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October 22, 2008

Illness benefited Hummel in the long run

In the span of just a few months, Robbie Hummel went from being in the worst shape of his life to the best shape of his life.

The Boilermaker sophomore contracted salmonella poisoning on May 10, during a trip to California; two weeks later, he had his tonsils removed.

As a result, he shed nearly 20 pounds of weight and muscle, taking a giant step backward physically following his outstanding freshman season.

"He was skinnier than me," classmate JaJuan Johnson joked, taking a self-deprecating stab at his own narrow frame. "But he picked it up really fast. It was amazing."

Today, Hummel's regained all that lost muscle and then some. After dipping into the 180s in the spring, the forward weighed 218 as of this week, the most he's ever tipped the scales at.

"I think it turned out to be a good thing, because it motivated me to work harder in the weight room and to eat better," Hummel said Tuesday. "... I think I did a good job getting my diet to where it needs to be."

Additionally, Hummel's gotten significantly stronger; he recently bench-pressed 230 pounds, about 30 more than his freshman-year best.

Physical strength was a need Hummel wanted to address this off-season even before he got sick.

"I think it'll help (playing) down inside and driving to the basket," Hummel said. "Last year, I'd drive to the basket and I might get knocked off my line and slowed down. This year, I feel like I can get to the basket and not have that happen, because I weigh more and I'm physically stronger."

While Hummel's gotten bigger, he's not gotten so big, though, that it'll adversely impact his perimeter game or the versatility that defines him as a player.

Hummel, a first-team All-Big Ten honoree as just a freshman, was Purdue's leading rebounder, but he also one of the Boilermakers' most reliable ball-handlers, passers and decision-makers. And he was second in the Big Ten in three-point shooting, first in conference-only action.

"I feel I can still move real well," he said, "but I'm stronger to where I can still go inside and be a little more physical than I was last year."

The 6-foot-8 forward finished his freshman season averaging 11.4 points and 6.1 rebounds, with a nearly 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He shot 48.4 percent overall, 44.7 from three-point range and 86.5 from the line.

Topping that season won't be easy. But Hummel appears physically equipped enough, at least.

"He was in good shape last year," Johnson said. "But this year, he's in much better shape."


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