MERRILLVILLE – It truly was a bittersweet moment for Purdue men’s basketball fans in early March of this past season. Over 14,000 fans had crammed into Mackey Arena and they stood to applaud as former Boilermaker legend and Gary native Glenn Robinson was recognized during a timeout.
However, Robinson wasn’t there to root on his former team. He was there to cheer on his son, Glenn Robinson III, a starting guard for Michigan.
The Wolverines won that day (80-75) and continued mostly winning throughout the rest of the spring, right up until the national championship game. And they did so with not only the son of a Boiler legend, but two other northwest Indiana kids (Spike Albrecht and Mitch McGary), as well.
“All three of those guys that played for Michigan, they all had great years,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “They did a great job and Michigan has a great program.”
Painter was in “The Region” on Thursday to meet-and-greet during a Purdue Caravan event, and it wasn’t his first foray into the area, nor will it be his last.
When Painter was hired to restore the greatness to the Purdue program nine years ago, he was able to do so by reigning in the most talented players, E’Twaun Moore (East Chicago) and Robbie Hummel (Valparaiso) in northwestern Indiana.
“The success we had with Rob Hummel and E’Twaun Moore was something that got us going again,” Painter explained. “It was huge.”
Geography aside, Painter said it’s critical to get the right guys for Purdue, not necessarily the closest athletes.
“You have to be able to go out and get guys that fit your program,” Painter said. “From an educational standpoint, getting the right person, and obviously a guy that can play at that level. But this has traditionally been an area which we’ve been very successful in. But it doesn’t mean that players won’t ever leave this area.”
“The Region” continues to produce an abundance of talent, as it always has. There will be several players that help college programs achieve success and attract national attention over the next few years (see Michigan State forward – and Gary native – Brandon Dawson next season). Painter understands the importance of being a presence in the area, even though a lot of his competitors seek the same thing.
“A lot of (programs) have always recruited this area,” Painter said. “But it is important that we recruit our state hard and also this area.”
Painter picks Peck
The Boilermaker coach had the unexpected luxury of having three scholarships open earlier this spring, as Sandi Marcius, Jacob Lawson and Anthony Johnson each elected to transfer out of the program. Painter filled one of those vacancies with the addition of Cornell graduate student transfer Errick Peck.
Despite Peck having played in the non-scholarship Ivy League, Painter believes that the Cathedral High School graduate will make an impact for the Boilermakers.
“Errick had a very good career at Cornell,” Painter said. “He gives us kind of that combo (small or power forward). We think that he’s a very good addition for us.”
The 6-foot-6 forward averaged nearly 10 points and five boards for the Big Red this past season after missing his junior season with a knee injury.
“Errick gives us experience,” Painter said. “We don’t have any juniors on our team. He’ll be our oldest and most experienced guy.”
Purdue returns redshirt sophomore-to-be Donnie Hale at that position, as well as redshirt freshman Jay Simpson and incoming freshman Basil Smotherman. So Peck will have a lot of competition – though it will be much younger – for minutes next season.
“I think Errick is a player,” Painter said. “He’s going to be one of those guys that comes in and competes for a starting position. I don’t know if he will or not, he’s going to have to earn that. But after watching him on tape, I was very impressed.”