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Blue Ribbon Yearbook

LOCATION: West Lafayette, INI
LAST SEASON: 21-13 (.618)
NICKNAME: Boilermakers
COLORS: Old Gold & Black
HOMECOURT: Mackey Arena (14,123)
COACH: Gene Keady (Kansas State '58)
record at school 415-182 (19 years)
career record 453-200 (21 years)
ASSISTANTS: Jim Thrash (Eastern New Mexico '68)
Jay Price (Kansas '91)
Todd Foster (Purdue '96)
TEAM WINS: (last 5 years) 25-16-18-28-21
RPI (last 5 years) 21-13-20-8-23
1998-99 FINISH: Lost in NCAA Sweet 16.

ESPN.com Clubhouse

At age 63, Gene Keady still has the fire and hair color of someone half his age. But he looked like a beaten man last winter. And we're not just talking about the numbers on the scoreboard.

If any 21-win season could be less enjoyable than Purdue's bumpy ride in 1998-99, Keady will skip the trip, thank you very much. After 19 seasons and six Big Ten titles in West Lafayette, the Boilermaker Express has one conductor. That isn't now and never will be a disgruntled player with his own agenda.

To understand the problem, you have to examine the Purdue psyche. In a basketball-crazed state, the Boilermakers can never quite be Indiana, no matter how often they beat the Hoosiers. That lack of appreciation hasn't been helped by what has happened in the past few months.

The fact is, Purdue is No. 1 on the all-time list with 21 Big Ten championships and 767 conference victories. The Boilermakers are 415-181 overall under Keady, a five-time national Coach of the Year. And their number of league titles in the decade a three-peat from 1994-96 was matched only by Michigan State's total.

The standards are understandably high: Total effort, disciplined play and team goals rank well past individual pursuits. Last season, there were too many games in which Purdue was 0-for-3 in those areas. To make things worse, a program that had always prided itself in ethical conduct and winning the right way was floored by a two-year NCAA probation.

An appeal was pending in mid-September. Until then, the NCAA contends the Boilermakers violated rules in recruiting, gave extra benefits and were guilty of unethical conduct, primarily through the actions of Frank Kendrick, a former player in the program and a 10-year assistant coach who asked to be reassigned. Kendrick is now an aide to the director of operations at the Purdue Memorial Union.

Blue Ribbon Analysis

Last season wasn't good enough for anyone in Mackey Arena. And that's a perfect start in Purdue's effort to rebound. But if the Boilermakers can't be successful with this group, they have a major retooling effort ahead.

Purdue won't be quick enough to run with Michigan State or Ohio State, and probably not with Illinois. After that, anything is possible.

Cornell and Cardinal are capable of being as good as any tandem in the league, including those with the Spartans and Buckeyes. The difference is the lack of a proven star at point guard. And that should keep Keady's team from contending all the way.

Look for a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten, 20-plus wins and another victory or two in the postseason but nothing more.

That didn't stop the NCAA from cutting one scholarship, limiting recruiting visits and recommending the school repay up to $380,000 in NCAA Tournament revenue or from staining the once-spotless image of "Clean Gene," as unfair as that linkage might be.

Keady was cited for one illegal phone call and was shocked by the ruling's overall severity. But the NCAA thought Kendrick helped secure a loan for a player, Luther Clay, and met with then-recruit Jamaal Davis during a non-contact period. Both players left the program.

Maybe the oddest aspect for those who don't know him is that Keady never left Purdue. If he had gone to Arizona State in 1989, Bill Frieder couldn't have left Michigan. That makes you wonder if we ever would have heard of Steve Fisher or the Fab Five. Even last spring, when Keady's name was tied to an opening at San Diego State, Fisher was the eventual beneficiary.

If Keady wants to retire in Mackey Arena, he should certainly have that opportunity. A contract extension last May carries through June 2003 with the Boilermakers. But if his players' attitudes don't change from last season, Keady could walk (maybe into a courtroom to argue it was justifiable homicide).

Sparky Anderson used to tell his ballplayers, "It's my way or the highway." And with Keady, the entrance ramps to I-65 could be jammed if his players don't respond with a new disposition.

From all indications, they have heard Keady's message again. If the idea is to press this season, the players have to be willing to run, not just to go halfway. If the plan is to utilize the talents of seniors Jaraan Cornell and Brian Cardinal, that means someone has to pass the ball and set picks.

For years, Purdue's players have had the mantra "Play Hard" on the back of their practice shorts. And if they dove for enough balls and drew enough charges, the ultimate honor was to need a new pair. Last winter, for the first time in memory, that slogan was a cruel reminder of what the Boilermakers refused to do.

Purdue has never won an NCAA crown, despite more than its share of excellence. But even when the Boilermakers were outmanned, they were seldom outworked. Last season, they were almost unemployed from a basketball perspective in a 7-9 Big Ten season the first time a Keady-coached team won fewer than eight games in the conference.

Unless that changes, a scowling head coach will be one miserable man. And his players won't have a lot of fun, either.

(6-3, 200 lbs., SR, SG, #22, 15.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.9 tpg, 1.4 spg, 30.7 minutes, .406 FG, .347 3PT, .789 FT, Clay HS/South Bend, Ind.)

Cornell appeared to be ready for stardom after a terrific sophomore season, but it never quite worked out that way.

With defenses geared to stop backcourt partner Chad Austin in 1997-98, Cornell shot .519 from the field, a school-record .500 from long range and .813 at the foul line. He also had more assists than turnovers and played solid defense, a must in Keady's program.

When Cornell suffered a severe ankle sprain that sidelined him for eight games, including the Big Ten Tournament, the Boilermakers weren't nearly the same. He tried to play in the NCAAs that year, but couldn't do what he had done so well.

His shooting percentages plunged last season as Purdue's No. 1 option. Cornell always drew the opposition's top perimeter defender. And the difference was obvious.

The silky left-hander might actually be a bit overlooked this season and is poised for a big performance in his last tour of the Big Ten. Cornell has good ability on defense. If he can help at all with leadership, he might have as much to do with his team's success as Austin did in the championship years.

Look for Cornell to regroup and be a strong All-Big Ten candidate. If he is among the top five players in the league, the Boilermakers will be extremely successful.

(6-8, 230 lbs., SR, PF, #35, 11.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.9 tpg, 2.3 spg, 28.2 minutes, .480 FG, .374 3PT, .776 FT, Unity HS/Tolono, Ill.)

No one missed departed center Brad Miller more than Cardinal last season, as the defensive focus up front switched from the pivot to power forward.

Cardinal played fairly well again, but not as well as he can or as well he will have to for Purdue's team to make as much noise as its fans. He has averaged between 10.6 and 12.0 ppg in each of his first three seasons, but is capable of boosting that number in his final shot.

Cardinal did a better job of avoiding silly fouls last season and fouled out just three times, half his disqualifications of his first two years. But officials were also less inclined to reward his flops and dives with free-throw opportunities.

If he quit worrying about being hacked all the time and stopped trying to thread passes through the eye of a storm, Cardinal would be more productive. Effort has never been his problem. And there is no reason he should be lackadaisical now.

Cardinal has been a leader before. This time, that role might be as essential as anything he does on the court. With 95 career starts to his credit, the fifth-year performer has seen it all and needs to help Keady keep people together.

He was terrific at times in the Big Ten Tournament and could barge onto a lot of All-Big Ten ballots with a big sendoff. That level of improvement should tell NBA scouts whether Cardinal is a future pro or just another good college player.

(6-7, 215 lbs., SR, C, #32, 10.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.9 apg, 1.5 tpg, 0.7 spg, 25.5 minutes, .568 FG, .534 FT, Southern Idaho JC & West HS/Gary, Ind.)

It's not that there's only room for one McQuay brother on the Boilermakers. But a year after joining Gary in West Lafayette, the pair are separated again.

Greg is a year older, a lot thicker and a little more physical than Gary the brother, not the city. The McQuay who stayed can bump and jump well enough to play inside and hold his own against bigger post players. They have to deal with his quickness, too.

If McQuay can improve his free-throw accuracy by .150, a difficult task but a reasonable goal, he will put 20 more points on the scoreboard perhaps enough to bring a couple of extra wins. In his second year of Big Ten play, that could be the difference between title contention and a contentious situation.

What happened with Gary was Gary's problem. What happens with Greg could be a problem for several of Purdue's opponents.

(6-6, 210 lbs., SR, SF, #23, 7.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.6 tpg, 0.5 bpg, 20.8 minutes, .446 FG, .200 3PT, .688 FT, Richwoods HS/Peoria, Ill.)

If you listen, you can almost hear Simon and Garfunkel: "What's that you say, Mr. Robinson? A great career has left and gone away. Hey, hey, hey "

As a high school senior, Robinson scored 30.2 ppg, was a McDonald's All-America and talked trash with the best of them at Magic's Roundball Classic. Today, those rivals have every right to wonder, "Whatever happened to that Robinson guy?"

After a decent sophomore season, capped by a strong performance in the conference tournament, Robinson's play as a junior was a major disappointment, if not a disaster. He never got off the bench against Michigan State, for instance, and heard the rumors everyone else did that Keady wanted him gone.

What a demanding coach wanted was for Robinson to play about 80 percent harder and to tap a vast reservoir of talent. Only Robinson can make that happen. And he should be smart enough to turn on the television and see exactly how much money is at stake.

(6-1, 185 lbs., JR, PG, #43, 6.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.2 apg, 2.0 tpg, 0.4 spg, 14.8 minutes, .414 FG, .406 3PT, .797 FT, Oregon State & Andrean HS/Ogden Dunes, Ind.)

Cunningham didn't like the direction the Beavers were swimming in Corvallis, Ore., and returned to his native state in 1997.

Since then, he has been a mystery man and an X-factor not to be confused with the x-rays that might have to be taken when Keady pounds on someone's head. But Cunningham is good enough at times to make Purdue a very dangerous team.

He added about 15 pounds over the spring and summer. That doesn't count the pound he lost last season when he dropped a poofy hairdo that made him look like the second coming of Eddie Munster.

Cunningham isn't your typical jock, marching to the beat of a drum as loud as the biggest one in the Boilermakers' band. He's a history major, a voracious reader of the classics and an avid gardener. He is more likely to talk about alternative fuels than to sit around and pass gas with his pals.

A big season from Cunningham could be just the fuel the Purdue engine needs.

(6-1, 170 lbs., SO, G, #12, 1.2 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.3 tpg, 0.2 spg, 4.9 minutes, .382 FG, .267 3PT, .500 FT, South HS/Terre Haute, Ind.)

This prolific high school scorer could be first off the bench this season. He led the Big Ten's touring team in Austria with 11.5 ppg and shot nearly 54 percent from beyond the arc.

Lewis wasn't ready to contribute last season and probably would have redshirted under different circumstances. But in pickup games on campus, he showed a willingness to drive to the basket. He even got into a shouting match with Cardinal over a physical play. That wouldn't have happened 12 months ago.

(6-10, 235 lbs., SO, C, #54, 1.0 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.3 tpg, 0.6 bpg, 4.6 minutes, .550 FG, .692 FT, New Palestine HS/New Palestine, Ind.)

Another typical Keady redshirt had to play as a freshman and posed more questions than he answered. His shot-blocking talents were negated by persistent foul trouble.

Allison needs to develop on offense, but runs very well and has added 20 well-placed pounds. He's still no Robert Traylor, or even "Tractor Lite." But at least he has a chance to compete now.

(6-6, 220 lbs., SO, F, #31, 1.1 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.2 apg, 4.5 minutes, Pike HS/Indianapolis, Ind.)

When asked who the season's big surprise would be, 11 Purdue players said "Rodney Smith." If they're right, this slasher and excellent leaper could be just what Keady ordered.

Smith has also added 15 pounds in the right places and might have a better idea of what to do. The inexperience showed last season at Penn State when he picked up three fouls in about 90 seconds.

(6-0, 170 lbs., SR, G, #11, 0.4 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 0.3 apg, 2.6 minutes, Central HS/Greenfield, Ind.)

Kerkhof is a walk-on who earned a scholarship and might have developed into the team's best defender. A co-captain, he won't steal anyone's attempts from the field. But he could help in limited minutes and be a huge influence the rest of the time.

(6-3, 185 lbs., FR, G, #20, 22.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, West HS/Gary, Ind.)

Hailing from the same school as the McQuays, Lowe brings a reputation as a very intense, versatile player good qualities to have on a Keady-coached team.

He played everywhere from point guard to small forward the past three years, and could play quite a bit at some spot this season. Keady is big on loyalty and seniority. But Lowe could prove he belongs right away.

(6-9, 240 lbs., FR, C, #21, 13.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, Keokuk HS/Keokuk, Ind.)

He could be the John Allison of 1998-99. Either way, he should make Allison a better player, if nothing else, by providing a big body in practice.

Will he redshirt? Normally, he would be a prime candidate. But if depth is a problem, Wetzel could get his feet wet a year sooner than expected.

(6-1, PG, 6.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.3 tpg, 1.3 spg, 28.7 minutes, .361 FG, .252 3PT, .681 FT)

Eldridge was strictly a complementary player, although he did have 16 points against North Carolina as a junior. With 62 career starts, he had every opportunity to contribute. And he did that in an understated way.

In an all-southpaw backcourt, Eldridge never shot the ball well enough to take enough pressure off Jaraan Cornell. A .328 career field-goal percentage didn't cut it at Purdue, and wouldn't do the job in any less-demanding environment.

His three-point accuracy also dipped from an excellent .404 in limited duty his first three seasons to .252 as the team's No. 2 perimeter option last year. Since none of the team's nine league losses was by less than four points, at least no one can say Purdue was one jumper away.

Eldridge was a co-captain as a senior but wasn't the strongest leader the program has had. He was a little too quiet regarding what Keady needed to have done. But the Fort Wayne native did more in his career than many expected as a sleeper prospect.

(6-1, G, 2.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.3 tpg, 0.7 spg, 16.8 minutes, .324 FG, .270 3PT, .652 FT)

Mayfield started 11 times last season, but wasn't the answer to Keady's prayers. He was never flashy and was often unnoticed, on the court and off it as a senior leader.

The Milwaukee native and transfer from Tyler (Tex.) JC didn't pick the best time to be a Boilermaker. But he was still part of 49 wins the past two seasons, including four victories in the NCAA Tournament.

(6-8, F, 3.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.7 tpg, 0.5 spg, 15.4 minutes, .484 FG, .490 FT)

Stephens would have been a prominent member of the rotation as a junior and could have worked his way into the starting lineup. But a second academic problem forced him to move on to Vincennes (Ind.) CC.

He was seventh in minutes played last season. Depending on what his rate of development had been, that loss could hurt Purdue just enough to keep it from sneaking into title contention.

(6-8, F, 2.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.8 tpg, 0.1 bpg, 9.5 minutes, .464 FG, .591 FT)

The younger McQuay would rather have stayed at Purdue for his senior season. But after discussions with Keady, it was mutually agreed that a transfer was best. So he'll sit out this season, then finish at Florida International.

McQuay must have figured he would slide into a starting assignment a year ago. But when he didn't work hard enough that summer and didn't show Keady he cared last season, he came off the bench in all 29 appearances and often bucked the system.

(6-7, F, 2.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.3 tpg, 0.3 spg, 7.9 minutes, .519 FG, .278 FT)

Davis sat out the 1997-98 season due to academics, then left the team last December after proving one thing: He needs to become a better free-throw shooter.

The Merrillville, Ind., native will best be remembered as a subject of the NCAA investigation, but might surface somewhere else after a stint in junior college.

Attitude? If this team doesn't play with more of a purpose than we saw last season, someone in a coat and tie could blow an aorta by February.

Depth? Under NBA rules with trading allowed, this would be a perfect time for a three-for-one deal, probably with Illinois. Injuries could turn a darkhorse opportunity into some very dark days.

Probation? Though the Boilermakers can still play on television and appear in the NCAA Tournament, their image and reputation will be affected if an appeal isn't seriously considered.

Seniors! The last time Purdue had a team with this much veteran experience (1996), it stunned everyone who expected a falloff and won a third straight Big Ten championship.

Consistency! Keady's Boilermakers have played in the NCAA Tournament 15 times and the NIT three other years, sitting home just once. That isn't likely to change this March.

Keady! No one in the league competes harder than the former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back. If there's a pulse anywhere close to this team, he will find it.

The 19th edition of Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook is on sale now. To order, call 800-828-HOOP (4667), or visit their web site at http://www.collegebaskets.com

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