Fletcher Loyer came to Purdue known for his shooting abilities, but he has already proven that he is much more than that as a freshman.
Fletcher Loyer came to Purdue as the 96th ranked recruit per 247 Sports. Respected, but not the highest ranked guy either. Just the way Painter likes it.
If we quickly jump ahead before backtracking, Fletcher Loyer was just named Big Ten co-Player of the Week, and Big Ten Freshman of the Week (3rd FOTW award this season). He is the first freshman to do this since 2018, and it was due to his 27 point performance against Nebraska that included going 6/12 from 3, 2/3 from 2, and 5/6 from the free throw line.
He came to Purdue known as a shooter and scorer. He averaged 27 points per game his senior season at Homestead, and he had a 50 point game his junior year. He even won the High School 3 Point Shootout.
Coming into the season, there was a lot of questions surrounding the guard play at Purdue. There were really only 3-4 guards on the roster, and 2 of them, Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith, were freshman. Both seemed talented, but it is not common for freshman to get a ton of minutes at Purdue. I wrote a preview for the season article about Fletcher Loyer, and although I thought he was going to be solid, I undersold him so much.
Let’s jump back to the beginning of the season now. Fletcher Loyer came out his first game and knocked down 5 3s, tying the then-Purdue freshman record. He continued to shoot it pretty well all the way through the PK85 tournament. Then December came, and the weather was not the only thing that went cold.
From December 7th through December 29th, Loyer went 7/33 from 3 (21.2%) over the course of 5 games. His season long 3 point percentage got down to 31.7%.
Given that and what he was known for, one would think that Loyer was ineffective during those games. The opposite is true. Loyer scored 10, 22, 14, 8, and 7 in those respective games, and the 22 point performance was wildly needed against Nebraska. He took over the late stretch in that game not with 3s, but with getting inside the arc. Hitting pull ups and getting to the rim. These are things that I personally had questions about coming into the season for him, but he showed that he is not a one-dimensional scorer. He can put the ball on the floor, and it has proven fruitful on multiple occassions.
And now that January has rolled around, Loyer has really found his stride. In the 5 games Purdue has played in January (at the time of this writing), Loyer has averaged 16.4 points per game, 2.4 assists per game, and has shot a blistering 51.5% from 3 (17/33).
In conference play, Loyer is shooting 44.7% from 3 and 52.6% from 2. He is the second leading scorer on the team, and the second highest usage rate to go with that. And although he has the ball in his hands a lot, he has the lowest turnover percentage on Purdue. Loyer makes the right play and he makes them often.
He has shown to me that he is one of, if not, the best post entry passer on the team. The game winner against MSU was in part thanks to Loyer’s brilliant pass to Edey down low, throwing it to help Edey set up his move.
But what has impressed me the most this season from Loyer (and what I’ll show below in a second) is that teams can’t afford to completely sell out on his shooting. If teams crowd the perimeter, he is going to attack the closeout and figure out something. He is not the most efficient finisher yet, but he has gotten some pretty crazy ones to go.
Purdue runs a lot of action to get Loyer the ball going downhill, providing him the opportunity to make a decision with the ball in his hands. There have been multiple games that Loyer has become the go to guy down the stretch. He has the ability to move with and without the ball that makes him lethal.
Take the past two games for example. Against Nebraska, Loyer scored 27 points with the help of 6 3s. Against MSU, Loyer had 17 points, but only 2 3s. He traded haymakers with Walker in the clutch, and most of the offense facilitated through Loyer for the final few minutes. He’s a gamer and can knock down shots most can’t.
But let’s finally get into some of the things that make him score the way he does.
Loyer is not the quickest, but he is super crafty and has a real knack for being able to get into the lane by attacking closeouts. If someone runs out at him too hard, Loyer may pump fake and then take his dribble. It could be a one dribble pullup, or it could be getting all the way to the rim.
In his 22 point performance against Nebraska, Loyer went to this often. He struggled from 3, so he decided to take it inside to get the scoring done.
In the play above, Loyer lifts from the corner as Morton drives. Once the kickout to Loyer happens, Loyer attacks the closeout by going right. He doesn’t get all the way to the rim, but he gets downhill and draws the foul while still getting the bucket to go.
He has a really good understanding of angles, something Painter seems to emphasize in recruiting. He knows where he needs to be always to get the shot he wants.
Another example here of Loyer attacking the closeout. He recognizes the help is at the rim, so instead of forcing, he just calmly pulls up. Smooth as butter. Loyer just makes the right play.
The numbers back it up too. Per Synergy, Loyer is averageing 1.15 points per possession (PPP) on spot ups, which is in the 85th percentile. This means someone passes it to him while he is standing on the perimeter and either shoots immediately or drives. When he catches and shoots, he is averaging 1.222 PPP. When he drives right it is 1.154 PPP. When it is left, he averages 0.882 PPP.
All of those are good numbers, and the drives have been a good mix of pull ups and getting to the rim. He has shown he is more than capable of doing both.
Handoffs/Pick and Rolls
Purdue runs “Chicago” action, which is a pindown into a handoff. They run it a lot actually. And often times it is for Loyer. And often times he scores.
ABove is an example of the Chicago action. Loyer gets the handoff and then takes it at Njie, Penn State’s center. He doesn’t settle and again gets a tough one to go. This is just one example, but it is run often. Loyer’s dunk against Nebraska came off Chicago action. Teams have started to try and throw different coverages at this though.
In this play, MSU hedged on the handoff, and Loyer countered by splitting the defense and getting to the rim. He didn’t make it, but he did get fouled (and made both free throws).
Loyer is also susceptible to pulling up and knocking down a jumper when teams over commit.
Okay, I know the title says Loyer is more than a shooter, but it also is not fair to not include a little bit more about his shooting.
Loyer has such good footwork. He constantly moves, but is able to get his feet set in the blink of an eye. If defenses relax for even half a second, Loyer is able to make them pay. And now that his 3 point shooting is going down, teams have to be VERY concerned about it.
Here is a clip of Purdue in semi transition. Loyer gets a pindown on the weakside, comes around, and fires immediately. The defense sort of recovered, but it didn’t matter because how good of a shooter Loyer is. Loyer does not need to be standing still, which is good because he often times finds himself with a lot of defensive attention.
Loyer is also very comfortable letting the defense fly by and reset. Here Loyer gets the kickout and instead of attacking the closeout, he lets the defender fly by and get open again with a relocation dribble. He does not need a ton of space to get up a shot, and maybe even less to make one.
Fletcher Loyer came to Purdue with some high hopes, but ones that many people thought would be achieved maybe in a year or two, not half way through his freshman season. He is the second leading scorer, and a real case can be made that he is Purdue’s second most important player, and that is not because a lack of talent.
Loyer has been really fun to watch, and he only is just starting. Who knows what the rest of this season, and upcoming seasons hold for this freshman phenom.