One would assume, based on one's sporadic and entirely unscientific knowledge of ACL injuries, that Robbie Hummel's long rehabilitation from his second ACL tear -- the one he suffered just prior to the 2010-11 season -- would have allowed him plenty of time to get back to feeling comfortable on the basketball court.
But last week at Big Ten media day, Hummel seemed slightly less than convinced; he told me his knee was "structurally sound" but that there were still things he didn't quite trust it to do -- rebounding in traffic among them. "At this point, it's all mental," he said.
Perhaps Hummel was selling himself short. The Purdue senior starred in the Boilermakers' first exhibition game Tuesday night, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds in -- get this -- just 15 minutes of action. If my math is correct, Hummel was on track for something like a 46-point, 18-rebound game. That's a stellar performance in minor minutes, and it speaks to a level of comfort perhaps even Hummel didn't realize he had.
After the game, Hummel was asked what must be the 5,234th version of "How does your knee feel," and he likewise seemed encouraged by his play. From the Indy Star:
"It felt great," a smiling Hummel said moments after the game. "It felt great to be out there with the guys. It was everything I could hope for. My knee feels solid, and I feel like I am getting better every day in practice."
"The only thing you can judge on is what you see," [Purdue coach Matt] Painter said. "He looks comfortable, and the ball goes in. He makes 3s. He makes pull-ups."
Painter has been careful to introduce his star player slowly in the preseason; last week, Hummel was still on an every-other-day practice regimen. Painter may want to see more from Hummel in extended minutes, but if Hummel can ball like this right now, it might be time to ramp things up. Few players in the country will be as important to their teams as Hummel will be to Purdue in 2011-12. The sooner he's back in the mix, the better.