WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue basketball's search for an experienced point guard ahead of the 2022-23 season continues, and the current options are shrinking for a program that has a massive hole to fill at the position.
The team's trio of primary ball handlers — Eric Hunter Jr., Jaden Ivey and Isaiah Thompson — have all taken their leave from the program since the loss to Saint Peter's in the Sweet 16. Ivey is projected to be a top pick in the NBA Draft, and Thompson committed to Florida Gulf Coast via the transfer portal.
READ MORE: Thompson Transfers to Florida Gulf Coast
Highly-touted Kansas State transfer Nijel Pack, an Indianapolis native and one of the top transfers in the offseason, announced his commitment to Miami on Saturday afternoon over Purdue and several other high-profile programs. He took a trip to West Lafayette on April 7 before visiting the Hurricanes as well as Big Ten foe Ohio State.
But the Lawrence Central High School graduate was won over by a deal with Life Wallet worth $800,000 across two years as part of a name, image and likeness agreement, and chose to play for Miami. Pack was also awarded a car as part of the package.
While it's not unheard of for athletes to be compensated with NIL deals, it was unprecedented to see Pack's deal be announced at the time of his signing. In the brief history of NIL agreements, no athlete has been suspended as a result of violations.
Pack's hefty price came after the sought-after transfer garnered recognition as one of the best shooters in the portal. He was a first-team All-Big 12 honoree after leading the 14-17 Wildcats with 17.4 points per game while also recording 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest.
Now, Pack will run the offense as the point guard for the Hurricanes, a group that was good enough to reach the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, Purdue basketball must continue to weigh its options during the offseason.
Before the start of the 2021-22 season, Hunter was one of three seniors that informed head coach Matt Painter that it would be their final year with the program. It was a decision that allowed Purdue to recruit for the future and pursue the likes of Pack in the transfer portal.
However, circumstances are always subject to change. Hunter, who declared for the 2022 NBA Draft while maintaining his final year of eligibility in the NCAA, entered the transfer portal to keep his own options open for next season.
That announcement came after the Boilermakers inquired about bringing in Pack. But Thompson's departure gives Hunter a wide-open door for a potential return to college basketball.
As it stands, Purdue will roster true freshman point guard Braden Smith — a three-star recruit from Westfield High School — and former high school point guard Ethan Morton. Hunter is looking like the team's best option as an experienced and reliable ball handler
The 6-foot-4, 175-pound Indianapolis native registered 6.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last season while appearing in 37 games for Purdue. He made 19 starts, taking over as the primary point guard toward the end of the season.
But should Hunter exhaust his final year of eligibility, there's no guarantee it will be with the Boilermakers. The demand for a Big Ten talent with four years of experience will be high, and Hunter may look to fill a role that will allow him to showcase his ability to score the basketball at a high level.
Another Purdue target, Princeton transfer Jaelin Llewellyn, committed to Clemson but has recently reopened his recruitment. He was originally contacted by as many as 20 college programs after hitting the portal, including the Boilermakers.
Llewellyn averaged more than 15 points per game with Princeton in each of the last two seasons. He shot 44.7% from the field during the 2021-22 season, including a 38.6% mark from the 3-point line.
Iowa State point guard Tyrese Hunter, the reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year, is also on the market and will be a potential option for Purdue. However, if the Boilermakers bring in a transfer, it will likely mean Hunter will not return.
The worst-case scenario for the team is for its top choices in the transfer portal to diminish and for Hunter to decide to take his talents to another program. Painter and the Purdue basketball program may end up clambering for a fill-in before the upcoming 2022-23 season.
Stories Related to Purdue Basketball
- ZACH EDEY TO RETURN TO PURDUE FOR THE 2022-23 SEASON: Purdue 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey announced Friday he will return to the program for his junior season. He averaged 14.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 blocks per game during the 2021-22 season. CLICK HERE
- BREAKING DOWN PURDUE 2022 RECRUITING CLASS: Purdue basketball will bring in four new recruits to West Lafayette next season. The 2022 recruiting class consisting of Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith, Camden Heide and William Berg are slated to join redshirts Trey Kaufman-Renn and Brian Waddell as freshmen. CLICK HERE
- ERIC HUNTER JR. ENTERS TRANSFER PORTAL: Following his decision to declare for the 2022 NBA Draft while maintaining his final year of college eligibility, Purdue guard Eric Hunter Jr. has entered the transfer portal as a graduate transfer. CLICK HERE
- JADEN IVEY DECLARES FOR 2022 NBA DRAFT: Purdue sophomore guard Jaden Ivey officially announced he will enter the 2022 NBA Draft. He averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game during the 2021-22 season for the Boilermakers. CLICK HERE
- BIG TEN BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT IN MINNEAPOLIS: The Big Ten Football Championship Game will be held in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis through 2024. The 2023 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament — as well as the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament in 2024 — will take place at the Target Center in Minneapolis. CLICK HERE
Follow D.J. Fezler on Twitter