Rapheal Davis' career at Purdue was a memorable one.
One of his greatest memories, though, came long after he left.
Sunday, Matt Painter surprised the former multi-year captain with a Big Ten championship ring, crediting Davis for the leadership the coach felt swung Purdue in a championship direction.
"It was probably my best experience in Mackey," Davis said, "being around the guys, feeling that sense of appreciation, knowing that I really left a mark."
The former two-and-a-half-year Boilermaker captain and Big Ten Defensive Player-of-the-Year is widely credited for being the "cultural" catalyst behind Purdue reversing its basketball fortunes after a last-place conference finish in 2014.
Purdue had missed the NCAA Tournament two straight seasons, bottoming out in 2014.
But as Davis elevated from sophomore to junior and began asserting his personality more, Purdue's fortunes turned quickly, thanks too to some changes to the roster, the emergence of A.J. Hammons and the addition of a 2014 class that represented exactly what Purdue needed exactly when it needed it.
"I was just me being me. I remember my freshman year and Coach always said, 'You can say the right things, but if you're not doing it, no one's going to listen to you.' I think my first couple years, I tried to do the right things instead of just talking about it," said Davis, who now works in pharmaceutical sales for Eli Lilly in Alpharetta, Ga. "Going into my junior and senior year, I guess I had it in me all along and it was more about expressing it. I think I was born with Purdue culture instilled in me. I think I had in me all along. It was a matter of vocalizing it and trying to bring it out of other guys."
Davis was in Purdue's locker room Sunday morning — he was invited — when Painter sprung the ring on him while addressing the team, before Caleb Swanigan handed out the rest of the rings to the Boilermaker returnees and the now-departed Spike Albrecht.
"For Coach Painter to do that, it just shows the family that Purdue is," Davis said. "I didn't expect him to do it and he certainly didn't need to do it, but it just shows the type of class he has, the class the program has and hopefully the class I've have now."
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