HOUSTON, Texas — So what do you do if you're Chris Kramer and you've just wrapped up a standout Purdue basketball career, when you've become the first player ever to make the Big Ten's all-defensive team four times, when you've twice been the conference defensive player of the year, when you've set the school record for steals (274) and, perhaps, for passing up scoring chances?
How about some football?
“I'll think about what I want to do,” he said. “I'll talk with my family and the coaches and see what's in my best interest.”
Kramer can focus on future interests in the wake of the Boilers' 70-57 Sweet 16 loss to top-seeded Duke on Friday night. That ended the Boilers' season at 29-6 and Kramer's career.
The first question to address is if pro basketball in Kramer's future. Perhaps, although at least at first it most likely would come in the NBA's developmental league (can you say the Mad Ants?) or overseas.
The 6-3 Kramer is too short to play shooting guard in the NBA. He lacks NBA-caliber point guard skills, although his work ethic and determination could help close that gap. His defensive skills, strength (he bench presses 325 pounds), tenaciousness and selflessness also give him a chance.
Still, he might be better suited for football. He has yet to talk to Purdue coach Danny Hope about playing defensive back, although that conversation will likely come soon. Purdue started spring practice last week.
Kramer was a strong football player at Huntington North, excelling at quarterback, defensive back and running back. He hasn't played football since coming to Purdue. Did he ever consider playing football in college instead of basketball?
“I gave it no thought. My high school coach said, ‘I need to know if I should tell these (college) football coaches to not waste their time or should I tell them to start recruiting you.' I said, ‘Tell them there's no point. I won't play college football.' A lot of people said football was my better sport in high school, but basketball was my true love.”
Still, Kramer's football potential was intriguing enough that former Purdue coach Joe Tiller would joke with him about it.
“I would be at training table eating dinner and Coach Tiller would come over and give me a number — 4 million, 3 million. I was like, ‘What are you talking about?' He said, ‘That's the amount of money you'd be making if you play on Sundays.' I would say, ‘Leave me alone.' It was funny.”
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Purdue's other starting senior guard, Keaton Grant, did not have a career finale to remember. He finished with six points on 2-for-8 shooting, four assists, three rebounds and one steal before fouling out.
“It's tough, especially going out the way I did,” he said. “I missed so many shots. It was not my night shooting-wise. They were way off, but it's not always going to be your day.”
Grant finished with 1,031 points, 381 rebounds and a career-scoring average of 7.5 points. He also played in a school-record 101 victories, one Big Ten championship, one Big Ten tourney title and two Sweet 16 appearances.
“I had a great career,” he said. “Kramer and I set the bar high. I know next year they'll work hard and keep it up. I have no regrets.”
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Purdue returns three All-Big Ten players in Robbie Hummel (15.4 points, 6.9 rebounds), E'Twaun Moore (16.4 points, 3.8 rebounds) and JaJuan Johnson (15.3, 7.2)
Johnson totaled 23 points, five rebounds and four blocks against Duke. Moore had 18 points and four rebounds. Hummel, who didn't play because of knee surgery, is expected to be ready by next season.
Purdue also returns point guard Lewis Jackson, as well as guards Kelsey Barlow, Ryne Smith, D.J. Byrd, John Hart, plus forward Patrick Bade. It also will bring in a strong recruiting class with Indianapolis North Central guard Terone Johnson, Chicago guard Anthony Johnson, Danville forward Travis Carroll and New Albany forward Donnie Hale.
“We'll hand it over to three sensational juniors,” Kramer said. “They'll try to take it up a notch and keep what we've got going. I think Purdue is in good hands. They'll be back on top … next season.”