Purdue forward Robbie Hummel, left, makes a pass over Eastern Michigan guard Antonio Green in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011. Purdue defeated Eastern Michigan 61-36. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:41AM
WEST LAFAYETTE — In the time leading up to the start of the NBA Draft on Thursday night, Robbie Hummel — who near the very end would become the newest member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, at No. 58 overall — chatted calmly with family members and friends, smiling freely.
He posed for photos.
He ate dinner in a booth at a restaurant down the road from the Purdue campus, with the reserved room eventually packed — overflowing, more accurately — with his loved ones.
This truly was a celebration of all that Hummel is as a person, accomplished as a player at Valparaiso High and Purdue, has endured, has overcome — we all know about the two times he tore the ACL in his right knee, as well as the stress fracture in his back.
There were teammates, former teammates, incoming Boilermakers freshmen with whom he will never play. There were parents of teammates. There were coaches.
Not to miss anybody or leave anybody out — among the group in attendance were Scott Martin, JaJuan Johnson (E’Twaun Moore is hosting his youth camp on Friday morning, as well as Saturday), D.J. Byrd, Terone Johnson, Anthony Johnson, Travis Carroll, Sandi Marcius, Jacob Lawson, Donnie Hale, Dru Anthrop, Neal Beshears, Ryne Smith, Chris Kramer, Bobby Riddell, Bubba Day, Chad Sutor, Ronnie Johnson, Rapheal Davis, Jay Simpson, Danny Anthrop, Bob Punter, Bob Barthold, Morgan Burke.
“It’s a big deal for any kid, especially a kid as nice as him,” said Barthold, the former Vikings assistant coach. “I’m just so happy for him. He deserves it.”
Even when the draft began at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., the festivities continued, with everyone aware that Hummel was not expected to be selected until deeper into the evening (earlier in the day, a popular destination for him in mock drafts was the Utah Jazz at No. 47). He continued to mingle as the first round kicked into gear.
A good number of people, probably the majority, weren’t watching the television coverage all that intently.
Then, as the first round wound down, the atmosphere distinctly began to change (everyone stopped as the Miami Heat were selecting No. 27, and a collective groan emerged when they picked Arnett Moultrie, and similar scenarios unfolded at No. 28 with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Perry Jones III, and at No. 29 with the hometown Bulls and Marquis Teague, and it generally continued in that fashion with each pick, until Hummel’s selection).
As players came off the board, Hummel sat at a table with Punter and Barthold for a stretch. Then he stood with his father, Glenn. Then he stood off to the side by himself in a nook near the drinks dispenser, with people here and there making their way over, including his mother, Linda, as well as Riddell. All the while, he had cell phone in hand.
The place absolutely erupted when Hummel was selected.
For Glenn Hummel, it was a nerve-racking process.
“I’m enjoying it so far,” he said during the first round. “I’ll be enjoying it a lot more after I hear his name called. I know he’ll be playing somewhere next year, but there’s something about hearing his name called.
“I’m so happy,” he said after. “I’m relieved, is really what I am.”
Said Linda: “It’s a long night. This is how we’re looking at it — if he gets picked tonight, it’s great. If not, it’s a celebration of his time here, and he’ll get picked up by a team tomorrow.”
There would be no need for tomorrow.
At multiple points relatively early in the draft, Hummel leaned in and told some guys, “I can’t wait for this to be over” (or some variation) — really, how much anticipation and anxiety can a person take? — but that smile rarely left his face (with a few moments of a more stoic countenance as the agonizing night wore on).
And at the end of the night, Hummel was indeed all smiles.