Robbie Hummel: Fighting Adversity (And MSU Fans)

January 25th, 2012

It’s a shame what happened to Purdue senior Robbie Hummel at the Breslin Center during Saturday’s 83-58 loss to the Spartans.


Hummel was reportedly taunted by a Michigan State fan, who shouted at Hummel that he hoped he would tear his ACL a third time, according The Lafayette Journal & Courier’s Jeff Washburn.


Hummel, who has been one of the best players in the Big Ten since arriving at West Lafayette in 2007, has had a heartbreaking career at Purdue and he deserves more respect than that.


Purdue coach Matt Painter agrees. He called out the student for his behavior and lectured him during the game.


“I was just trying to fight,” Painter told Journal & Courier. “I think (the Michigan State student section is) great. But if they are going to say, ‘I hope you tear your ACL again,’ I’m going to say something. He doesn’t deserve that.”


Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said if he had heard it, “I would throw the guy out of here. It’s just uncalled for. It’s ridiculous. So if that made Matt Painter mad, I completely understand.”


What’s even more of a shame is the affect Hummel’s knee injuries have had on his game. The Valparaiso, Ind., native averaged 11.4 points as a freshman, 12.5 as a sophomore and was having a Big Ten Player of the Year-type season when he suffered his first injury at Minnesota late in his junior season. At the time, Hummel was averaging 15.7 points and 6.3 rebounds, and the Boilermakers were 19-3 and riding a 10-game winning streak and were ranked third in the nation.


Without Hummel, Purdue went 4-3 down the stretch and lost to eventual national champion Duke in the Sweet 16.


Hummel returned for the 2010-11 season, only to tear his ACL on the first day of practice. Even without Hummel, the Boilermakers raced out to a 15-1 start before going 26-8 and finishing second in the Big Ten at 14-4.


Boilermaker fans are left only to wonder about what would have happened during those two seasons had Hummel been healthy. A serious argument can be made that the Hummel-led Boilermakers may have gone to back-to-back Final 4s and made runs at a national title or two.


The good news was that Hummel got to return this season. The problem is his surrounding cast – outside of fellow-senior point guard Lewis Jackson – simply doesn’t have enough high-level Big Ten talent. Through Tuesday, the Boilermakers are 14-7 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten – after back-to-back home losses to Wisconsin and Michigan – and are in danger of making Hummel’s senior season less than memorable.


As good and courageous as Hummel has been, it’s clear he’s not 100 percent healthy. He leads the Boilermakers with 15.4 points and 6.3 rebounds, but his field goal percentage is down significantly.


Through no fault of his own, Hummel has also disappeared late in games, likely a sign of a fatigued knee. Against Xavier and Butler, he shot 7-of-21 and 6-of-17, respectively, and went scoreless down the stretch in both games, allowing the Musketeers and Bulldogs earn come-from-behind victories after being down double-digits in the final 10 minutes.


In Saturday’s loss to No. 9 Michigan State, Hummel’s career hit a low point. He didn’t make a shot for the first time in his career, going 0-for-11 and finishing with two points in a 83-58.


“I thought I got a lot of good looks and just didn’t make them. It’s pretty frustrating, really,” Hummel said. “There’s not much to say really. It’s pretty embarrassing that I didn’t make a shot.”


In Tuesday’s loss to No. 20 Michigan, Hummel scored 16 points, but he missed two 3-point attempts late as the Boilermakers lost 66-64.


“I got great looks, I just didn’t knock them down,” Hummel said. “I was basically wide open.”


“I would run that play 100 more times,” Jackson said of Hummel’s final game-winning attempt. “Rob’s a great shooter.”


And he’s been a great, great player – arguably the best in the Big Ten over the past half-decade and one of Purdue’s greatest of all time. It would be a shame to see Hummel’s career end the way it appears to be heading.


He deserves better.