What good is having one of the nation's top engineering programs if you can't put it to good use in fixing one of the nation's top centers on your Sweet 16-bound basketball team?
Purdue's sports medicine program has reached out to a group of mechanical engineers on campus, according to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, to see whether they can design an NCAA-approved brace that would at least open the door for 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas to be able to return to the court this season.
Purdue coach Matt Painter has been consistently clear that he doesn't expect Haas to be healthy enough to play in the Boilermakers' upcoming games regardless of the brace he wears on his recently fractured elbow, but it appears that engineers will take a stab at rebuilding him anyway. They might have the technology.
Haas fractured his right elbow on Friday when he fell hard during the second half of Purdue's first-round tournament victory over Cal State Fullerton. Postgame X-rays revealed a break that will require surgery to fix, and the team sent a news release shortly thereafter to say Haas would be out for the remainder of the season.
Haas wore a large, taped brace on his arm while attempting to practice over the weekend, but NCAA rules prohibit him from using the brace in a game. The rulebook states that players can't wear any non-pliable brace or cast on their elbow, wrist or hand.
The senior held out hope, though, that a few days' rest would help his elbow heal enough to give him a shot at returning to the court during Purdue's tournament run. He said he would delay the necessary surgery that would put a pin in his elbow until the Boilermakers' season is over.
"Maybe with some decrease in inflammation. Maybe with some opportunities to rest it without any kind of additional treatment, maybe some natural healing will do it well," Haas said Sunday. "One thing is for sure: I'm going to ride with these guys as long as they last. I know they'll make it all the way."
Painter told reporters Monday that he had heard there might be an engineering plan to try to build a brace that would pass the NCAA's requirements to be used in competition. Painter also added that his own requirements for Haas to play will be tougher hurdles to clear.
Painter said Haas will need to prove that he can raise his arm enough to rebound with two hands and shoot free throws with his right hand. Haas attempted to shoot with his left hand while Purdue warmed up for Sunday's second-round game against Butler.
"He has the best brace you can possibly have on that they didn't approve," Painter told reporters on Purdue's campus Monday afternoon. "So if he has the best brace possible and he can't shoot a right-handed free throw, this brace isn't going to be better. It's just going to be one that's a little bit less [bulky] and it's going to get approved. He still has a broken elbow."