Purdue's offered Stephen Toyra, believed by many to be the top senior player in the Lafayette-West Lafayette area this year, a chance to walk on to its team next season, making him next in the growing line of locals to join the Boilermakers in such a capacity.
The 6-foot-3 guard from Faith Christian School in Lafayette will be on academic scholarship at Purdue after averaging approximately 22 points per game as a senior.
GoldandBlack.com recently caught up with Toyra for this Q&A.
GoldandBlack.com: How did it come about?
Toyra: "It came about the past couple months, through some good words from (Delphi athletic director) Dan Dawson and a lot of hard work over the years, that they want me on the team. I'm just super-excited to learn under Coach (Matt) Painter and the coaching staff and hopefully I can just work my hardest to make the team better."
GoldandBlack.com: If you didn't walk on at Purdue, what were your other options?
Toyra: "I had a walk-on spot at Ball State if I wanted it, but my heart's desire was always to play at Purdue. ... I really, really, really wanted to be at Purdue.
"I'm from Lafayette and grew up going to Purdue games since I was little, always dreaming I could be a Boilermaker. My dad's an alum. It's a huge dream of mine to play at Purdue and through the Lord's planning and His sovereign will, it's come true for me, and that's really exciting for me and my family."
GoldandBlack.com: Growing up watching Purdue, any games or players stand out in your mind?
Toyra: "I really loved Chris Kramer, David Teague, Carl Landry. That's really the first group of guys I remember. But then in the past couple years, I've become pretty good friends with Bubba Day, so he and I have talked a lot the last couple weeks about the decision, texting back and forth, so I'm looking forward to connecting with him more. It'll be neat to kind of maybe fill his shoes as a believer on the Purdue men's basketball team, as well as a local walk-on."
GoldandBlack.com: They've got a little line going here of walk-ons from the area, starting with Bobby Riddell and more recently with Bubba Day and Dru Anthrop?
Toyra: "That's really exciting. (Anthrop) was proud to have somebody coming in to maybe fill his shoes, with it being his last year. He was excited and I'm excited. I never would have thought it would come to be, but the Lord had a plan and I'm glad I stayed patient and trusted Him."
GoldandBlack.com: What are your expectations? Obviously when you're a walk-on, you have to start from the bottom.
Toyra: "I'm just going to try to bring a great work ethic and a great commitment to the team, and obviously my relationship with the Lord and trying to be a light. I just want to be the best teammate I can be. I just want to work hard and encourage my teammates on and off the court. Those are the things I'm excited about bringing to the team.
"And then, being able to learn from Coach Painter and the other guys on the coaching staff. They bring so much knowledge and experience and basketball and life. I think I'll be a much better man when I leave in four years if I've listened to them and taken their advice and really learned from their experiences."
GoldandBlack.com: How big is your high school?
Toyra: "'Big' is not the right word for it. There's 700 kids in kindergarten through the 12th grade. The high school itself is like 200 kids.
"It's very exciting. It'll be a huge change, obviously a much higher level of competition. I was just thinking about this: I'll probably have a couple classes next year with more kids in it than my entire high school. That's crazy."
GoldandBlack.com: What kind of player are you?
Toyra: "I'm 6-foot-3, about 175, and looking forward to being a guard at Purdue, a 1, 2 or 3, whatever Coach Painter wants me to be or whatever position he needs me to fill in practice, games or whatever. I think any coach would say that as hard as a player works is as much as he'll produce. My mind is set on working hard and being committed to the team and to being the best teammate I can be."
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