As a youthful Purdue-Fort Wayne Mastodons team embarked on their first season in five years without current Memphis Grizzlies guard John Konchar as a part of the program, the biggest question for the Mastodons was who could possibly fill the void?
Kochar did it all. He ran the point, he scored around 20 points per game, he regularly snared double-figure rebounds and dished almost six assists per game. And he played almost every minute of every game. Not just a large void, but a gaping hole to fill for the ‘Dons.
Enter freshman Deonte Billups, a wirey 6’4 1/2” wing who is becoming another versatile stat-stuffer for the 12-14 Mastodons. You might think it’s unfair to compare a newcomer to one of the best players to ever play in the Summit League. But, stats don’t lie.
Billups, who averaged 24 points and 14 rebounds as a senior at Moline high school in the Quad Cities, started this season as a rotational player off the ‘Dons bench. As coach Jon Coffman researched the analytics of different combos of players, one name was consistent in nearly all the top quintets…Deonte Billups.
By mid-December, Coach Coffman began contemplating whether Purdue Fort Wayne would benefit from inserting Billups into the starting line-up. He made the switch to start a new year (and conference play) against South Dakota on January 1st.
To compare Billups to Konchar, you need to compare both as freshmen. Konchar was a red-shirt, playing his second year in the program. Billups is a true freshman, still, just months removed from his high school graduation.
Konchar played over 35 minutes per game in his first season. Billups is closer to 25 minutes, so the stats are based on “per 40 minutes” (the length of a college basketball game). Konchar averaged 14.6 points per 40 minutes and 10.3 rebounds as a red-shirt freshman. Billups is scoring 14.0 per 40, but that’s jumped to 16.8 points per 40 since entering the starting line-up. He adds 8.1 rebounds.
Konchar, who played with prolific scorers in Max Landis and Mo Evans, averaged 3.0 assists per 40, while Billups is dishing out 2.4 per 40 minutes.
The Mastodons have won three of their last four games heading into a road weekend against the two teams tied for the top spot in the Summit League — North Dakota State Friday and South Dakota State Sunday afternoon. Deonte Billups has been a major contributor, recording his first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds in the win at Denver.
If the Mastodons continue the growth they’ve displayed recently as a team, and individually, Deonte Billups will probably be a key to that development.