By Ryan Houlihan – May 29, 2020
Michigan Basketball coach Juwan Howard stayed within the Big Ten to fill one of his two remaining scholarship spots for next season. In a surprising decision, former Purdue guard Nojel Eastern announced his commitment to Michigan.
The commitment comes after Eastern’s decision to enter the transfer portal. After a sophomore season averaging 7.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg on a Purdue team that won a share of the Big Ten and made it all the way to the Elite Eight, Eastern entered the NBA Draft for evaluation before returning to Purdue for the 2019-20 season. In a year filled with high expectations, Eastern disappointed with averages of 4.9 ppg and 4.0 rpg, while shooting just 42% from the field.
Purdue coach Matt Painter joined The Dan Dakich Show and discussed his disappointment with Eastern’s exit, saying, “Nojel improved from his freshman to sophomore year, but he took a step back this year. I love him, but he’s got to check (his self-assessment).”
The Wolverines are gaining an interesting player with the addition of Eastern. At 6’7” and north of 225 lbs, Eastern spent a good chunk of his time at Purdue playing the point guard position.
He handles the ball well, is an efficient passer at his size, and was consistently one of the best defenders in college basketball. This past season, he earned his second consecutive Big Ten All-Defensive Team selection. With his size, he is able to guard positions 1 through 4 while being a strong presence on the boards.
Although Eastern will give the Wolverines a defensive stopper, he does come with severe shooting limitations on the offensive end. While Eastern’s size can be a plus on the offensive end as it helps him finish through contact and back smaller defenders down, he struggles with anything outside of 12-15 feet.
According to The Stepien, of the 206 field goals Eastern attempted during the 2018-2019 season, 142 of them came at the rim. Of the 64 jump shots he took that season, Eastern only made 15 and was 0-4 from three. Eastern also struggles to convert at the line, where he is a 55% career free throw shooter.
Eastern will have two years of eligibility left and is a traditional transfer, meaning he will likely have to sit out this upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules. This could be very beneficial to improving Eastern’s offensive game.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has created possibilities for athletes to gain immediate eligibility, so there is also a chance Eastern could suit up next year for the Wolverines.
Whatever Eastern’s eligibility status is going forward, his commitment gives the Wolverines a defensive stopper with the ability to bring the ball up at point or play on the wing.
Michigan is still in need of shooting after losing out on five star Josh Christopher and the departure of Cole Bajema, but is in serious contention for landing transfer shooting guards Jalen Coleman Lands from DePaul and Chaundee Brown from Wake Forest.
*See the chart below for Michigan’s updated scholarship situation with the commitment of Nojel Eastern. The Wolverines still have one scholarship left to fill for next season*