With Mathias closing on record, Purdue's all-time great shooters weigh in
Dakota Mathias has spent the better part of three years feverishly working to be defined as a basketball player.
So, really, anything other than a “shooter.”
And Purdue’s senior captain has developed considerably toward that goal, molding himself into one of the league’s best perimeter defenders — he’s a two-time all-defensive team pick — and using his savvy and high basketball IQ to not only facilitate Purdue’s offense but lead the team in assists in consecutive seasons.
But even with all that progress, it’s likely Mathias can’t shake the one label he admittedly hates.
Especially not now.
Mathias needs to make only six more three-pointers to become the program’s solo all-time leader.
“I get offended when I hear, ‘Oh, he’s just a shooter,’ ” Mathias said at the beginning of the season. “Even in my sophomore year and all of last year, I think I did a good job of implementing more into my game, pull-ups, being able to pass the ball, defend. Just being an all-around complete player is what I want to be known as, rather than just a shooter.”
Former players agree Mathias has made his mark in that regard.
Ryne Smith knows what it’s like to be labeled a “specialist,” but he said Mathias is not that.
“He’s a really, really good basketball player overall,” said Smith, a consistent shot-maker during his Purdue career. “He’s a basketball guy. He’s obviously a really good defender, and he can really pass. I would have loved to have played with him because if I was open, it would have been on my hands.”
David Teague, who sits just ahead of Mathias on the three-point list, said he respects Mathias’ multi-dimensional game and thinks Mathias is an underrated defender.
“Me being a player that took pride in being effective on both ends, similar to Dakota’s role, I understand how tough it can be night in and night out (to do both),” Teague said.
But even with that self-imposed defensive responsibility, Mathias’ shot rarely suffered. As the season has progressed, he has methodically moved up the three-point list.
He has passed names often associated with Purdue’s program, players considered program greats, like Troy Lewis, Cuonzo Martin, Chad Austin and Robbie Hummel.
And, now, thanks to a career-best seven three-pointers on senior day against Minnesota, Mathias enters the Big Ten Tournament with 238 threes, fourth on the all-time list.
Ahead of him: Teague (239), Jaraan Cornell (242) and E’Twaun Moore (243).
“He’s been just so consistent,” Hummel said of Mathias, who made 38 threes as a freshman, 44 as a sophomore, 72 last season and 84 this year. “He really works at it. Just from seeing him put the work in and seeing how much he cares about it, it’s really not surprising to me he’s been a guy that’s consistently made shots and had a lot of success for Purdue.”
But it’s not just about volume of made shots for Mathias.
He also has been one of the program’s most efficient long-range shooters. He finished the regular season at a 47-percent clip on three-pointers, boosting his career percentage to 42 percent. That ranks fifth, just ahead of Smith (.408) and behind Martin (.451), Lewis (.447), Everette Stephens (.447) and Woody Austin (.439).
But Mathias’ percentage is even more impressive considering he’s attempted 569 career threes — no one ahead of him had more than 400 attempts. Smith’s 414 are the closest among the top 10 all-time in percentage. Among the top 15, Hummel is the only other one with at least 500 (555).
Mathias joins only Martin and Smith as players who are on both top-10 all-time lists for makes and percentages.
“I’ve always prided myself on being efficient, especially with the guys we’ve had,” Mathias said before leaving for New York Wednesday. “We’ve had a lot of great post players, a lot of great NBA players. So it wasn’t my job to be a volume shooter and shoot 17, 20 times a game. So I’m just being efficient in that role, and being able to make that many is pretty special.”
So what do some of the program's elite-level shooters think of Mathias’ shot? We asked:
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