25.6 mpg | 5.5 ppg | 5.2 rpg | 1.6 apg | .9 stls
If the Gods were just, and Purdue was headed up to Minneapolis this Saturday to play in the Final Four, Grady Eifert’s final offensive rebound in the Elite Eight would have been the perfect moment to encapsulate the senior’s incredible career at Purdue.
In a game where Eifert was struggling with Virginia’s two big lineup, he came up with the offensive rebound out of pure grit and hustle, securing it before it went out of bounce over a Virginia defender, and for a few sweet seconds, seemingly securing Purdue’s first trip to the Final Four since 1980. Of course, the Gods are cruel, and a missed free throw and tipped rebound turned the win into overtime and a heart-breaking loss, but Eifert’s legacy remains. There wasn’t a player that worked harder on the floor in a game, and there might not be anyone in the country who worked harder to transform himself into a starter on a team that nearly made the Final Four.
Eifert started his Boilermaker career as a walk-on. He played mop up minutes his first two season. He garnered a scholarship from Coach Painter after his first season, but he still only played 20% of the minutes his junior year. He was called to fill in when Vincent Edwards was hurt his junior year. Then again, when Haas went down in the NCAA tournament. He was never spectacular, but he played hard, was smart, and always seemed to be in the right spot.
In his senior year, he became Purdue’s starting 4. He also finished his career, as the most efficient offensive player in the nation according to Kenpom. Read that again. The most efficient offensive player in the country.
He did it by transforming his skill set to catch up with his heart. He became a shooter. After attempting just 6 three-pointers in his career his first three seasons, Eifert took 80 his senior season, and made 35 of them. He was the second most accurate shooter from 3 during B10 play. He became more than just a good story, he became a threat.
Eifert’s play can be sensationalized, cheapened by the walk-on trope, and guy who hustles but can’t really keep up with everyone else athletically.
Eifert was more than that for Coach Painter and a young Purdue team with a star mired in a two-month slump at the end of B10 play. He was Purdue’s heartbeat, their steadying beat, and he absolutely won them games. Against Nebraska on the road, with Carsen forcing and missing shots, it was Eifert that grabbed a blocked shot and hoisted it sideways towards the hoop as the shot clock expired. He had done the same on an in-bound pass not long before that. The Boilers barely got out of Lincoln with a win.
Against Nebraska at home earlier in the season, Eifert had his moment. It wasn’t just about hustle and making the plays that don’t show up on the box score. He filled the stat sheet. He had 16 points, made both his three-point attempts, both his inside the arc field goal attempts, and all 6 of his free throws. He grabbed 7 rebounds, assisted twice, and because it’s Grady Eifert, he didn’t turn the ball over at all.
Eifert owned Mackey that day as they covered the senior with chants, ringing out the letter, M-V-P.
Grady Eifert will leave Purdue alongside his fellow senior Ryan Cline, and they’ll both walk out of Mackey with more wins in a Purdue jersey than any players before. These things don’t happen as accidents.
Eifert watched great players before him, learned, and spent every day in the shadows working to be better, workings towards a goal of pushing Purdue’s program further. Despite the walk-on label, despite the narratives, he did just that.
He played 32 minutes in Purdue’s overtime win over Tennessee, scoring 7 points and grabbing 9 rebounds, despite going up against a nightmare match-up in Grant Williams.
Purdue and Eifert won that day. As they had 108 times before. But this one was different. This win put Coach Painter over the hump. It brought Purdue back on the national map.
Just as the seniors before him, Eifert leaves Purdue a winner, no matter the final score, and, most importantly, he leaves Purdue a better program because of him.