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COLUMN

Paying his dues pays off for Rob Hummel

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For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Ex-Boiler finds NBA niche with Minnesota

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 4:54 pm

WEST LAFAYETTE – Robbie Hummel is conflicted. Let's start with that. Hummel is a good guy, an outstanding basketball player, who burns with the play-full-go passion.

Sitting and watching isn't part of his DNA.

And when he does, well, he gets conflicted.

Hummel wants to play in the next Purdue alumni basketball game, which is set for two years from now. He wants to relive his Boiler great years with former teammates such as E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, Chris Kramer and Lewis Jackson. He wants to show he still has game against the likes of Kenneth Lowe, David Teague, Jaraan Cornell, and more.

But then, he's also no fool. He wants to extend his NBA career to a decade or so. And as long as he's a signed NBA player, as he currently is with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he can't participate in Purdue alumni games. That's why he was just a spectator last Saturday at Mackey Arena.

Hence, the conflict.

“It's great to see everybody again, great to see them play in Mackey again,” he says. “Hopefully one of these times I can play, but I guess if I can't play, that means I have a job, so I'm really not sure how I feel about it.”

A pause.

“But it is a great event.”

The basketball gods have finally stopped trying to turn Hummel into the 21st Century version of the biblical Job. His knees are fine; his back isn't a problem; and he's ready to show that he can be a difference maker like he was at Purdue and, before that, at Valparaiso High School.

Hummel is a NBA veteran now, and if it's only for one season and 53 games, let's not quibble over success. He just signed his first full-year contract, worth $900,000. No, that's not LeBron James territory, but you have to start somewhere.

“It's great. I'm excited about signing and getting some job security. I'm very relieved.”

Two years ago, Hummel wasn't sure if NBA relief would ever come. He was Minnesota's second round pick, played in the NBA summer league, but didn't make preseason camp, so he signed with a Spanish team, Blu sens Monobus. A month into that season, he tore cartilage in his right knee, and was sidelined for two months.

In the summer of 2013, Hummel rejoined the Timberwolves for their summer league. In September, he signed a contract, and went on to average 3.4 points and 2.5 rebounds as a rookie. That got him to this summer, when he signed a one-year deal.

Hummel hopes it's the start of a decade-long partnership, and is using the off-season to sharpen his game.

“I want to get in the best shape I can. It's really honing your jump shot, staying sharp. You've got to do what you do. I'm not going to reinvent my game. I have to be consistent and keep doing what I've been doing forever, which is shooting, being solid.”

At Purdue he was honorable mention All-America solid. Despite a pair of knee injuries that cost him all of one season, and part of another, he finished in Purdue's career top 10 in rebounds (fourth at 862) and scoring (ninth with 1,772 points). He also totaled 268 assists, 132 steals and 112 blocks, which reflects why he's considered one of the most versatile Boilers ever.

That helped him stay with the Timberwolves. He gives coach Flip Saunders a shooter off the bench with the ability to play nearly every position. Last season he scored as many as 12 points, grabbed as many as nine rebounds. In his season finale, he had 10 points and nine rebounds while playing 32 minutes in a loss to Utah.

After a year in the NBA, what's the biggest challenge?

It's not the travel.

“The travel to me is not that bad,” Hummel said. “You're on a nice plane. You don't wait in airports. You just hop on planes. You're not stuck in lines.

“The biggest challenge is the level of competition, the level of athletes you see. It's pretty incredible.”

As for those hoping to make the league some day, Hummel offered this advice:

“Keep working on your game. When you're in college you think you're so overwhelmed with school and practice. It is a lot. All of us (Hummel, Moore, Johnson), we did a pretty good job of working out, but as we look back, we think, Man, we could have done more.

“Now, it's our job. You have all that time. Back then, you don't think you do. Just keep working at it. And it's very important to be a good person and do things the right way.”

Last Saturday the right way left him a disappointed alumni game spectator.

“I wanted to play,” he said. “It's one of those things that once you sign a contract, you can't play or you'll get fined. It stunk sitting on the bench watching guys I played with and guys I watched play, but it's the way it goes.”

There's no conflict about that.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.