Dylan Painter’s Rookie Season
Dylan Painter was never supposed to play this season. Not because he wasn’t good enough, and not because he didn’t earn it. Painter was supposed to be a red-shirt. His first year on campus was supposed to be about developing his game and focusing on an engineering degree.
But instead Omari Spellman was forced to the bench with an academic red-shirt and Painter was asked to help fill out a front court that was already facing depth issues. It’s not the first time this has happened. Former player and now coach Mike Nardi was supposed to red-shirt his freshman season before an injury to Curtis Sumpter and a short bench required the rookie to “learn by doing.”
That’s exactly what Painter did this year. He played in about two-thirds of the team’s games, averaging just over 5 minutes in the games he played. While his contributions mainly came sparingly in clean-up duty early in the season, he played in ten consecutive games prior to the Wisconsin match-up. Painter’s best game of the season came in the Big East Tournament route of St. John’s when he played 22 minutes and had 10 points and 6 rebounds, going 3 for 3 shooting from the field and 4 for 4 from the stripe.
Did Dylan Painter meet or exceed expectations in 2016-17?
This question depends on the expectations. At the start of the season, Wisdom of the Crowds projected that Painter would contribute 1.6-2.8 PPG. He fell short of that with the exception of the St. John’s game, but he did start to show his shooting touch late in the season.
In the same article, our own Chris Lane’s “Worst Case” for Painter was pretty spot on:
If Painter doesn’t pick up the speed and scheme of the game quickly enough, he likely loses a lot of minutes to Eric Paschall with Jay Wright opting to go small to get his best talent on the floor.
While Painter certainly improved throughout the season, the speed of the game seemed to be his biggest obstacle. When he started playing more minutes late in the year, the team would have to play almost exclusively zone defense to provide Painter with some assistance down low. On offense, the pick and roll that seemed to work for him in the preseason never got going when the games were played at full speed.
But if you look at all of that with the knowledge that this was supposed to be a red-shirt season for him, the time needed for development becomes much more understandable. In a year in which he wasn’t supposed to see the court, Painter gave valuable minutes late in the season to help eliviate the strain on an already shallow bench. His presence was especially valuable when Darryl Reynolds missed five straight games, leaving Painter as the teams only true post player. So when it comes down to stepping up and filling the role that his team needed from him, he absolutely exceeded expectations.
This trial by fire should give the rising sophomore an advantage going into next season. According to senior captain Darryl Reynolds, Painter is already miles ahead of where Reynolds was his freshman year. It’s still unknown what role the big man will play next year, but he will now be the second most experienced member of the front court behind Eric Paschall. That experience should lead to increased responsibilities and contributions off the bench. Bottom line, there’s a lot to like about Dylan Painter in 2017-18.