Purdue basketball's Trey Kaufman-Renn grows into role as changeup to Zach Edey
WEST LAFAYETTE − Matt Painter didn't want his staff to waste time recruiting a part of the state that typically is hard for Purdue to nab players from unless they were sure they had a realistic shot at landing him.
So the Boilermakers stuck with their recruitment of Silver Creek standout Trey Kaufman-Renn.
The Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year his junior season, the state's first since Greg Oden in 2005, had two rival suitors battling it out to sign the 6-foot-9 Kaufman-Renn.
In the end, he chose Purdue over Indiana.
"I chose the school that best suits me," Kaufman-Renn said. "It's one of those things where if Indiana was the school that suited me better, I'd be there, but it wasn't, so I chose Purdue."
Now Kaufman-Renn plays his first game at IU's Assembly Hall Saturday, which he's downplaying.
But there's no downplaying the importance Kaufman-Renn has had as of late as a redshirt freshman.
Kaufman-Renn is not a role player.
But he's playing a role.
Zach Edey is the most dominant force in college basketball this season and, because of that, the redshirt freshman from Silver Creek High School has seen only limited minutes most nights.
But Kaufman-Renn has become a key component to the No. 1 team in the country in that role.
"It always helps when you have a group of guys they can all compete with every day," Purdue assistant coach Brandon Brantley said. "Trey going against Zach, that's huge. I always tell him you are going against the best big guy in America. If you can go against him and compete, nobody else should be able to get you in a game."
Case in point last week at Michigan.
Hunter Dickinson, all 7-foot-1 of him, is a monster of a man in his own right.
Kaufman-Renn entered the game at Crisler Arena and immediately went to work on Dickinson, going 4-for-4 and scoring eight points in just nine minutes.
"He's got good physical tools," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "He can score with his back to the basket. He's got good footwork in the post."
In the one game Purdue played without Edey, and with Caleb Furst getting into foul trouble, Kaufman-Renn gave Boilermaker fans a glimpse of what he's capable of in a victory over New Orleans in December.
That night, Kaufman-Renn had a career-high 24 points on 8 of 10 shooting.
After the game, Painter said Kaufman-Renn has the potential to be a future All-Big Ten player.
That's recognition Kaufman-Renn doesn't take with a grain of salt.
"That's a really big honor to have your coach say that," Kaufman-Renn said. "It is just about going in every day and practicing and working towards it. It doesn't mean anything unless you get there."
Kaufman-Renn is getting there, but it's hard.
There's only so much you can accomplish when you play behind Edey. In moments of struggle, Painter has been quick to replace Kaufman-Renn with Edey.
It's difficult to gain traction when you enter a game for a few minutes at a time.
"If I were in the same position, I'd be saying the same thing," freshman point guard Braden Smith said. "It's tough and hard to kind of get going in a rhythm. When he comes in, he's doing good things for us. He can score in the post on anybody."
Painter said when he goes back to Edey, it's more about putting a National Player of the Year candidate back in the game more than it is about taking Kaufman-Renn out of the game. They just happen to play the same position.
"When it gets that way when you have those struggles, you start to doubt yourself and then you start to doubt what other people think of you, especially the head coach," Painter said.
But, as the season has progressed, Kaufman-Renn continues to grow more confident in what his situation is.
In the last four games − wins over Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State − Kaufman-Renn is 8-for-11 from the field.
Prior to that, he'd been 1 of 13 and had eight turnovers in the previous six games since the calendar flipped to 2023.
"In his short minutes before the last couple games, he's just fouled, turned the ball over and hasn't been able to get any traction and Zach is sitting over there," Painter said. "So you quickly go back to Zach because he's playing well.
"It's not fair. He needs to play through his mistakes."
Kaufman-Renn's day, or another day like he had against New Orleans, will come.
His teammates are sure of it.
"He is just waiting for that time," Smith said. "Him waiting for that moment, whether that is sometime this year or even next year, he'll get his chance and when he does, he will succeed."
But for now, if only in spurts, Kaufman-Renn knows what he provides and is comfortable being a changeup to Edey when he enters the game.
"Coaches recruited you for who you were. They want me to go in and score when I get in the game, when I get the opportunity to," Kaufman-Renn said. "But at the same time, it's accepting a role. You have players on your team who are the best players in the country. Not just Zach. I think everybody on our team is an elite player at what they do."
Sam King covers sports for the Journal & Courier. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @samueltking.
No. 1 Purdue (22-1, 11-1) at No. 21 Indiana (15-7, 6-5)
Saturday, 4 p.m.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Purdue's Trey Kaufman-Renn grows into role as changeup to Zach Edey