Savvy Purdue Fort Wayne sets sights on March Madness, and bigger things

INDIANAPOLIS – Consider some of the coaching dynamics for Jon Coffman this season at Purdue Fort Wayne.

  • His starting lineup includes three graduate students, a fifth-year senior and a senior. Combined, they have played 26 seasons of college basketball. It is Team AARP of college basketball.

  • His leading scorer, Jarred Godfrey, is an Eagle Scout. His second leading scorer, Bobby Planutis, is working on his third degree. The other forward, Ra Kpedi, is doing an internship as an equity analyst for a Fort Wayne bank. Once, practice had to be shuffled for his Chartered Financial Analyst exam. “How cool is it,” Coffman was saying, “that he shows up for practice in a suit?”

  • His team has four 1,000-point career scorers and should soon have a fifth.

  • His two top scorers, Godfrey and Planutis, have been solid gold at the free throw line. Planutis has shot 64 free throws in the past two years. He has missed two. Godfrey hit his first 37 attempts in Horizon League play this season before missing.

  • The transfer portal gusher did not flow through Fort Wayne. Coffman’s roster returned nearly intact from last year’s Horizon League regular season co-champions. “They love the game, they love our spot, they love Fort Wayne and that’s why they’ve stayed,” Coffman said. “Our Eagle Scout, he had eight power-5s in the top-25 that gave him offers to go, and he probably passed up on a bunch of NIL to stay with us.”

Put all that together and what do you have?

A veteran team that is 12-7 so far and has atonement on its mind. The Mastodons — is there a better nickname in all Division I? — crashed out against Northern Kentucky in the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament last March. That meant no NCAA tournament, which would have been the program’s first. The painful memories were fresh last week when Purdue Fort Wayne defeated IUPUI the other night in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, the site of last spring’s Horizon tournament.

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“We’ve still got a chip on our shoulder,” Godfrey said. “Last year we didn’t finish the job that we know we could have, So we all instantly made that decision to come back. I feel like I have unfinished business with this team. I felt something this morning at gameday practice, just walking in here. Last time we were here we didn’t handle our business.”

Coffman is in his ninth season at Purdue Fort Wayne and has made his program appealing with a free-wheeling offense that can translate to professional basketball and an atmosphere that promotes cohesion and connectivity with the Fort Wayne business community. He figures that combination helps his players with future employment, on and off the court. So most of them stay.

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Read More: Savvy Purdue Fort Wayne sets sights on March Madness, and bigger things 2023-01-18 19:00:45

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