ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan basketball added a surprising piece to its roster Thursday, landing Purdue transfer and defensive star Nojel Eastern.
Eastern spent the last three seasons at Big Ten rival Purdue and is not a graduate transfer, meaning he would need to get a waiver to play during the upcoming season. Otherwise, he would sit out 2020-21 and play his last season of college eligibility in 2021-22.
Purdue announced just two days ago that Eastern had entered the transfer portal. He committed to Michigan at 12:31 p.m. Thursday via Twitter.
Eastern played in several big games against Michigan, including the 2018 Big Ten Tournament championship game, when the Wolverines knocked off the Boilermakers at Madison Square Garden.
He was just a freshmen at the time, but Eastern played in 37 games off the bench and helped Purdue reach the Sweet 16.
As a starter, Eastern was a critical component of Purdue’s Elite Eight run in 2019. Eventual champion Virginia needed a miracle to come back and beat Purdue, which would have advanced to the Final Four.
Eastern averaged 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a sophomore, but his modest offensive output plummeted last season.
In 31 games, Eastern averaged just 4.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 42% from the field and 48.5% from the free-throw line.
Eastern isn’t much of an offensive threat, but he’s a decent rebounder and one of the best defensive players in the conference. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward was named to the Big Ten’s All-Defensive Team the last two seasons.
While it might take some time to get used to a former conference rival wearing the Maize and Blue, it makes sense for Michigan to make this type of addition after missing out on a pair of five-star recruits, Isaiah Todd and Josh Christopher, who many believed would create a roster crunch.
Instead, with Colin Castleton, David DeJulius and Cole Bajema all deciding to transfer, multiple spots opened up.
Juwan Howard already landed former Columbia guard Mike Smith to help shore up a backcourt that lost DeJulius and three-year starter Zavier Simpson, who graduated.
There’s obviously some uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but Michigan figures to be among the most competitive teams in the Big Ten if there is a season.
Franz Wagner, Eli Brooks, Brandon Johns and Austin Davis will be joined by a strong recruiting class and could also get forward Isaiah Livers back, unless he declares for the NBA draft.