Mackey was open to Boilermaker fans for the first time since the 2019-20 season for Purdue basketball’s fan day Saturday morning.
“It’s great to see fans again,” staff could be heard saying leading up to the event in one of college basketball’s loudest arenas. –––––––––
Highlighted with explosive dunks and cheering, the event also included autographs from players on the men’s and women’s teams.
Women’s basketball took the court to start the day. Katie Gearlds made her debut as the head coach after a successful stint at Division II Marian University.
The team displayed an abundance of positive energy as players cheered each other on for the whole event. Even in warm ups, the team could be seen heaping praise over impressive 3-pointers.
The highlight of the scrimmage came after a scripted passing sequence that led to an 3-pointer from sophomore guard Madison Layden. Her opponents stood stunned as the arena shook with applause.
Before the men took the court, fans lined up for autographs from their favorite players. Lines wrapped around the court for sophomore center Zach Edey, sophomore guard Jaden Ivey and senior forward Trevion Williams.
Players were asked for photos, and 7-foot-4 Edey stood up to smile for a picture with a kid half his height.
Fans shuffled back into their seats for what was the finale of the function.
The men took the court for three 12-minute scrimmages. Players were swapped between breaks, so fans got to see new combinations of players.
“It was good to see some different lineups out there,” head coach Matt Painter said after the scrimmage.
In the first round, there wasn’t a second of down time. Players were shuffling around the court, setting up shots and frequently dunking.
After several passes, the ball found its way into the hands of Ivey. He took three long steps from the edge of the corner before leaping into the air, tomahawking the ball into the net. A thunderous applause from the crowd ensued.
In the second round, fans got to see more of a powerful but rare combination on the court: Edey and Williams on the court together.
Earlier in the year, Painter said Williams and the two new freshmen are “used to guarding the biggest guy on the court.”
Williams, continuing to adjust to playing with Edey after limited minutes together last year, showed defensive prowess at the power forward position, at one point even lunging forward and stealing a ball outside the paint.
Playing Edey and Williams together more consistently proved to be advantageous on the glass.
“Our rebounding balance is outstanding,” Williams said. “I feel like we are the best two in the Big Ten.”
Even as a nightmare on defense, Williams also said the duo were “really dangerous” on offense.
Williams shot three 3-pointers throughout the day. The ability to be a threat from deep is something he said he’s working on as he moves away from the paint.
“Me and coach have talked about me stepping out and at least averaging one or two (3-pointers) a game,” Williams said.
Sophomore guard Brandon Newman could be considered the player of the day by some, leading the team with 21 points. A lot of that came from his excellent 3-point shooting.
Overall, the team was excellent from the 3-point line, knocking down 45% of its shots behind the arc.
“When we execute our plays, we get good open looks and we are gonna knock those down,” senior guard Sasha Stefanovic, who made four of those 3-pointers, said after the game.
Even with all the hype, Painter emphasized the team’s focus on progress.
“I think it was good to get going,” he said, “but it’s a process, and we will watch film and try to get better before we scrimmage again.”