The Junkyard dog is tough, nasty, gritty, first to the floor and most importantly never going to back down from any person, moment, or opportunity. It’s not the guy who scores the most points, or who makes the highlight reels, it’s the guy whose impact is felt via his passion, physicality and willingness to lay it all on the line for a W.
Welcome back to the place where THE Junkyard Dog in College Basketball gets awarded, on a bi-weekly basis. Yes it’s a weekly award presented bi-weekly, befitting the junkyard dog that surely isn’t constrained to the rules of conventional wisdom. With February right around the corner the CBB world is heating up, as gambler’s eyes begin to shift away from the NFL (with only the Super Bowl remaining) and the homestretch of the Conference season sets the stage for another crazy March to come. One of the linchpins of this college basketball season has been Purdue, sitting now at 18-3 they have been inside the top-10 all season long. Much has been made of Purdue’s interior Center combo Zach Edey and Trevion Williams, alongside projected lottery pick Jaden Ivey. However, the unsung hero of what is quite possibly the best group of Painter’s career is Mason Gillis.
Gillis now joins an illustrious group of past Junkyard Dog of the Week award winners, KD Johnson (Auburn), J’Wan Roberts (Houston), Josiah-Jordan James (Tennessee) and Brandon Murray (LSU). He’s been a guy that’s been on my radar all season as I’m a bit of a homer as a Purdue fan, and while some may criticize this pick due to this fact I urge you to allow me to justify before you crucify. Gillis’ most recent performance in Purdue’s W over top-25 Ohio St was the embodiment of the idealistic Junkyard Dog. He had 5 offensive rebounds, a steal, and was tasked with defending All-American candidate EJ Liddell on the defensive end. His impact was instrumental to the Boilers holding on as his 7 points and 11 rebounds often came in critical moments, like the one below…
Not only does he positively impact the boards and help a pedestrian defense not be pathetically bad, he also is shooting 51% from 3. In fact, he has been so efficient this season he is number 1 in Offensive rating per Kenpom. So, not only does he make winning plays defensively and on the boards, he’s the most efficient offensive player in the country. Similar to his fellow teammates on the Junkyard Dog of the Week squad (soon to be dubbed the 2022 Junkyard Dogs of the Year) Gillis is a glue guy for Purdue that does all the little things that don’t show up on box scores. When speaking on Gillis’ efforts on both ends against Ohio St Matt Painter said “you just can’t have enough of that”. Despite all of this praise his numbers will not jump out at you, and if you haven’t been following Purdue closely you may overlook him entirely. What a mistake that would be. Despite only averaging 7 ppg and 4 rpg you could argue Gillis is right up with Jaden Ivey as Purdue’s most irreplaceable players. They have 2 All-Conference Centers after all. Depth is a strength for Purdue, but there truly isn’t another Gillis on this roster. And that my friends is the epitome of the Junkyard Dog, the unheralded guy who is just as impactful as the guys who get all the glory. That lack of notoriety is just what this column is for, to shed light on the unsung heroes in college basketball who are a quintessential part of many of the successful teams across the Country. So congrats to Mason Gillis on receiving this high honor, and welcome to this illustrious list of Junkyard Dogs. Make sure to catch Boilermakers and watch what it looks like to play the game like a junkyard dog. And come back next week (in 2 weeks) to see who the next member of this glorious cast of characters will be.