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Patience has its reward for Purdue’s Grady Eifert

Grady Eifert
Grady Eifert

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ONLINE: For more on sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Walk-on from Dwenger building for a better tomorrow

Saturday, March 18, 2017 05:30 pm
MILWAUKEE, Wis. — The NCAA tourney spotlight misses Grady Eifert. That’s OK. It’s not why he’s a Purdue Boilermaker. Open locker rooms are part of the NCAA tourney experience, which means media opportunities for those who play. Eifert doesn’t. Not really.

That, too, is OK.

The former Bishop Dwenger standout wears Gold & Black for the opportunity and the passion.

Earning significant playing time?

That’s for later.

“I wanted to go somewhere bigger and to a school that had a chance to do something special,” he says.

“Like this.”

Around him, Boilermakers exude the confidence that comes from being Big Ten champs and, finally, a NCAA tourney first-round winner.

Eifert is a 6-6 walk-on sophomore forward whose minutes come in limited doses. He hasn’t played in six games. His most minutes (eight) came in the Nov. 11 season opener against McNeese State. In his 14 games he scored a total of 15 points. His best game was against Norfolk State, when he had four points and two rebounds.

This is minor improvement over last season, when he played in 11 games and totaled seven points.

But Eifert reflects a mindset and attitude coach Matt Painter wanted as he built the program back from the 2015 Big Ten basement.

“You want to bring guys in your program who get it, who play hard, who do what they’re supposed to do, who go to class and get good grades,” Painter says. “But they also have to bring you something every day to make you better. He does that.”

And if Eifert does it without playing-time reward, so be it.

“Just the behind-the-scenes things, pushing guys in practice,” he says. “And whenever that time comes to play, just being ready to help out the team anyway you can. That’s where the reward comes from.”

Don’t under-estimate his contributions.

“He does what he needs to do every day,” forward Vincent Edwards says. “He works hard every day. He helps make us better by how hard he goes after rebounds and how hard he crashes the glass. He has a knack for being around the ball. He has a nose for the ball.

“It’s a lot of fun to have him around. For him to not give up because he doesn’t play a lot, he doesn’t complain. He does what he needs to do and makes us better.”

Adds Painter: “His ability to play different positions in practice and to play hard in practice really helps us. He’s somebody athletically who could end up playing for us.

“Sometimes you have guys as walk-ons who have physical limitations. They’re in-between spots or positions. He can play both of them (small and power forward). He can guard both of them. Athletically, he can get in the game and defend and rebound and not lose a beat.

“That’s his growth and what he’s going to have to do in the future. It hasn’t presented itself because we have some pretty good guys in those spots.”

Eifert’s potential is helped by an athletic family. His father, Greg, was a Purdue basketball standout from 1981-81. Older brother Tyler played football at Notre Dame and is a dynamic tight end for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

As a Dwenger senior in 2014, Eifert averaged 15.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.2 steals to lead the Saints to sectional and regional titles, and earn honorable mention all-state honors.

He then spent a year in prep school before joining the Boilers.

“I had some smaller school offers,” he says, “but I was really comfortable with this place. My dad went here. My sister (Morgan) graduated from here. Coach Painter is an excellent coach. All that really caught my eye.”

Eifert pushes for the future. Improve enough, demonstrate consistent productivity, and he’ll crack the rotation.

“Just keep working in the weight room, keep getting bigger and stronger and faster,” he said.

“I’m fine with waiting another year. I’m learning from guys like (Caleb Swanigan) and the others so I know what to work on in the off-season.”

For one year at least, Eifert is learning with a scholarship. Painter had one available and gave it to him.

“That was exciting,” Eifert said. “It’s something you work your whole life for, to get a scholarship at a place like this. That’s been a dream of mine.”

The dream continues.

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


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