We last left with Robbie saying this to me, “These are the freshman that will bring us back. But, be prepared for a couple of letdowns beforehand.”
These freshman, are Vincent Edwards, Dakota Mathias, PJ Thompson, Isaac Haas and Jacquil Taylor.
Pair this group of freshman with Ray Davis, AJ Hammons and 5th year guard, Jon Octeus and we were in great shape.
This was going to be the rebirth to our program.
A new start.
Anything was better than the last two years. The cancers of the team had been eliminated by our feared leader, Coach Matt Painter. He took care of the dirty work. Now it was time to get these guys to buy in to have successful careers.
They did just that.
Preseason workouts included working with marines, to do things they have never done before.
After these workouts. PJ Thompson said that it was the hardest thing he had ever done, but worth every bit of it. It bonded these young men together as they were gearing up for a successful 2014-2015 season.
It had been a few months since the last time Robbie appeared behind me to give me some type of advice or mantra. I was okay with that, I wanted surprises. The last thing he said, was that these guys would bring us back, but there would be letdowns.
Letdowns were evident. Holes were evident. This team has bought in, but needs more time under Coach Painter to fulfill their success.
Their first year on campus, we made it back to the tournament. With a refreshing new style of play, where the point guard played under control, AJ Hammons dominated. We played Cincinnati in Round 1. I will stop there, as I don’t want to ruin anyones day. But, we were defeated.
We were missing something. Someone.
Then there was another light!
Late in the recruiting process, the spring of 2015. Coach Painter did something that had not been done in nearly 20 years. He brought a McDonalds AA to Purdue. Caleb Swanigan swung his commitment, switching from the Spartans ugly green to the beautiful & strong old gold.
I thought, Did we really just get him. Pinch me I am dreaming.
I felt a pinch.
Robbie appeared behind me, smiling. He did not predict much this time. He said “I told you that these freshman would provide, but I also said there would be letdowns, getting beat by Cincy, like that, is 1 of 2 letdowns. Be wary, as another will shortly come.”
Well, here we are again.
Will Biggie somehow not come? He didn’t sign his LOI until June. So that was in my mind for weeks.
The summer came and went nothing bad had happened. There was a certain buzz on campus, one no one has felt since the 1995 season. We could be really good. Like Baby Boiler good. Like the Three Amigos good. I stayed alert, as Robbie predicted one more letdown.
The season was fun to watch. A lot of hype was built around it. Our 3 big guys, Biggie, Isaac and AJ combined for an average of 34 points per game, which is insane. Our guard play was much improved also. With glue guys like Dakota and Vincent, we were sailing smooth.
The NCAA tournament draw was here. We were drawn as a 5 seed to face Arkansas Little-Rock.
There are generally 1 or 2 losses every year from a 5-12 matchup. But, I thought that ALR had no chance against our front court.
I am not going to go into great deal, as this loss is close to the heart still. After leading by 12 with 3:30 to go. We lost in OT. My heart sunk. I watched from Bdubs on the Levee and I kid you not. When the buzzer sound everyone let out the biggest F Bomb, it probably could have been a Guinness world record for most F bombs in one place.
Robbie appeared in my passenger seat as I drove home, sobbing.
He said “This was the 2nd let down this class will provide. From here on out, everything will be fruitful and they will lead us to a place we haven’t visited in quite sometime.”
Well what did he mean? He was correct so far we haven’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2010, a long weight in Purdue standards. But could he mean more? Could he mean a final 4 appearance? Only time will tell.
To Be Continued...