Purdue's Big 3

E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson

E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson

Athlon Sports: When you guys leave Purdue, you could be the all-time winningest class and all be in the top 10 in scoring. Do you think about your legacy at all? You really came in and re-energized the program.

JaJuan Johnson: I think about it, just because it’s our last year. You kind of look back and the past three years we had and you think, ‘Man, we’ve had a good career so far and it could potentially even be better.’ I think about being one of the best classes in Purdue history. I know (Robbie and E’Twaun) probably think the same thing. It’d be pretty cool just to be mentioned among some of the best classes.

Did you think you’d all get here — being seniors and all coming back?

Robbie Hummel: Honestly, this spring, I didn’t think that at all. I thought JaJuan was leaving (for the NBA). I think me and E’Twaun are both thrilled to have him back. I think it definitely makes our team a lot better and a lot more diverse. I think we can do a lot more with him on the court.

Who’s the best player on the team?

E’Twaun Moore: I’d say … (pause) …

Hummel: That’s a hard question.

Johnson: I think it depends on what night it is.

Moore: I say it depends on the matchup.

Some guys may not be able to adjust to having three stars on one team. What have you had to sacrifice to be in this situation?

Johnson: I think all of us probably feel like if we went somewhere else, at another school, we probably could average 20 points a game. But I think we all realize that we’re better all together. When we have three guys out there that are all capable of scoring and bringing other things to the court, it definitely helps the team.

You’re pretty popular around campus. How have you adjusted to that celebrity?

Hummel: We just have kind of leaned on each other because it has gotten crazy at Purdue with basketball. I think we’ve been able to talk to each other about it and take what E’Twaun or JaJuan says or even Keaton (Grant) or (Chris) Kramer and just kind of stay together and keep each other humble, I guess.

Johnson: I remember one time I had a dad ask me to kiss his daughter on the cheek. I thought that was kind of weird. I’d never had that happen. It was just last season. It was weird.

But you did it.

Johnson: Yeah.

I think (graduated senior) Chris Kramer was the most taunted on the road. Were you No. 2, Rob? Are you ready to move into that role?

Hummel: Yeah, Kramer, I don’t know why, maybe it was because of the way he played or the way he taunted the fans a bit. I don’t anticipate myself or any of these guys doing any of the stuff he did. So, hopefully, no, I’m not ready to move into that role.

Michigan State is pretty hostile. Weren’t there signs there last year about you?

Hummel: (Laughs) They had a picture of me and Kramer, and they photo-shopped Kramer’s head on it. It was me and my girlfriend from high school, and they put his head on her body. So it was an interesting picture. They had some other signs, too. They’re mean at Michigan State, man.

Did you get the poster?

Hummel: My mom might have one, actually.

So you think about that and you think about the money schools make off athletes. Should players get paid?

Moore: Heck yeah. You think about all the money they make and all the work you put in, you’re like, ‘Dang, I wish I was getting some of that money.’

Hummel: I don’t think it’s fair they can profit off us in a way. I know they’re giving us a free education, which is great, but the NCAA Tournament brings in $4 billion or whatever.

JaJuan, you’ve said no one else in the country plays defense like you guys do. When did you realize that was important here?

Johnson: When you first step foot on this campus, that’s the first thing we concentrate on is defense. It took time for you to actually understand the concept of everything and why we’re doing certain things. But I’d say our sophomore year we really understood why we did certain things and we saw how it affected other teams.

Was it a shock when you got here?

Hummel: Oh, yeah.

Moore: You always know defense is important. That’s what you always say, but until you go out and have to play it, learn a scheme of defense, then that’s when you realize, ‘Oh, there’s a whole lot to it.’ You have help side, force them one way, lot of different things. It probably took a little while to see how important it was.

What’s it like playing for Matt Painter?

Moore: I’d say it’s fun. One thing that I definitely like is he’s not one of them older, strict coaches where it’s either his way or no way. Sometimes, we can voice our opinion on certain things and he’ll take it into consideration.

He’s a pretty straightforward guy. Some players may not like that. Do you?

Hummel: I do. I like when I mess up, he’ll tell me what to do and how to do it. He’s a good coach. He knows what he’s talking about. I like playing for him, definitely.

Is there stuff he repeats all the time that you can’t wait to stop hearing?

Hummel: ‘Everyone wants to play shortstop and lead off.’

Johnson: ‘Go to breakfast. Go to class.’ Especially after you get back from the road at, like, one in the morning. ‘Just go to class,’ is the last thing he said.

What other Big Ten coach would you like to play for?

Hummel: I’d say Coach (Tom) Izzo.

Moore: I would say that, too.

Hummel: I have a lot of respect for him just because of what he’s done for the program up there and the relationship he has with his players.

Didn’t he send you a note or your parents a note after you hurt your knee?

Hummel: He called my dad and then called me, actually. That was pretty cool. He’s a good guy.

Besides Purdue, what’s your favorite place to play?

Moore: Michigan State, because of how hostile it is. You go in and you definitely get woken up because they’re going to be loud, screaming at you, going crazy.

Johnson: Michigan State would probably be mine, too.

Hummel: I think Michigan State is awesome. Wisconsin’s fun. Indiana was a lot of fun last year just because you can feel the hatred for you. Winning in there last year was a blast. That was probably one of the most fun games we had last year.

Toughest place to play in the league?

Johnson: I’d say Michigan State or Ohio State.

Hummel: Wisconsin is tough, too.

Johnson: Yeah, Wisconsin, definitely.

Moore: We always play good at Wisconsin.

Hummel: Not so much last year.

Who’s the best player you’ve guarded in your career?

Hummel: Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) was pretty good, but (JaJuan) guarded him.

Johnson: Yeah, I’d say either Griffin or Hasheem Thabeet (UConn).

Hummel: Kyle Singler (Duke) was pretty good.

Moore: Probably Eric Gordon (Indiana) because he’s strong, and he can shoot. He’s super athletic.

Who has guarded you the toughest?

Johnson: I would say Thabeet for me, just because he’s so long and so big.

Hummel: I had a very hard time with Brian Randle my freshman year, from Illinois. He was a good defender. David Lighty (Ohio State) is a good defender, too.

Moore: Anybody on Illinois’ team just because they play exactly the same way we do.

Most of the preseason predictions will have you guys ranked in the top 5. Are you the best team in the country?

Hummel: I think we have the potential to be. I think there are five or six teams up there that all have the potential to be the best team in the country. It just depends on how well you grow and how well you practice, really, and you can separate yourself that way.

Moore: I feel confident we’re the best team in the country. But it doesn’t mean anything until you go out and play the games and see who’s the best by playing. But I’m confident we can play with any team.



Purdue’s website has an auction, and they had game-worn jerseys last year they auctioned off. Do you have any idea how much they sold for?

Moore: I don’t know. I’d say $400.

You’re low.

Moore: $600?

It was about $500. Was E’Twaun’s the highest or lowest?

Moore: I think it was the lowest. Rob’s has got to be the highest.

JaJuan’s went for $720. Guess how much Rob’s was?

Hummel: $800. …

Keep going.

Hummel: $1,500 … $2,000 … $2,500. What??

Somebody bought your game jersey for $2,770.

Hummel: Why? Why would you do that? Two-thousand seven-hundred and seventy dollars? That’s amazing. You could buy a nice TV with that.

Moore: You could buy a used car for that.

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Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore form the top trio in college basketball. If all goes well this season — i.e., they all remain healthy — this special group of seniors has a great opportunity to lead Purdue to its first Final Four since 1980. That was the goal last year, too, until Hummel went down with a torn ACL in late February. The Boilermakers still managed a run to the Sweet 16, but without Hummel they simply didn’t have enough offense to advance any farther. Now healthy, Hummel and his fellow seniors and Indiana natives expect to reclaim their role as national championship contenders. Athlon caught up with the Big 3 over the summer on campus to chat about life at Purdue.

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