INDIANAPOLIS — It's hard to determine what is more significant: what Robbie Hummel accomplished, or what might have been.
Two anterior cruciate ligament tears probably prevented the 6-foot-8 forward from being considered one of Purdue's top all-time players and quite possibly cost the Boilermakers two trips to the Final Four.
Through it all, he only regrets one thing — how his final game turned out. He scored 22 of his 26 points in the first half of a 63-60 loss to Kansas in the NCAA tournament round of 32 last month.
"I might never get over the Kansas game," he told The Associated Press. "That one hurts. I woke up from that game feeling sick."
Hummel's ups and downs have prepared him for the next phase of his life — chasing his NBA dreams.
"I've become a lot more patient," he said. "I think you have to be when you have something that takes six, seven months to heal. I probably just have a better perspective on things and really, an appreciation for basketball."
Two separate ACL tears in his right knee forced him to miss the end of the 2009-10 season and all of last season. He returned this season and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection after averaging 16.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
Even with the injuries, Hummel finished his career ranked ninth in school history with 1,772 points, fourth with 862 rebounds, fourth with 216 3-pointers and seventh with 112 blocks.
"He's one of the best I've been around," coach Matt Painter said after the Kansas game. "He's made a huge impact on our program. Just by doing the right thing, coming early, staying late, working hard, not making excuses, not feeling sorry for himself. He has a lot of qualities that you would want in your own kids. There is nothing fake about it."
Hummel is ready to move forward after hiring Mark Bartelstein as his agent. Former Purdue center JaJuan Johnson, now a rookie with the Boston Celtics, believes Hummel can make it in the league.
"He's a shooter," Johnson said. "He can come off of picks pretty well, so I think he'll be good in the NBA. He has NBA size already, so that's a plus for him."
Hummel just wants a chance.
"I'm just trying to be a guy that can fill a role," he said. "Make a jump shot, rebound, do whatever the team asks."
He doesn't expect the knee to be a hindrance.
"It feels good," he said. "It feels strong. It feels like it's really back to normal. Hopefully, as the years progress, my leg can continue to stay strong."
Hummel immediately helped Purdue when he arrived in 2007, earning all-conference honors his freshman and sophomore seasons. He averaged 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds his junior season before tearing the ACL in his right knee on Feb. 24, 2010. Purdue was ranked No. 3 in the nation at the time and had hopes of reaching the Final Four in Indianapolis. Even President Obama said he felt sorry for Purdue after Hummel's injury. He missed the rest of the season, and Purdue lost to Duke in the Sweet 16.
Many expected Hummel, along with Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, to help Purdue make a run at a national title next season. Instead, he reinjured the knee and missed the season. Purdue lost to Virginia Commonwealth in the NCAA tournament.
A more muscular Hummel returned for the 2011-12 season, and he could post up as well as move the ball, shoot 3s and rebound. With Johnson and Moore playing for the Celtics, Purdue finished with a 22-13 record.
"I think at the end of the season, we were playing a lot better than we did in the middle, and that's what you shoot for," he said. "There were some rough patches, for sure, but I think I'll look back on this team and think we did a pretty good job."
Johnson, a first-team All-American in 2011, cheered from afar.
"I was happy to see him go out there and do his thing," Johnson said. "I'm a fan, he's one of my closest friends. Just to see him go out there and do well was good."
Hummel has a short list of favorite moments at Purdue. He blocked a possible game-tying shot against Wisconsin in 2008, then made two free throws with 1.2 seconds left to help unranked Purdue beat the 11th-ranked Badgers. He was the Most Outstanding Player when the Boilermakers won the Big Ten tournament in 2009. He scored 18 points in a win over West Virginia on New Year's Day 2010, a game both teams entered unbeaten.
Though Hummel has always been team-oriented, he also understands and appreciates history and is aware of his place in it. He hopes his first half against Kansas, the one that put the eventual national runner-up on its heels, stands above his injuries in the minds of Purdue fans.
"It was a long road," he said. "It was a little bit longer than I thought it would be, but it was fun. I was lucky to play on some very good teams with some great coaches."
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