Jordan will have something more later on since he knows Rob and Ryno personally, but I wanted to say something briefly for our three departing seniors, who will play their final game at Mackey Arena tomorrow night. They leave not with the acclaim of last year's guys, but they each have their own special place in Boilermaker Basketball history.
Ryne Smith - Until the start of the Big Ten season last year some people wondered why Ryne was on the roster. He was a practice legend: a guy who allegedly filled it up on the practice courts but did little in games. He only scored 19 points as a freshman, 80 as a sophomore, and until we went to Michigan last year he had only a few sporadic bursts against overmatched teams.
Then came the Big Ten opener in Ann Arbor, where Ryno lit up the Wolverines for 17 by going 5 of 6 from long range. He would score 13, 20, and 18 over the next three games as he became a legitimate weapon from long range. You couldn't leave him open or you were going to risk giving up three points.
This season he moved into the starting lineup as a regular, and he continues to be a three-point sharpshooter and a master hustler. He's not quite Chris Kramer, but Ryno have earned the respect of Purdue fans because you know he is giving it his all on the court. That is really the easiest way to be liked by Purdue fans, if you're out there and show that you give a shit 100% of the time with everything you have, you're good. That's why people like Bobby Riddell and Dru Anthrop are so well liked.
Ryne is one of the few players I have a personal story with. Last April, he and Keith were wanting some Pacers-Bulls playoff tickets for game three of their first round series. Since I live in Indy, I offered to pick them up from the Fieldhouse for them. I assure you, everything was legit since Ryne paid me for the tickets when we met up, but we enjoyed a nice NBA playoff game as a decent sized group with him, Keith, Mrs. T-Mill, and Ryne girlfriend.
Ryne is a player that will be missed because of his ability to give it his all when he is out there. He is a guy that shows that hard work pays off over the course of a career. He went from barely getting off the bench and fans not wanting him on the roster to becoming an invaluable piece of a team that will make this year's NCAA Tournament. He is doing what seniors do: lead this team to its maximum potential. I thank him for being a Boilermaker.
Lewis Jackson - After his freshman season LewJack had a run-in with the law while in his home town. For some players, it would have been a sign of more trouble to come. Instead, LewJack used it as a learning experience.
Lew is a 5'9" bulldog of a player that has a toughness few are gifted with. He has had to battle foot injuries for most of his career and this season a back injury has left him ailing after most games. Still, he barrels into the forest of bigger, stronger players time and again because he knows that his unique skillset gives us the best chance to win.
One of the best stretches of basketball I have ever seen from Purdue came when he was finally able to play during the 2009-10 season. Lew missed the first half of the year with off-season foot surgery, but once he returned, Purdue had a sublime stretch of basketball for seven straight games and seven impressive wins. In that stretch Purdue won at Indiana, Michigan State, and Ohio State. It was out first victory in those venues in what seemed like forever, and it was all as Lew was still rounding into form. We were starting to look like a dominant basketball team when we went to The Barn on February 24, 2010.
There is no need to re-hash what happened since then, but it is safety to say that Lew is one of the most explosive and fun players we have had the privilege of watching in a Purdue uniform. From day one he knew his role was to run the offense, and he has done so brilliantly. As long as he holds up this year, I know we have a chance in any game. Few players have his speed and ability to get t the basket.
Lew has a very outside shot at scoring 1,000 points for his career, but only if we make a very deep run in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. More than his scoring though, I'll miss his leadership. I am so thankful that Lew became a Boilermaker.
Robbie Hummel - Where do we begin with Rob? Without question he is one of the most beloved, yet star-crossed Purdue athletes of all-time. His intelligence, leadership, and ability on the court have made him an invaluable part of this team for the past five years, much to the dismay of Terry Hutchens. Rob has not only been a great player, but he's also been a great guy off the court and one of those few players that transcends the boundary of rivalries. Few opposing fans have anything negative to say about him, and that was before his injuries.
Much like last year when JJ and E'twaun left, we're never going to be able to look at Rob's career without attaching those two fateful words: "What If". It seems unfair that of the group of three seniors left over from the class of 2007, we only got one Big Ten regular season title, one Big Ten Tournament title, and two Sweet 16's. It is far from Rob's fault, as we know he wasn't injured on purpose, but there is little question that it feels like something is left on the table from his era. Personally, I will always believe that his injuries cost Purdue at least one National Championship. It wasn't a guaranteed title, but our Boilers certainly had a damn good shot at one when he went down on February 24, 2010.
Still, Robbie is much more than The Man With The Bionic Knee. He is a beloved Boilermaker that is steaming his way toward the top 10 in scoring in school history. He is probably going to finish his career with over 1,700 points, 800 rebounds, and 300 assists. He's an all-around player that has been a contributor from day one.
More importantly, he completes the theme of this class of three seniors because you know he has worked his ass off and given Purdue 100% of himself from the start. Rob is the final piece left from the group that rose Purdue another level in the world of college basketball. Carl Landry and Co. pulled us out of the Big Ten basement and got us back to the NCAA Tournament. Hummel was part of the next group that made us champions again and a threat nationally.
Rob's final legacy is still to be played out, but I think there is little question that his lasting impact could be the example he sets for the next group, coming in next year. It is that group that needs to go a step forward, and reach a step that no group at Purdue has ever reached: winning a National Championship.
If that is Rob's final legacy, I think we will all be thankful for the day he became a Boilermaker. I know I already am.