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Closing the Book on 2009-10

It's Tuesday now, and I don't want to let go. I feel like we should still be playing basketball, even though only 12 schools in the country (The Final Four teams, the NIT Final Four, and the Final two in the CBI and CIT) are still playing. I guess when you write about basketball nearly every day for close to five months it is hard to let go.

But we do have to let go. With the end of basketball season it also means an end to roughly the first year of Hammer & Rails. I must say, it has been an overwhelming success. When I moved the blog over here in February last year from Off the Tracks I had roughly 95 followers according to that blog's tracker. According to Sitemeter, I had less than 5,000 visits in all of March 2009.

As of this morning, Hammer & Rails has 667 members and so far this month there have been almost 40,000 site visits in the month alone. I have received numerous comments and e-mails thanking me for providing a place for civil, well-thought discussion about Purdue basketball and football. Once again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. This exponential growth does not happen without you the readers. Getting the Big Ten Tournament press pass was extra special because it came as a result of something I built myself and with the great support of you readers. This has grown beyond anything I have ever dream of and it is practically self-sustaining at this point.

As we wind down basketball coverage I'll naturally expect things to slow down for a bit. Over the spring I plan to continue covering some baseball as well as spring football, though TelePunk will probably have more on football. I'm headed to Miami in two weeks, so I'll miss the spring game. When I planned the trip it was either miss the spring game or the Final Four. I don't regret my decision.

Starting on May 27th I will begin a new feature on the site. I'll be counting down daily from 99 to 1 each Purdue football player with that day's jersey number until the start of the season. Each player will get a small featured profile that day. Over the summer there will be the usual football previews as we get closer to the season.

For now though I wanted to put the final wrap on what was a great basketball season. Here are the awards we earned as a team an individually. Some are real, and some are bestowed by me.

Team awards:

Record: 29-6 (School record for wins in one season tied with the 1994 team)

22nd Big Ten Regular season championship

9th Sweet 16 appearance in school history

Paradise Jam Tournament Champions

10 wins over NCAA tournament teams (Tennessee, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Minnesota x2, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Siena, Texas A&M)

2 wins over Final Four teams (West Virginia and Michigan State)

4 wins over Sweet 16 teams (Tennessee, Ohio State, Michigan State, West Virginia)

Most disrespected 4 seed of all-time

Most disrespected top 5 team of all time

The "Holy Crap, We even Won Digger Over" Award

Individual Awards:

Chris Kramer - Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (second time), Big Ten All-Defensive Team (fourth time), First player in Big Ten history to be named to conference All-Defensive team in all four seasons of his career, Purdue's nominee for the conference Sportsmanship Award, Lowe's Senior CLASS Award Finalist (won the fan voting portion nationally), Career Steals leader, Certifiable badass, Highest in season level on Dead Hooker Scale since Drew Brees. Replaced Thor as main god in Norse mythology somehow. Winner of the Barbasol Pancakes Award as player most likely to receive pancakes in the boudoir (Ow! Chris Kramer just slapped me for speaking French. I think my jaw is broken).

E'Twaun Moore - Honorable Mention All-American, Third team All-American by Yahoo Sports, Second Team Academic All-American, Academic All-Big Ten, First Team All-Big Ten, Paradise Jam Tournament MVP, NCAA All-District first team, Hammer & Rails Red Button Award for Instant Offense. Hammer & Rails Silent Assassin Award for most clutch shots (Someone needs to add this, with citation, to his Wikipedia profile), 1,000 point career scorer.

Robbie Hummel - Honorable Mention All-American, First Team All-Big Ten, Finalist for the Naismith Award, tied single game 3-point shooting record (in one half, mind you), Third Team All-American according to Fox Sports, 1,000 point career scorer, Big Ten Free Throw percentage leader (90.2%), Paradise Jam All-Tournament team, Career record holder for most consecutive free throws, Final Four Most Outstanding Player (Once we get the Time Machine working)

JaJuan Johnson - Second team all-Big Ten, Big Ten All-Defensive Team, Career 1,000 point scorer, 2nd in career blocks at Purdue, Most Thunderdunks in one season. TwitVid team MVP.

Kelsey Barlow - Big Ten All-Freshman Team

Ryne Smith - Most pump fakes in one season (NCAA record)

D.J. Byrd - Hammer & Rails "Where the hell has that been all year?" Award

Sandi Marcius - Most Speculation and Rumors Award, Possible Mat ten Dam Award winner for most expectation with zero delivery.

Keaton Grant - Career leader in wins 102, career 1,000 point scorer, best hat

Lewis Jackson - Chris Kramer Manly-man Award for playing the NCAA Tournament with a broken screw in his foot. Big Ten First team all-TwitVid

Matt Painter - Big Ten coach of the Year, retroactive 1994 Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner for his role in Blue Chips.

Finally, a salute to our seniors:

I have been trying to think of something additional to say about Kramer, Keaton Grant, and Mark Wolhford. In reality, it has already been said dozens of times. Mark was a walk-on who earned his scholarship and hit some big shots early in the year. The St. Joseph's game was the biggest of his career, but he was clearly a guy that was ready to contribute the few times he was asked too. He never thought he deserved more minutes, but was the consummate team player. He'll be missed.

Keaton came to Purdue at a time when no one else wanted to. He (along with Kramer) is the first Purdue player to make the NCAA Tournament in all four years of his career since the class of 2000 with Brian Cardinal, Jaraan Cornell and company. This year he took a reduced role without complaining and hit some big shots after Robbie got hurt. We don't win at Minnesota without him. We probably don't win at Penn State without him. We probably don't win at Ohio State without him. While he struggled at times, his best games came when we absolutely needed him at the end of the year. He'll be missed as well.

Then there is Kramer. I mean, what else can you say? The kid has a 3-hour extended edition DVD with Director's commentary worth of hustle highlights. He leaves Purdue as a friggin' folk hero and with fans begging him to cross the street and play football for a year just so we don't have to let go right now. There will never be another Chris Kramer. I was there when Brian Cardinal was doing his thing, and I think Kramer had a bigger defensive impact. Statistically you will never find another player that impacts a game without it showing up in the box score like Kramer. While we have the time machine working we can go back to get freshman Kramer complete with four more years of eligibility, right?

To all our seniors, I thank you. It has been an honor to write about you here and you are more than welcome to contact me any time you have anything to say to the masses.