Alumni Game Rekindles the Old Fire
If you read my thoughts on the upcoming football season in the wake of the B1G Media Days, you might not have been too stoked about what lies ahead...but the problem that I have with PR and media appearances is simple- old problems are still there until we see something that proves otherwise. Conversely, there wasn't much talky-talky today...just a bunch of Purdue legends playing basketball...and it was cathartic. LBD, TBD, Mrs. BDowd and I went up to God's country to just enjoy campus and watch the alumni game...and everything went our way, I guess...even the weather.
A few years ago, the first alumni game occurred in Mackey- We were all steamed like clams on that afternoon as Mackey was sweltering. Today, it hovered around 80 degrees...and a small event became massive in its second go-around as tons of ex-Boilers played in the game.
Guys that I remember looking up to at Purdue basketball camp when I was in middle school, The Three Amigos (Mitchell, Lewis and Stephens) were all there...and only Stephens didn't play. The former Mayor of Broad Ripple, and current pal of Purdue HC Matty Painter, Craig Riley, logged significant minutes in the first half. Current Coach, Brandon Brantley absolutely did work against recent grad Travis Carroll (who coach Brantley told me was "talking too much trash" before the two matched up). Former McDonald's AA, Mike Robinson played a ton of minutes...hit three-straight three pointers...the final was an and-1 situation. Kenny Lowe led a defensive charge that brought the gold team out of a double-digit deficit that ended with him getting the crowd into it by convincing the small, but die-hard crowd that the comeback was worth something (although it wasn't).
The defensive rotations were molasses slow, and the sharp shooters took advantage...Brian Cardinal hit a few from long range and then wrestled a loose ball into possession as Brantley (once again) dove ON TOP of Cardinal to try to keep it alive. LewJack took absolute advantage of the old guys on the court by slicing up the defense time and again...and if there was any doubt, Ronnie Johnson was NEVER close to as quick as Jackson.
Jackson, like Grant, Kramer and Teague looked much leaner than they did when they played for the Forces of Good. All have been given good advice that by staying lean, they'll be more explosive and their knees will and lower bodies will have better durability. Grant demonstrated it by dunking a few times; once was a high-flyer from about 10 feet out...which he easily finished. Kramer crossed over a few of his opponents and caused one of my favorite moments of the game as they both fell as they tried to react to the change of direction.
I talked to a few of the stars of the day- The late addition, Keaton Grant was one of my favorites- told me that he had lost 20 pounds...and looked it. Also told me that he now was a Dad...and his new Daughter had changed his perspective on things a bit. He also said that his time playing abroad had helped him appreciate some of the things at home that he used to take for granted. Whether that conversation or getting to talk to Jay Simpson about his life after basketball, I loved related to these guys that I really enjoyed cheering for. By the way, Jay's adjusting well to life after basketball...and feels pretty blessed that things went the way they did; but misses the game and his teammates.
Smooge and JJ connected a few times and missed on a few other tries; but both were impressive; Moore wasn't looking to score too much, JJ was...and he might have been leading scorer. I don't know the stats for this one...don't really care either.
Buckets made a few threes, shot a few more, same for former Wohlf Pack leader, Mark Wohlford...and Dru Anthrop and his Dad were the only Father/son duo to play in the game...but another one was in the building.
You've all heard it, but Isaac Haas is simply massive in person. He struggled to sit under a standard table to sign autographs and made a respectably-tall Vince Edwards look like me when the young guys were announced at halftime.
The fans that were in the house today were there because they're Purdue basketball fans...or wonks...or dorks...depending on your perspective. And one thing I noted via Twitter was that the fanbase loves the rich heritage of the program, believes that our Boilers should be winning again soon and are extremely hungry for a winner.
For the record, my MVP was Brandon Brantley- he was one of the oldest guys making an impact...and he was battling when in the game. JJ would have been an easy pick, but honestly, this type of game is pretty easy for him still. Guys like Maynard Lewis, Rodney Smith and Troy Lewis who look like they've been out of basketball for a few years, but are still busting their asses were pretty easy for me to relate with...the only difference is, I could never really play the game; all of these guys could ball a few years ago; And glimpses of the younger version of themselves showed up at times today.
Today, Like Little BoilerDowd, reminded me, Purdue was assured a victory before the ball was tipped...and all Boiler faithful in attendance were the winners.
Good job by the Athletic Department.
Ross-Ade's turf is green, but kind of patchy. Sprinklers were at work trying to get the field back in order for the game that is now less than a month away. The surface is showing HUGE improvement...but still isn't up to Purdue's ag school's standards, I'm sure.
I still vote for field turf...and I think Coach Hazell does too and that might pull a bit more weight than my opinion.
Bookstores are full of black helmet t-shirts...so while I'm not sure if the black helmet will be the primary, I'm positive that it will be a regular fixture for our Boilers this fall.
Purdue's back patio is taking shape; a few pergolas are erect on either side of the pad that used to support the crappy stands in Ross-Ade...I'll await judgement on this makeshift space until I see it completed.
A few more things...
Greg McQuay was sitting in the lower bowl for the first half of the game before his pal Kenny Lowe brought him down for an introduction at halftime. I'm not sure what led up to that moment, but McQuay seemed very humble...but Burke, a few coaches and a couple of his former teammates all gathered around him before he took his seat on the gold team bench. I don't know about what was in his head, but my head went right to his brother who died much too young...I'm glad Purdue pulled him into the event.
Also, I'm told that Marcius was in the building...I don't know how I missed him, but am glad that he still considers himself part of the Purdue basketball family. He is a tough guy not to like.
Finally, Former Coach Frank Kendrick played in todays game- it was great to see him back in the right colors. He went over and shook Keady's hand at one point too. I've heard that their relationship had been frosty...
He's a Purdue guy; glad he's back on the right side of the world.