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McClatchy Tribune
Minnesota’s Robbie Hummel, left, quickly learned that in the NBA there’s little space to operate because of the quickness of players.

Hummel adjusts to NBA style

Former Boiler says quickness, athleticism are big differences

– It looked much like a well-organized middle school basketball practice, except for the fact the guy playing point guard is 6-foot-8 and plays in the NBA.

Now 25 and having battled back from a pair of torn anterior cruciate ligaments of the right knee in 2010, former Purdue standout forward Robbie Hummel has come all the way back from physical adversity to play at his sport’s highest level while taking this past week to organize and direct a youth basketball camp for 170 students at The Fieldhouse in Merrillville.

The 58th selection in the NBA’s 2012 draft, Hummel played a year in Spain and then signed a one-year contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves – the team that drafted him – playing in 53 games in 2013-14, averaging 3.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.4 assists.

Hummel, who had 181 points and 132 rebounds in 651 minutes as an NBA rookie, earned $490,180. If Minnesota re-signs him, or if another club picks him up in free agency after Thursday’s NBA draft in New York, Hummel will earn $1,016,482 as a second-year NBA player.

He made five starts late in the Timberwolves’ season and is optimistic about his chances of continuing to earn a great living in the NBA.

“I started shooting the ball better at the end of the season,” Hummel said Wednesday after a full day of camp.

“I ended up shooting 37 percent from the 3-point line. I didn’t shoot well early, but I defended well and rebounded well.

“That’s what teams weren’t sure if I could do. I know I will shoot better, but to prove that I could do other things really was a positive.”

Hummel needed only a few games to understand the differences of playing in the NBA.

“The biggest difference from major college basketball to the NBA is the way space gets closed down in the NBA,” Hummel said. “It’s the fact everyone is so much quicker and more athletic. Shots that look open on TV are not as open as you think.

“It’s night-and-day different; ... a completely different ball game. Everybody is quick, and everybody is good.”

Hummel, whose paternal grandparents originally are from Minnesota, enjoys Minneapolis and would love to continue to play for the Timberwolves, especially now that former front office executive Flip Saunders is the new coach.

But a lot will depend on Thursday’s draft and what direction the Timberwolves decide to go. Hummel is living in Chicago this summer, working out and waiting for word from his agent, Mark Bartelstein, who also represents Hummel’s former Purdue teammate, E’Twaun Moore.

“We were a little inconsistent, but it is a learning experience,” Hummel said of the Timberwolves, who were 40-42 last season. “Last year, for most of us, was our first year together.

“They brought in a lot of new guys and had (small forward) Corey Brewer coming back. There was some turnover, and it takes time to adjust to playing with everyone.”

Former Purdue teammate DJ Byrd, who spent this past season playing professionally in Germany, worked Hummel’s camp for kids and is thrilled that Hummel is getting a chance to play in the NBA.

“I’m really happy for what Rob has been able to do,” Byrd said. “I was there when he went downhill as far as his injuries. He played in Spain and went the long way to get to the NBA. So far, he has been doing a great job in the league. He definitely can be a great role player for any team in the NBA.”

In addition to the talent differential, the lengthy travel in the NBA was an adjustment for Hummel after playing in the Big Ten, where he became Purdue’s No. 9 career scorer with 1,772 points to go with 862 rebounds, three times earning first-team, all-Big Ten honors.

“In college, you are staying in the Midwest,” Hummel said. “When I was there, it mainly was travel to Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Really, you are not going that far. The flights all are like an hour.

“In the NBA, it’s San Francisco, Sacramento and Portland, so that makes it different, but at the same time, the charter planes are super nice.”

While he now plays in the NBA, Hummel still keeps close tabs on Purdue and coach Matt Painter, knowing that the 31-35 record of the past two seasons frustrates his former coach.

Hummel said Painter’s stellar 2007 recruiting class that also included Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Scott Martin was looking for different things than some of today’s high school and AAU standouts are seeking in a university basketball experience.

Hummel said that group wanted an honest coach, a college degree and a quality basketball program wrapped into one. He is not sure some of today’s players seek all three of those elements.

“Even Coach Painter would tell you he is not happy with the way the last two seasons went,” Hummel said. “But there is no doubt in my mind that Coach Painter is the person that needs to be at Purdue and is the right person to coach the men’s basketball team. He is a great coach and an even better person.

“I like the freshmen coming in, and they have some pieces that are remaining. I think they are going to be better. They have been so young every year. Some things have happened, some of which were out of his control.”