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March 30, 2012

Perseverance earned Hummel Senior CLASS honor

The difficult journey Purdue's Robbie Hummel dealt with during his college career has been well-documented, as the three-time first-team All-Big Ten player saw his days with the Boilermakers wracked by injury.

Friday afternoon in New Orleans, Hummel was recognized for his perserverance, among other things, as winner of the prestigious Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.

The centerpiece of his case for the honor was undoubtedly his return from back-to-back major knee injuries.

"I don't know exactly if there was any one thing that won the award for me, but my knee probably," Hummel said from New Orleans, site of the Final Four. "It probably gave me a leg up on some of the other people, but everybody was very deserving."

The award, which recognizes achievement not only in athletics, but also academics and service, among other factors, was a long-awaited one for Purdue, which has seen Chris Kramer and E'Twaun Moore named as finalists the past two years, respectively.

In Hummel's case it was his story that won out.

The 6-foot-8 forward from Valparaiso starred at Purdue from Day 1, earning the first of his three first-team all-conference honors as just a freshman and being named a candidate for various national player-of-the-year awards.

But his sophomore season was marred by a back injury that forced him in and out of the lineup and very nearly ended his season prematurely.

His junior year was cut short when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in late February, crippling a red-hot team that ranked among the nation's best.

Months later, he re-injured the knee on the first official day of practice and sat out the entire season as a redshirt.

Hummel's fifth-year senior season was a turbulent one as he battled the residual effects of the two injuries, but he finished the season playing some of the best basketball of his career, punctuated by his 26-point game in a narrow loss to eventual Final Four participant Kansas.

Hummel's been asked a thousand times a thousand different ways what kept him going.

"It was probably just the love of the game," he said Friday night, when asked again. "I've always wanted to play basketball professionally and I've loved playing college basketball. I wasn't going to give up on it just because I had two pretty major setbacks.

"With that being said, it just made the journey here even more sweet. Certainly there were times where it was frustrating and times where I didn't know if I'd be able to play again. But now that it's come full circle I can look back on it say I did almost as good a job as I could have in handling it."

Earlier this week, Hummel, a management major, was named Academic All-Big Ten for the third time, carrying a career grade-point average of nearly 3.2.

Away from the floor, Hummel served as part of the Division I Men's Basketball Issues Committee, serving as a student-athlete sounding board for the NCAA.

Hummel won the award over nine other finalists: Ohio State's William Buford, Pitt's Ashton Gibbs, Michigan State's Draymond Green, Belmont's Mick Hedgepeth, William and Mary's Quinn McDowell, Butler's Ronald Nored, Michigan's Zack Novak, Penn's Zack Rosen and North Carolina's Tyler Zeller.

Of those 10 finalists, Hummel's the one who gets to lug the Lowe's trophy home.

Emphasis on the word "lug."

"I get a trophy that weighs a bunch," Hummel said. "I picked it up and couldn't believe how heavy it was."

Fortunately for Hummel, he's got strong enough legs to manage.




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