away to it,” Waddell said of Purdue. “I’m still going to weigh out my options — I have a couple good options out there — and think about whether I want to go into a program and play right away and be a big part of the team or if I want to wait it out and play at Purdue on a bigger stage. I still have a lot to think about. It definitely changes how I think about things.”
As a senior this season, Waddell averaged around 15-and-a-half points and six rebounds. He shot well north of 70 percent from the field and made around 40 percent of his three-pointers. In this past weekend’s Class 4A state title game in Indianapolis — presumably the performance that pushed Painter over the edge to offering, given the timing — Waddell scored a game-high 20 points on just 10 shots, along with 10 rebounds, as Carmel beat Lawrence North 51-46 in overtime.
Waddell is a tall and rangy wing sort of player, with guard skills and a forward’s dimensions. He’s an accomplished long-range shooter and highly regarded for his basketball savvy, among other things, considered a fringe candidate for the state’s Mr. Basketball award.
Where his ultimate role lies at the next level may remain to be seen. Part of the reason Purdue intends to redshirt Waddell is to give him a chance to add size and strength, which could clarify his best fit long-term.
“I think I’m pretty versatile,” Waddell said. “This year I was more like a forward who’d step out and shoot a bit, so kind of like a forward-wing. Transitioning to college, I think getting stronger and gaining a little weight, I think I could move up to like a 3 and play around the outside a little more.”
In Waddell, Purdue seems to see the sort of things in Waddell that it long ago saw in fellow Carmel star Ryan Cline.
“Pretty much the IQ thing,” Waddell said of what coaches have been drawn to about him. “Being able to read screens and read cuts and how the defense is playing you, and that factors into everything. … Just having that IQ will fuel the rest of your game.”
Should Purdue land Waddell, he would join prior signees Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman-Renn, themselves prime Mr. Basketball candidates. Should Purdue land Waddell, it would sign players off Indiana’s 2A, 3A and 4A championship teams this year, not to mention roughly a quarter of this year’s expected Indiana All-Star team.