After eventful playing career, Robbie Hummel moves into TV

Brian Neubert, GoldandBlack.com staff
Gold and Black
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USA Today Sports

Following a playing career of extraordinary highs and more than his share of the exact opposite, former Purdue star Robbie Hummel is retiring from professional basketball.

"That's the hardest part, walking away when I know I'm still good," Hummel, 28, said Tuesday night. "I don't know if I'm an NBA player anymore, but I think I'm on the fringe. And I can still play (overseas) in Euro League. I don't doubt that at all."

With closure, though, comes opportunity, maybe a golden one.

Hummel told GoldandBlack.com Tuesday night that he's signed deals to do both on-site color analysis and studio work for both BTN and ESPN, launching him into the career he's been interested in pursuing following his playing career. He's slated to do 25 games for ESPN and 15 games and 25 studio appearances for BTN.

"It's hard walking away from playing, but at the same time, I really like doing the TV stuff," Hummel said. "I did studio work (for BTN) two years ago and I think there's a pretty good opportunity there, too. Instead of working on my jump shot or ball-handling or whatever else, I'll be working on something else that still keeps me in the game, keeps me around college basketball, which I love. I've been a huge college basketball fan since I was a little kid."

One of the most well-known and popular players in Boilermaker basketball history, Hummel was a three-time All-Big Ten selection and a candidate for the Wooden Award as just a true freshman. He and classmates E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson carried Purdue to three NCAA Tournament appearances in as many years and Big Ten regular season and tournament titles.

But Hummel's junior season was cut short in 2010 by an ACL injury just as Purdue was poised to perhaps move to No. 1 in the country in late February. He admits now that he's never felt like the same player since that injury.

Several months later, on the verge of his senior season, Hummel suffered the same injury in a preseason practice and missed the entire season, one in which Purdue's expectations were high after Johnson and Moore by-passed opportunities to pursue NBA careers and returned for their senior seasons.

After a fifth-year senior season in which he led Purdue back to the NCAA Tournament and was named first-team All-Big Ten, Hummel was a second-round draft pick and played two seasons with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves in 2013-14 and 2015-16 after a knee injury sent him overseas for a season in Spain for what would have been his rookie season in Minneapolis. He went to camp with the Denver Nuggets before the 2016-17 season, but was not signed to a contract for the season.

"If you'd told have told me back when I was in high school (at Valparaiso) that I was going to play two years in the NBA and overseas for three ... I'd have been so thrilled to have done that," Hummel said. "It's a complicated answer, because if you'd asked me then, I'd have thought that was pretty awesome.

"But if you asked me after my freshman year in college, I'd have said, 'That's pretty disappointing,' because at that point, I figured I might get to play in the NBA 10 years. But some things happened out of my control. It's a shame we didn't get a chance with me healthy, because it would have been interesting to see what kind of player I could have become."

Earlier this fall, Hummel was scheduled to work out for the Milwaukee Bucks, in front of some of the front-office personnel from his days with the Timberwolves, but an ill-time back injury forced him to call it off.

That was, in effect, it for Hummel, who spent a trying season playing in Russia last year, after spending the prior season in Italy.

"I just didn't like playing overseas," Hummel said. "I'd been in the NBA for two years. The way it ended in Minnesota left a sour taste in my mouth, but to me (playing overseas) was like playing on the junior varsity. It just wasn't what I wanted to. And this year was a mess ... and a completely awful season. I got to the point where I was just like, 'I don't want to do this anymore.' It was hard to turn down that offer in Spain, because I do think it was a good offer, but this TV opportunity was just too good an opportunity to pass on.

"Just from talking to my parents and friends and people in the industry, I thought that this was something that might not be there in three years and, 'You probably need to jump on it right now.' ... If I'd lost out on this because I played two more years in Europe or wherever, then came back and wanted to do it and couldn't, that would have been worse than walking away from basketball now, I think, because this is a career you can do 20-30 years if you're good at it."

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