CHICAGO - Growing up a Chicago Bulls fan, Robbie Hummel long hoped to one day play in the United Center.
But while his team plays here in the NCAA Tournament, the injured Boilermaker senior can only watch.
"I've wanted to play here since I was a kid," Hummel said Saturday while Purdue was preparing to play Virginia Commonwealth Sunday. "It's kind of disappointing. Maybe someday down the road I'll have a chance to play. I hope this wasn't my last chance."
Hummel can be heartened, though, by the fact that the light at the end of tunnel is drawing closer.
Recovering from his second ACL surgery, the two-time first-team All-Big Ten forward's recovery is coming along well, or so his surgeon, Dr. David Altchek, seems to think.
While Purdue was learning its postseason fate on Selection Sunday, Hummel was in New York City to meet with Altchek.
"He said my right knee is just as tight as the left," Hummel said. "We kind of laid a timetable out. In the next six weeks, I can start doing some light basketball stuff with a brace on. In May, I can start to ramp it up in basketball workouts and rehab. Then, July 1, hopefully I can get back playing 5-on-5."
As is, Hummel's doing some light running and mild basketball activity, including some shooting and ball-handling.
At the end of Purdue's open practice session Thursday, Hummel drew a roar from the Boilermaker fans assembled in the United Center when he hit an underhanded shot from center court.
"When you have a shirt and tie on," Hummel said, "you can't really shoot over your head. You have to find another way."
As the entire college basketball world knows, Hummel tore his anterior cruciate ligament this fall on the very first day of practice, sustaining the same injury that ended his junior season prematurely.
He's redshirting this season and will come back in 2011-12 as a fifth-year senior and one of the leaders of a Purdue team that'll be replacing its two current star seniors.
By all accounts, he's well on his way back.
"He's in the right place mentally," associate head coach Paul Lusk said, "and he's in the right place physically."
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