Purdue Guard Nojel Eastern Looks to Make Leap Offensively this Season

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Tomorrow Nojel Eastern and the rest of the 23rd ranked Purdue Boilermakers will begin the 2019-2020 season, which marks the 122th in program history.

The last time the Boilers played a regular season game, they added to their Big Ten record of conference championships, claiming their 24th in Eastern’s hometown of Evanston, Illinois. If you’re making college basketball picks this season in the Big Ten, Last year, the 6-7 small forward averaged 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while starting 35 of 36 games.

Purdue basketball season opener vs Green Bay

Tip: 7:01 p.m. ET, Mackey Arena

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“Nojel made a pretty good jump from his freshman and sophomore year,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said at Big Ten Media Day.

Now is the time for Eastern to make another leap this season as Purdue most certainly needs him to. He’s one of just two starters returning from a team that earned the school’s first elite 8 appearance since 2000.

Regarded as one of not just the league’s but the nation’s best defenders, he needs to develop his offensive game now. He build and frame are very unique, and given the right situations, can present a match-up nightmare for opponents.

Two of the most consistent themes of the Purdue basketball program are “defense lives here” and player development/players producing well beyond what they were projected to be according to their recruiting rankings.

“Everybody had those steps, it may not be the hugest steps, but each year everyone is going to learn,” Nojel Eastern said at Big Ten Media Day.

“Everybody gets better and everybody takes steps sometimes, sometimes it’s little steps, sometimes it’s a massive one.”

Eastern was a highly rated recruit, top 70 nationally by some services. After a slow start to last season, he finished the year by averaging 8.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game over the last 21. His season high of 15 points came in that conference title clinching win at Northwestern, a game in which actress Julia-Louis Dreyfus was in the house.

He earned an Big Ten defensive team honors last season and all Big Ten preseason (the only Boiler on the list) last month. It is hoped/expected that he’ll develop on offensive game now to match his prowess on the defensive end of the floor.

“I just tried to find something to keep me on the court longer,” Eastern continued. “The defensive side kept me on the court longer, and you need to use the offseason to get better at the things you need to get better at.”

For him that is obviously, scoring and shooting. Deron Williams is an example of a bigger guard in the Big Ten who developed his defensive game first in college, with the offensive side coming along later.

Eastern was one of just 20 players (the only one from the Big Ten) named to the preseason Julius Erving Award watch list (nation’s best small forward). He can guard 1-4 and can be very formidable on the wings. He used an analogy of the transition game, when defense leads to offense, in a way that it can be interpreted as a metaphor for his college basketball career arc.

“Defense leads to offense, so if you can get a steal in the half court, or as the guard brings the ball up,” he said.

“It gives you room to make a play on the offensive side to dunk, nice pass or something like that.”

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“Defense always leads to offense, I’ve never heard it sad that offense leads to defense, but in a bad way though so I just use my defense to lead to offense, give me easy buckets, easy layups, dunks and I just use that to my advantage.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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