Posted by Jeff Goodman
This marks my debut entry in this space after two weeks of wrestling with how to truly enjoy time off in-between jobs.
I pulled my daughter out of school one day, caught a Red Sox matinee, bought a new car another, cleaned out the garage and even tried to sit by the pool -- but let’s face it: Relaxing isn’t my strength.
I wanted to get to work at CBSSports.com -- and after spending all of Monday touring the plush Fort Lauderdale offices, I’m finally ready -- and figured my first blog entry would be checking in with a kid who hasn't been sitting still much lately: Purdue star Robbie Hummel.
Hummel looked at the team photo from four years ago and reality truly set in.
Just three faces remain: Purdue head coach Matt Painter, Hummel and a member of the training staff.
Everyone else is history. Every player and even all of the assistant coaches.
Hummel was supposed to have transitioned from West Lafayette as well, working out for NBA teams with JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore in preparation for the upcoming draft. Instead, he’s in the midst of his second major rehab after tearing the ACL in his right knee again last October.
Hummel made his latest jaunt to New York on Monday for a quick check-up with the surgeon who performed his most recent procedure, one in which the graft was taken from the same knee instead of the left knee – as was the case in the first surgery.
"It feels like a normal ACL now,” Hummel said on Monday night. "There’s really no pain at all. It’s been much better this time.”
Hummel has been commuting an hour or so to Tim Grover’s facility in Chicago each day for the past month as part of his rehab. He spends the majority of his time in the weight room, strengthening his knee, but is also shooting and has begun light cutting in hopes of being cleared for full contact in July.
That would give him a couple of months to get in basketball shape and also get past the emotional roadblock of not worrying about re-injuring his knee -- unlike a year ago, when he wasn’t able to ease into playing due to the start of practice in mid-October.
Hummel is a bright kid, one of the most realistic and cerebral I’ve ever come across in the college ranks. He understands most have written him off after a pair of major knee surgeries within an eight-month span -- and have also penciled in Purdue somewhere towards the cellar of the Big Ten.
"We lost a lot. That’s a fact,” Hummel said. "We lost an All-American in JaJuan and another guy in E’Twaun that could have been an All-American. I think people may call me crazy, but we’re going to have a really good team. People look at us as if there’s no one left, but we only lost two guys. I know who they are, but we’ve got everyone else back. We’ll be different – and we’ll have to have guys step up.”
Sophomore guard Terone Johnson is one of those guys. Painter will also need an inside presence (i.e. Sandi Marcius, Travis Carroll) to emerge.
But most of all, the Boilermakers must have a healthy Hummel to sustain the momentum that has been in place since Hummel and the Baby Boilers arrived in West Lafayette what seems like an eternity ago -- back in 2007.
Hummel, hardly known as an above-the-rim player, said he’s already able to dunk -- but he’s under no false illusion. He realizes while he’ll likely be the focal point of the team for the first in his career, his most important task will be to bring along his teammates.
He still has veteran point guard Lewis Jackson by his side -- and Johnson could emerge as a star in the Big Ten before long. There’s no shortage of role guys -- from Ryne Smith to Kelsey Barlow to John Hart.
Hummel still blames himself for the program’s inability to reach the Final Four each of the past two seasons and shakes his head in disbelief when he takes a look at the photo taken nearly five years ago.
"I thought I’d go out with JaJuan and E’Twaun,” Hummel said. "Senior night was probably the toughest thing for me, that and seeing the guys lose in the second round. I always thought it would be a storybook ending.”
But he also realizes the final chapter could have been worse -- if Painter had left after a serious flirtation with Missouri this past offseason.
"Losing him would have been a devastating blow,” Hummel said. "For the program.”
And for him.
Photo: US PRESSWIRE