First, there was Dakota Mathias. The talented shooter fell in love with Purdue over the summer, and couldn’t hold off his commitment any longer.
Then, it was Vince Edwards. The standout forward had Matt Painter hot on his heels since the eighth grade.
And finally, along came Jacquil Taylor. A late bloomer in the class, the Boston-area big man became a top priority for Purdue.
This is Purdue’s 2014 recruiting class. There’s still room for more, but this is what the Boilermakers’ future holds. Three promising players with unique backgrounds are set to begin in West Lafayette.
“I honestly believe that we have a chance to win a Big Ten championship,” said Taylor, the 6-foot-9 forward who committed in September. “If we can win that, we have a chance to win the [NCAA] tournament.”
Mathias was the first to join. His verbal pledge to Purdue came as a surprise, not too long after a May AAU tournament in Fort Wayne. During a two-hour drive home with his father, Dakota felt there was no need to wait any longer.
It all came down to the relationships—what he would later learn to be a common theme.
“This whole Purdue thing, it makes me feel at home,” said Mathias, a 6-foot-4 guard who does a little bit of everything on the court.
“[Coach Painter] means everything. He’s just like all the guys I’ve been around my whole life. He’s like people I’ve grown around and he loves basketball. I just feel comfortable.”
As Mathias was on the phone with Painter to give the commitment, Vince Edwards was playing in the championship game of that same Fort Wayne tournament. Upon learning the news, Edwards simply cracked a smile.
A few months later, there was Mathias alongside Edwards, both on an official visit in West Lafayette. The two had become close friends and knew what was coming.
Edwards went into his official visit knowing a commitment would be coming if the feeling was right. The closeness with Mathias and the Purdue players made the difference.
“Just connecting with the guys and seeing I can bring some things that they need, it sold it for me,” said Edwards, the 6-foot-6 swingman from just outside Cincinnati.
Along the sidelines of Ross-Ade Stadium, as the Purdue football team warmed up for its game with Notre Dame, there were Edwards and Mathias.
Edwards was raving about the experience on campus. Finally, Mathias said it: “Just do it now and get it over with.” And that’s how Painter got the news he had been long hoping to hear.
The decision for Edwards came down to Purdue and Michigan, a battle of conference rivals with head coaches whom he became close with. Picking between the two became a tough task. But the bond with Painter is what made the difference.
“The relationship was like I’m already there,” said Edwards of his future head coach. “He was talking to me like I’m one of his players.
“It should be like that. He’s been there since day one. He’s been to every game, open gym, practice. Anytime he could how me I’m the number one priority, he was there. The relationship was working and I’m looking to build on that for my next four years of college.”
Such a bond was different for Jacquil Taylor, the third addition to Purdue’s class. On the mid-September Saturday which saw Edwards give his commitment, Taylor was just emerging as one of Purdue’s top priority. A recruitment that brought much rhetoric throughout picked up full steam in the end.
There was Painter—better late than never—pushing Taylor to join the Boilermakers’ class.
“I’m just grateful that he’s giving me a chance,” Taylor said. “Most schools that offered me, they backed away when I got hurt. He came into the picture like a steal. I’m just glad he’s even giving me a chance to play in his program.”
Like Edwards, Taylor came to his Purdue pledge while on an official visit. The forward spent a weekend with the program, meeting the players and coaches.
Taylor learned while on campus that this is a program could be destined for Big Ten championships. Two days after the visit, a commitment couldn’t wait any longer. What he gathered from the current Boilermaker team remained fresh on his mind.
“It’s just the way the process is running; how the coaches are, how the players are,” Taylor said. “They all seem serious about where they want to go.”
This is how the Boilermakers reached their three. When the November signing period comes around, this trio will ink their names to Purdue.
The road for each commit started at different points and brought through difficult decisions, but each led to West Lafayette.
“Where the program is going is fantastic,” Edwards said. “You can’t ask for a better program.”