A European big man and Gonzaga? When 7’3” Dutch center Matt Haarms surprisingly announced his intent to leave Purdue earlier this week and transfer elsewhere for his senior season, it was easy for college basketball observers to connect him with Gonzaga. After all, Gonzaga has become a premier destination for transfers and Europeans thanks to the success it has had with those types of athletes over the years.
Early Saturday morning, Haarms announced the Top 10 schools he was considering after being contacted by over 25 schools after entering the transfer portal earlier this week, a decision that stunned Purdue’s coaching staff and fans.
Final 10 for Purdue transfer Matt Haarms:— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) April 11, 2020
Immediately eligible. No. 3 grad transfer.
As indicated above, BYU and Texas Tech also made the cut for Haarms, so even if he doesn’t end up in Spokane, it’s quite possible that we’ll see him at some point during the 2020-21 campaign.
Haarms’ list is an interesting mix of programs, and it’s not quite obvious what he is looking for as he decides where to spend his final year of college basketball, other than needing “a change of scenery” to take his game to the next level, as he told ESPN’s Jeff Borzello.
The appeal of Gonzaga is obvious. A program expected to be ranked No. 1 when the season begins; as close to a guarantee of playing in the NCAA Tournament as you can get; a staff that has an established track record of player development, particularly with big men; a balanced offense that prioritizes generating touches for the bigs; and a gaping need for a rim protector.
So why isn’t this a done deal? For one thing, it’s probably safe to say that whatever Filip Petrusev decides to do will play a big part in whether Haarms chooses Gonzaga. They could certainly play together, as is evidenced by Gonzaga’s long history and Haarms’ own career playing alongside Isaac Haas at Purdue. But Haarms may want to be the No. 1 interior option, or at least a more featured piece to improve his professional stock, and he would certainly not be that guy at Gonzaga if Petrusev sticks around. Plus, Drew Timme, Oumar Ballo, Anton Watson, and Pavel Zakharov are waiting in the wings in what would suddenly be a very crowded frontcourt with only so many minutes to go around.
If Petrusev departs for the NBA or a league in Europe, the fit obviously makes more sense. Haarms averaged 8.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg, while averaging 52% from the field and 31% from the three-point line as a junior, and he’s a legitimate rim protector which Gonzaga would welcome. Purdue fans will be quick to tell you, however, that Haarms never made the expected leap and underwhelmed over the last two seasons.
Could Mark Few and company get the most out of him? Probably. Am I optimistic that we’ll see him in Spokane this fall? I wouldn’t put my money on it. We’ll find out soon enough.