Tonight, Keaton Grant (or "kee-tawn," as Talent Tom Hamilton might call him) plays his last home game in a Boilermaker uniform.
There have been ups and downs with Keaton in many ways. For one thing, he was recruited during a fairly dark time for Purdue basketball, committing in March of '06, as the Boilers were wrapping up a 9-18 (3-13) season and saying goodbye to Gene Keady. He was rated 129 nationally by Rivals and was recruited by our old friend Cuonzo Martin.
Keaton has seen nothing but 20-win seasons in his time in West Lafayette, and people forget how good he looked when he was a sophomore. That year, KG averaged 11.2 points, 3.2 boards, shot 43% from the field and 44% (!) from three-point range. It looked like a star was in the making.
Unfortunately, Keaton's production did not continue its upward climb as he battled recovering from a knee injury last season. He played in all 37 games, but something was clearly not right with KG. Despite that, one of the good soldiers of Purdue basketball continued on, playing hard and gelling with his teammates. The "Baby Boilers" were coming of age and Keaton was content to let them shine (that's his way, he always walked a step behind).
This season KG's numbers continue to dip, to the point that he lost his starting gig earlier in the season. As it turned out, it was nice to have an experienced senior who could hit big shots coming off the bench, and this shake-up actually led to Kelsey Barlow getting really important minutes that will help benefit the Purdue basketball program for several years.
KG is averaging 6.5 ppg this year and had only had double digit scoring outputs against Central Michigan, Valpo and SIU-Edwardsville.... that is, until we needed him.
In the three games preceding the recent loss to MSU (in which absolutely no one played well), Keaton had scored 13, 15, and 10, averaged three rebounds a game, shot 52% from the field and 7-of-9 from the line. Superhuman numbers? No, of course not. But a wonderful compliment when the team needed him? Yes, indeed.
And, of course, perhaps his defining moment thus far this season -- after Rob Hummel crumpled to the floor with a shredded ACL in the first half against Minny, the team looked as discombobulated as they have in a long time. However, the ground their way back into it and down the stretch it was Keaton Grant who his three clutch shots to salt the game away, including the game-winning jumper with seven seconds left. As Boilerdowd pointed out, LewJack made a nice dish and KG simply rose up and fired the jumper, with zero hesitation. He owned that shot and was confident. He was the guy we've only seen glimpses of the past two seasons. He was the guy we miss. He was the guy we have really enjoyed having as a Boilermaker.
So tonight, when they introduce #5 for the last time at home in Boilermaker uniform, let him know you appreciate his service and his unselfish personality. This is a guy who said he came to Purdue because of the family feel he got when he visited from his home, far away in Kissimmee, Florida.
Let's make him feel like part of the family one more time.