Navigating the new norms of college hoops: Matt Painter's blueprint for success | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Tuesday / June 18.
  • Navigating the new norms of college hoops: Matt Painter’s blueprint for success

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    By SAM LANCE

    GLENDALE, Ariz — In the ever-evolving landscape of college basketball — where the transfer portal and NIL dollars reign supreme — Purdue’s head coach Matt Painter offers a unique strategy for team building and recruiting.

    Purdue has never been a program to grab the cream of the crop high school talent. In fact, Caleb Swanigan is the only five-star recruit Painter has ever landed since prospects rankings started in 2011. In the new portal era, Purdue has only taken two transfers in former SIUC guard Lance Jones and former Utah guard David Jenkins. Only four players have transferred from Purdue to other schools since 2021.

    For reference, Alabama, another Final Four team this season, had four transfers as newcomers to its roster this season and three players leave in the portal to other schools last spring.

    “Everybody is in a different situation,” Painter said. “I think the landscape is what it is. I think, first and foremost, can you recruit nationally? Can you recruit your area? Like sometimes you take a job, everybody always says, ‘We’re going to recruit our backyard.’ If your backyard is not very fertile, you don’t have a lot of players there, what are you really supposed to do? Just take the best players that aren’t quite good enough?

    Painter continued:

    “When you’re an elite school and you’ve put yourself in a position like a UConn or Kansas, who has done it for many years, you can get involved with a lot of people. What we’ve been able to do through our losses in recruiting is understand who we can get and who we can’t get, then just be smarter about it. We’ve really recruited towards the production and the functionality of our system, what we’re trying to do.”

    Guys that Purdue has recruited to its system, like current guards Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer and two-time National Player of the Year Zach Edey, weren’t the most touted guys out of high school. They weren’t drawing interest from the Blue Bloods. Nor was Carsen Edwards, who starred for Purdue in its 2019 run to the Elite Eight.

    Purdue gets guys like that. And Painter has figured out how to also be selective in the portal. This season, it’s payed huge dividends with Purdue playing UConn for the title game on Monday night.

    “A lot of people that are picking out of the portal and doing that, they’re trying to get the most talented guys, if they’re getting multiple guys,” Painter said. “Someone has to get six or seven guys, there’s no way six or seven guys are going to be successful. It’s impossible, right? In our situation, where you have to get a guy or two — Cam Spencer is a great example. You’re blending into what they already had. That’s a little bit different than somebody going into the spring, and their roster management is two-thirds of their team, right? We’ve always seen that before this with when somebody gets a new job. Now if you get a new job in this landscape, you could sign 13 people? That’s a whole lot different.”

    Shifting the conversation to the issue of NIL’s impact on college basketball, Painter provided a critical perspective. He shared his thoughts on how NIL has transformed the recruitment landscape, and subtly argued his narrative that Purdue’s approach can build a successful program.

    “What is tough is name, image and likeness wasn’t supposed to be put in place for whoever’s got the most money gets the best players,” Painter said. “But if you want to kind of be truthful about what’s going on, the part of our business that stinks, that was happening before. Now those teams that were doing that before now get to do it through name, image and likeness and it’s a double whammy because they’re not just getting their name, image and likeness money, they’re getting their money that they were getting before that was illegal.

    Painter concluded:

    “People that do it the right way, you can get mad about it all you want, but you have to try to keep your focus on yourself. If that’s what you want to do, good for you. We can get good basketball players, mesh ’em together and have a good product.”

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