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March 2, 2009Last Thursday night in Ann Arbor, Marcus Green found himself in Michigan's wrestling locker room.
There, he saw a motivational sign that read, "Those who stay will be champions," or some such thing.
The message struck a chord with the Boilermaker senior, who'll be playing his last game in Mackey Arena, along with three others, Wednesday night against Northwestern.
"I saw that and thought, 'Wow,'" Green said. "I feel like I have become a champion just by sticking through it."
That's what Green will be remembered for after his four years in West Lafayette have run their course.
In his first year at Purdue, Coach Matt Painter recruited seven players, four from the high school ranks, one junior college player and two transfers.
Green's the last man standing.
Of the three other high school signees, Korey Spates was kicked off the team, Nate Minnoy quit and Chris Lutz transferred. The JUCO, Tarrance Crump, exhausted his eligibility after last season. Both transfers - Marcus White from Connecticut and Gordon Watt from Boston College - played just a single season each.
There were times when Green wondered if he might join the list of casualties.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't have doubts, especially early on," he said. "But the more I matured and stuck around, I started to understand more about what it takes to become a better individual, a better man. This was good for me. This was right for me.
"I don't think I'd have been able to have found that at any other program. I think those who stay at Purdue and fight through adversity, they're going to be successful in the real world."
When asked Monday if there was ever a point in time when he wasn't sure whether Green would make it, Painter laughed. In a round-about way, the coach admitted to having some very candid, sometimes brutally so, conversations with Green through the years.
"He's shown a lot of fortitude just sticking through things and making the most of some opportunities," Painter said. "He had some down times when he first started and he hung in there and kept fighting. There's a lot to be said for that. ... When it doesn't work for some individuals, they already have a built-in excuse for why it didn't happen for them. But he kept plugging and trying hard."
On the floor, Green's had an uneven career since being forced into a major role as a true freshman in 2005-06, because of injuries.
In his four seasons, the 6-foot-4 former high school guard has grown into as much a post player as anything and has often given Purdue energy, rebounding and a measure of levity away from the floor.
But since starting 13 times that injury-ravaged first year and averaging nearly 20 minutes per game, Green's only started eight games since and is averaging less than 18 minutes as a senior, as Purdue brought in some talented recruiting classes to follow Painter's first group of signees.
"A lot of times," Painter said, "when things don't go somebody's way, they take their ball and go home."
Green's not done that, though, whereas many of his peers did, whether it be by their own choosing or not.
Sometime in the next few weeks, Green will play his final college basketball game, when his third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance ends; in May, he'll graduate with his degree in organizational leadership and supervision.
"I'm more excited for my family than anything else," Green said. "I'm a big family guy. I'll be the first generation in my family to graduate. It'll put smiles on their faces."
Just like it did Saturday, when the Paint Crew wore green T-shirts emblazoned with the Chicagoan's likeness, as a nod to the outgoing senior.
"It caught me off guard and it caught my mom off guard," Green said. "I thought, 'Is it St. Patrick's Day or something?' Then I looked more and more at the T-shirts and thought, 'Oh, man, that's me.'"
Green jumped into the student section to celebrate following the Boilermakers' 25-point win over Ohio State.
He'll celebrate again Wednesday, as he and former walk-on Bobby Riddell are the team's lone fourth-year seniors; classmates Nemanja Calasan and Chris Reid transferred in from two-year junior colleges.
For Green, it's been a long time in the making.
"It's been a tremendous ride," Green said.
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