Former Purdue guard Nojel Eastern announced his decision to transfer to the Michigan Wolverines’ basketball program this week, and will likely have to sit out next season as a senior before being allowed to play as a fifth-year senior in 2021-22.
Here is the latest reaction and analysis around the web in regards to what Eastern brings to the table, with some outlets also touching on what appears to be a bit of a rocky departure from Purdue head coach Matt Painter and the Boilermaker program.
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Michigan Wolverines basketball guard Nojel Eastern will be a senior next season. (Chad Krockover)
• Kyle Boone, CBS Sports: Purdue Guard Nojel Eastern Plans to Stay in the Big Ten and Transfer to Michigan
“The abbreviated transfer process comes on the heels of pointed remarks made Wednesday by Purdue coach Matt Painter upon learning the news of Eastern’s transfer. In an interview on the ‘Dan Dakich Show,’ he didn’t mince words talking about his now-former player and the thoughts he had on him leaving.
“‘Nojel improved from his freshman to sophomore year, but he took a step back this year,’ Painter said via the Indianapolis Star. ‘I love him, but he’s got to check (his self-assessment).’
“Painter added that Purdue has ‘a lot of great things going on’ and that Eastern’s decision to leave is ‘his loss.’
“Eastern is the second key player to leave the Boilermakers early this offseason after [center] Matt Haarms transferred to BYU last month. The loss of Eastern and Haarms leaves Purdue without a senior on next season’s roster.
“Eastern tested the NBA Draft waters after his freshman season and entered the draft again last month, despite meager production. In three seasons at Purdue he averaged 5.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.”
• Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press: Why Nojel Eastern Transferring to Michigan Basketball Makes More Sense Than you Think
“For the sake of roster balance, Michigan likely will not sign a six- or seven-man 2021 recruiting class. Adding a sit-out transfer with experience made sense, especially considering the Wolverines will graduate [guard] Eli Brooks, [center] Austin Davis and grad transfer [guard] Mike Smith after the 2020-21 season, along with [forward] Isaiah Livers if he chooses to withdraw from the draft and return for his senior season.
“[Guard Franz] Wagner is on the fast track to the NBA, too. In one year, Michigan could’ve been staring at a roster that featured zero returning players with starting experience in the Big Ten.
“They’ll have at least one if Eastern does indeed play his final season in 2021-22. And if he somehow ends up eligible to play this season, he can still help Michigan, even if minutes on the wing might be harder to find.
“As for Eastern, his decision to transfer makes sense on the surface, too. After starting 35 of 36 games in 2018-19 and playing an important role for a team that won a share of the Big Ten title and reached the Elite Eight, Eastern saw his numbers slip as the Boilermakers struggled to retool without [guards] Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline.
“For a player with NBA aspirations (Eastern has entered his name in the draft the past two years), averaging 4.9 points on 42% shooting was surely not the production Eastern envisioned from his junior season.
“Perhaps a change of scenery will help him become a more efficient player.”
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• Dylan Burkhardt, UMHoops.com: Unpacking Nojel Eastern’s Surprise Transfer to Michigan
HE’S IMMEDIATELY MICHIGAN’S BEST DEFENDER
“Whether he’s eligible this season or the next, Eastern will be the best defender on Michigan’s roster. He was named to the All-Big Ten Defense team in back-to-back seasons and has an elite combination of lateral movement, length (6-foot-7) and strength (225 pounds).
“He can defend point guards, combo forwards and anything in between. He was the guy that Matt Painter used to defend [Penn State forward] Lamar Stevens but also [Michigan State guard] Cassius Winston and [Illinois guard] Ayo Dosunmu.
“He’s disruptive, can blow up ball screens, switch everything and defend off the ball. Perimeter defense is a real concern for Michigan, especially given its lack of mobile bigs, in the near and long term.
“There are questions about Eastern’s fit in other areas of the game, but his defensive impact gives him a solid floor.”
• Derick Hutchinson, WDIV Click on Detroit: Michigan Basketball Lands Purdue Transfer, Defensive Star Nojel Eastern
“While it might take some time to get used to a former conference rival wearing the Maize and Blue, it makes sense for Michigan to make this type of addition after missing out on a pair of five-star recruits, [forward] Isaiah Todd and [guard] Josh Christopher, who many believed would create a roster crunch.
“Instead, with [center] Colin Castleton, [guard] David DeJulius and [guard] Cole Bajema all deciding to transfer, multiple spots opened up. [Head coach] Juwan Howard already landed former Columbia guard Mike Smith to help shore up a backcourt that lost DeJulius and three-year starter Zavier Simpson, who graduated.
“There’s obviously some uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 season, but Michigan figures to be among the most competitive teams in the Big Ten if there is a season. Franz Wagner, Eli Brooks, [forward] Brandon Johns and Austin Davis will be joined by a strong recruiting class and could also get forward Isaiah Livers back, unless he declares for the NBA draft.”
• Anthony Broome, Maize N Brew: What Purdue Transfer Nojel Eastern Brings to Michigan Basketball
“From Michigan’s point of view, this crosses the box of one of the needs they needed with open scholarship spots available. They have been active in the grad transfer market, but it has made sense pursuing players with multiple years of eligibility given the bevy of talent in the portal mixed with needs on the wing the next two years.
“With that said, this is an odd take given how one-dimensional Eastern is as a player. Perhaps a change of scenery was needed, but he has three years of college tape that suggests he will not add much offensively.
“But there is absolutely still value in the fact that he came come in and defend at an All-Big Ten level and help erase some of the better players in the conference. He should be one of Juwan Howard’s key reserves in 2021-22 for this reason alone.
“Michigan needed some insurance on the wing for the 21’-22’ season given that — in a scenario where Franz Wagner goes pro after 2020-21 — all that is left behind is [guard] Adrien Nunez, [guard] Zeb Jackson and [forward] Jace Howard.
“Eastern automatically figures into that mix, along with any freshmen that Howard is able to land in the 2021 recruiting cycle. They might still be after players that can come in for 21’-22’ and be bigger threats offensively — [Wake Forest guard] Chaundee Brown and [Georgetown guard] Mac McClung are the first to come to mind — but this does not do a ton to raise the ceiling there. But it is a body and a piece, so it fills a need regardless.”
• Chris Peterson, GBMWolverine: Nojel Eastern can Help Michigan Basketball in Multiple Ways
“Whether he is able to play immediately or in 2021-22, that will help address a glaring need for the Wolverines on the perimeter. If Eastern gets a waiver and is allowed to play right away, he would add some interesting skills to Michigan’s guard situation.
“His defensive abilities are elite and that could be enough to get him in the starting lineup with Eli Brooks at point guard. Mike Smith would probably then be the third guard off the bench, with Zeb Jackson getting bumped down to the No. 4 spot.
“The issue with Eastern is his limited offensive game. While his career shooting percentage is 46, he averages just 5.1 points per game but he’s also averaged two assists per game and four rebounds.
“Last year, he brought the ball up for Purdue and could give the Wolverines another ball-handling option either this year or next. I don’t see him being the primary point guard under Juwan Howard and if he doesn’t play this year, I think he’d be the perfect replacement for Brooks at the two, which would allow either Jackson or an incoming freshman to take over the point guard spot.
“Realistically, Eastern could start at either spot, so like Brooks, he offers versatility. He just doesn’t bring much in terms of shooting.”
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