Robbie Hummel officially cleared to play

The one key subplot of Purdue's 2010-11 season is the health of Robbie Hummel's knee. Hummel tore his ACL so long ago -- all the way back in February -- that it's easy to forget that he will face a lengthy recovery curve at the beginning of the upcoming season. What if his knee doesn't feel 100 percent better? What if he feels athletically hampered? What if he, like so many others with major knee injuries, takes longer than normal to trust his own body again? Having Hummel back is a major boon to the Boilermakers' Final Four and national title chances, but it's important to remember that Robbie Hummel, at least for the early part of his senior season, might not be 100 percent Robbie Hummel.

Which is a very long-winded and theoretical way of introducing this, which definitively counts as good news: Hummel has been cleared to play basketball.

Purdue's team doctor has given him the go-ahead on "full basketball activities," but for now, Hummel says he is taking it slow. From the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana:

"I can do basically whatever I want," said Hummel, who was not expecting to be limited when the season starts. "I've been cleared to (play five-on-five), but I haven't done it yet. I'm thinking it's probably going to be next week.

"A few days ago, when (Shelbourne) said, 'You're cleared, I give you the OK to play,' that doesn't mean go out there and play open gym tomorrow. I think that means start playing some one-on-ones, two-on-twos, three-on-threes, and get comfortable with it. Because right now it still feels almost foreign to be running and moving around because I haven't done it in so long. I have to get my feet back under me. But I feel good where I'm at."

[...] In addition to the physical component, Hummel also is mentally preparing for his return to game action. "It'll probably take until the first time I get smoked," he said. "I've heard that from some people before -- you feel better when you fall down and you're able to get up."

That Hummel is cleared to play this many days before Purdue's season opener is obviously a good thing. A month or so of full-speed work can only help with the physical and mental challenge that an ACL recovery undoubtedly presents.

There might even be a silver lining here. Since Hummel couldn't play basketball for months at a time, he dedicated most of his efforts to the weight room, where he says he gained an extra 10 or 15 pounds. Maybe that weight makes him even more productive, especially in the low block. Purdue's interior could use an extra wide-body here and there. Maybe Hummel comes back from injury a better player than before. It's not completely far-fetched.

Either way, yeah: Robbie Hummel is playing basketball again. We'll see how his recovery goes when the full-speed game action comes around. For now, Purdue fans have to feel at least modestly encouraged.