College athletes get four seasons to compete, and Purdue Basketball player Nojel Eastern appears eager to use his fourth somewhere else. I don’t get it.
When I saw the release announcing Eastern is entering the portal, I tried to make sense of it somehow, someway. College athletes often feel the grass is greener somewhere else, but the marriage of Eastern’s strengths and those coveted by Purdue coach Matt Painter appeared to be in sync.
Eastern is a defense-first player with limited offensive abilities. He can’t shoot threes (0-7 since his freshman year) and is a sub-par free throw shooter (48.5% last year). Eastern’s high water mark as a scorer came during his sophomore campaign when he averaged 7.5 points per game.
Despite that less than impressive offensive resume’, Eastern started 62 of 67 games the last two years because Painter loves his defense. At 6’7″, 225 lbs., Eastern is capable of guarding all five spots against some teams.
There are many power five programs for whom Eastern’s offensive inabilities would damper his chances to get on the floor at all, but at Purdue he’s been a rotational player since arriving on campus.
Some college players – and their families – have NBA dreams when they are recruited to a Big 10 school. In fact, most do. Maybe Eastern, who declared for the NBA Draft a couple of weeks ago. That allows him to seek advice from scouts, agents, and others with opinions about his draft status. Clearly, he did not like what he heard and would like to see if a change of scenery will help him live his dream.
Purdue looked like they would have a couple of senior leaders in 2021 to try to get the rest of the roster ready for a resurgent season. Matt Haarms left for BYU last month, and now Eastern appears to be headed elsewhere, although he can return if he chooses.