Nojel Eastern of the Purdue Boilermakers entered the transfer portal for two short days before surprising the college basketball world and committing to Michigan on Thursday afternoon. With the current transfer rules in place, he will need to sit out a season before playing out his final year of eligibility in 2021-22.
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound wing averaged 4.9 points, four rebounds and 2.9 assists last year for the Boilermakers. He was a two-year starter at Purdue, starting 27-of-31 games last season. That said, he comes with his fair share of limitations and concerns as it pertains to what he brings to the table.
From Travis Miller of SB Nation’s Hammer and Rails in a piece from earlier this spring:
Let’s begin with the positives: Nojel is an elite defender. He has the ability to put another team’s top guy in a box and remove him from the equation offensively. Just look at what he did to Romeo Langford in West Lafayette last season. The Rutgers game a few weeks ago shows part of the quandry with him because he can’t play on two guys at once. Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker were both killing us, but Nojel could only play on one. When you have a guy like Nojel on defense he can cover up a lot of mistakes and I love that he takes pride in that.
That said… Nojel was a complete liability on offense for much of this season. Virtually all of his numbers regressed significantly. He was down 2.6 points per game, which is substantial when Purdue lost several close games. His rebounding was down when he can be a major asset on the glass, especially the offensive glass. Not only was his free throw percentage down, but his attempts were down.
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 Adrien Nunez, Zeb Jackson and 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 — Chaundee Brown and 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.