Saturday, October 16, 2010

What if...


With the headline, you might think I'm asking the question "what if" in reference to what if Hummel was healthy...but instead, I'm asking, what if Hummel hadn't recovered quickly and was deemed unable to play this season before this morning's injury had occurred? Our perspective would be different, no doubt.

For one thing, we wouldn't have had to experience the punch in the gut that we all felt in the early afternoon and might feel right now. Morgan Burke summed it up best, I think.

"As soon as it happened my stomach, it's still upset. I've got a knot in my stomach that I haven't had in a long time and that's just because I love the kid and hate to see it happen."

Precisely. I've met Rob a few times quickly...no real connection to him other than I really like him and the way he plays...and like so many other Purdue athletes, he was really nice to my son last spring. That's always endearing for a Dad. So I was as excited for him as anything else as he prepared to play with his pals one last season before heading to the next level. But plans seldomly go the way they're supposed to go.

So back to an alternate perspective.

Hypothetically, if my alma mater was heading into any other season returning TWO Wooden Award candidates, two former all-Frosh team players who were both starters, an instant-impact true Freshman and more frontcourt size and talent than they've had in five seasons and some guys who are much-improved (according to rumors), my outlook might not be too bleak.

Universally, people that have seen Johnson play in the last month-or-so say he's a different guy...a better player. A guy who averages over 15 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks/game wants more out of his game. He took the criticism given to him by the NBA scouts and didn't whine, but decided to get stronger and use it constructively. How many more points, rebounds, blocks per game will his workmanlike summer yield? How much does it help a guy to guard and face NBA all-stars day-in/day-out for over a month? We'll see soon.

The other big time talent...the forgotten guy on this year's Boilers has done OK, I guess. He was All-Big Ten First team, All-American third team and Academic All-American second team last season. He led the Boilers in scoring, has become a defensive force in the last two seasons...and some of the media think he's one of the top defensive players in the nation. He's not sexy to the media...but feared by his opponents. And he just quietly does his job- whatever's needed, he seems to do.

Patrick Bade, D.J. Byrd, Lewis Jackson, Ryne Smith and Kelsey Barlow all dedicated themselves to getting better months ago...their offseason work has just become more-important as their responsibilities will all likely increase in the wake of today's news. I always say sports are a microcosm for life. As we've seen with Rob Henry's emergence on the football field and what will be expected from Barlow, Bade and others this coming basketball season- like the boy scouts tell us, we simply must always be prepared. No one knows what's coming next.

I'll also say that Matty is a damned-good coach who seems to be able to squeeze a lot out of teams who look tapped-out from time-to-time. Remember, our pals in the media left Purdue for dead last season coming into the NCAA tourney...Purdue only went to the sweet 16 after most heads predicted Purdue to bow out in the opening round to Siena. Some of those same schmoes in the media have already dropped Purdue in their worthless pre-season polls from a top-3 team to an also-ran that's barely in the top-25. All that matters little at this point.

So, it seems our Boilers are once-again a team that few believe in...an underdog. This isn't a role that many of us thought our Boilers would be playing this season...but it's one that Purdue fans and players alike know well.

I think big things are still coming this season for our Boilers. I'll detail what I think can and will happen to make this season something to remember in the weeks leading up to the season. Here's to the forces of good making believers out of everybody.

9 comments:

J Money said...

Oh, you'll detail those things? Cool, i'll take the winter off, then!

boilerdowd said...

Seems like you've already started.

That was a pretty good one.

Erin said...

Also, if it had to happen, better now then one minute into their first game. Then, his basketball career would be over. Rob is a great guy and glad he gets a chance to play a full season next year.

Daniel Kirkdorffer said...

Good perspective.

It's going to take a lot to get used to this new reality though, what with all the magazines out there reminding us how Purdue was a pre-season top 5 pick.

Still, we have to keep in mind that unlike in February this year, and early last year, when Hummel was sidelined mid-season and the team had to adapt on the fly, this year they'll be able to work from the very beginning on redefining themselves to make up for the lack of Hummel. If he was going to re-tear his ACL, better for the team that he did so at the beginning of practice, than, say, mid-December, for example, because everyone will be locked into life without Hummel from the start.

The great thing about college basketball is that it is a team sport. The best teams win. There are guys who have had to step up in the past and with have to do so again, only this time they'll have more time and more experience on their side. The media will necessarily write off the team, being unable to think this way, and only able to look at how Purdue has played without Hummel in the past. The team will have to prove them wrong. What's new.

Recall that the team had to not just deal with Hummel's torn ACL last season, but with all the negativity that went with it, which could only affect the team's moral and focus. Matt Painter was constantly having to state that the team needed to adjust, and that it would take time mid-season. This time, from the beginning, they can start to adjust, in particular by getting people to step up and pick up the slack in rebounding. If Johnson is allowed to roam inside and out like he did last year, then another big guy will have to wipe the boards. I think the rest of the team can collectively hit more buckets. That leaves leadership, and between Moore and Johnson, you have enough experience and seniority for any team.

Losing Hummel sucks, it ate at me all day, and will for a few more, but it happened and we have to move on. The margin for error has gone down, but the players that remain have the potential to have a great season as well. The Big Ten this year was never going to be a cake walk even with Hummel, but who knows what lies ahead for all the other teams, so let's play the games and see how things shake out. Mackey will be sold out, and Purdue should strive to win every home game. Expect the top teams to do the same. Don't expect a Big Ten team to enter the NCAA Tournament without some blemishes and the need to prove itself. No reason why Purdue can't still be in the thick of things when all is said and done.

Go Boilers!

RFS said...

Guys,

IU fan here and I just want to say that I speak for the actual fans (Yes, I'm an 2x alum and a season football/bball ticket holder).

I would never wish this upon anyone. Like Crean tweeted, IU fans respect the way Hummell, Moore, and Johnson play the game and represent Indiana basketball.

Say what you will, but I want to beat Purdue at full strength with no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Looking forward to that day when we're both perennial top 10 programs (hopefully sooner rather than later).

J Money said...

RFS -- there's been a lot of sentiment like this... and we agree. Thanks for stopping by.

Austin said...

RFS- You forgot to add the hope that ND is a perennial bottom ten.

Anyway, finding out this news was awful, but I'm finding more and more reasons (especially thanks to T-mill) to stay positive, and we all should.

And with no due respect, Andy Katz is what my Aussie friends like to call a f!ckwit.

Plang said...

If it had to happen, then better now than further on into the season. The others will learn to work together without Rob and how to work harder. It is a bit of a blow, but I'm sure they will do just fine.

And if Painter takes this team far, Burke better pony up the money to keep him in W. Lafayette a very long time.

The OX said...

I think many people have nailed this thought...better to lose Robbie now than mid season. Matt Painter did a fantastic job of re-making the team on the fly last year. The experience of life without Hummel wasn't lost on this team, and that experience will help carry them through this season. I fully expect that someone will step up to help fill the void (although nobody can really fully replace Robbie).

I feel horrible for Robbie. I've done an ACL before and the rehab just isn't pleasant. To come so far and have it taken away just as practice was starting is just cruel.