Just 48 hours after entering the transfer portal on Tuesday, former Purdue guard Nojel Eastern announced his commitment to Michigan via Twitter.
Eastern, who is regarded as one of the Big Ten’s best perimeter defenders, has one remaining year of eligibility. He did not leave West Lafayette as a graduate transfer, meaning he must sit out the 2020-21 season unless the NCAA grants him a waiver. There are no indications of whether or not he will apply for one at this time.
If anything, Eastern is a significantly better fit for the Wolverines in 2021-22 rather than this upcoming season. Michigan is set to lose guards Eli Brooks and Mike Smith to graduation following this season, leaving only incoming freshman Zeb Jackson as a primary ball-handler on the next season’s roster. While the Wolverines have targeted a number of guards in the 2021 recruiting class, Eastern’s experience as a 62-game starter at Purdue and versatility can pave the way for a potential starting role in 2021-22.
The Evanston, Illinois native was the 84th-ranked recruit coming out of high school in 2017. While Eastern’s defense is held in high regard, his offensive game has never reached such heights. He averaged 4.9 points and 4.0 rebounds as a junior last season, which was a step back from his 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds as a sophomore.
On Wednesday, Boilermakers’ coach Matt Painter didn’t mince words while addressing Eastern’s departure on Dan Dakich’s ESPN Radio show.
“It’s (Eastern’s) loss,” Painter said. “When you walk out the door and you turn your back, you’re not thinking clearly about the big picture and what Purdue can do for you. … It’s hard, man. Life is not like a walk in the park. But the ones that stay positive and push forward, they’re the ones who are successful in the long run.”
Eastern’s announcement means Michigan has just one remaining scholarship open for the upcoming season. The Wolverines are also among the finalists for DePaul graduate transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands, who would be immediately eligible next season, and Wake Forest transfer Chaundee Brown, who is reportedly planning to apply for an immediate eligibility waiver.