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July 18, 2008When deciding a few years ago on what country to schedule an exhibition tour to, Coach Matt Painter said he consulted other schools who've gone to Australia to play.
"Everybody has always liked the country," Painter said, "but they've also liked the competition and the level of basketball."
During its early August exhibition tour of the country, Purdue will play three different professional teams from the country's National Basketball League, the country's top league: the West Sydney Razorbacks (twice), the Brisbane Bullets and the Cairns Taipans. It also will play one game against a team from the Australian Institute of Sport.
"Sometimes you can go to a country, but not at the right time," Painter said. "You have to go when their teams are together and have been practicing. We think we have the right blend. It's been compared to a high-major (college basketball) level, really on our level, like the Big Ten, the ACC. Other schools that have went have said it's a great trip all around."
The pro teams are technically in their off-seasons; the NBL season runs from October to April.
Last season, the Bullets were 20-10 in the NBL "ladder" - it's Australian for "standings," apparently - while the Taipans were 16-14 and the Razorbacks 10-20.
UNLV made a similar trip in June and went 4-2. It beat West Sydney, the only common opponent here, 77-71. It was a tie game with a minute-and-a-half to play, though, and the Rebels trailed 12-2 to start the game.
The teams are largely born to Australia or New Zealand, but, if Internet rosters are up to date, Purdue will encounter a couple Americans, including former Northern Iowa player David Gruber of the Razorbacks.
Cairns has a couple Westerners, too. They just lost native Nathan Jawai to the NBA's Toronto Raptors.
Brisbane's roster last season was highlighted by former Oklahoma player Ebi Ere, the NBL's leading scorer at more than 27 points per game. He just got done playing for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies' summer league team.
Brisbane also had a familiar face in former Minnesota forward Dusty Rychart last season.
Whether the Americans will be with their teams next month is unclear.
Other notable names who played in the NBL last season (but not on teams Purdue will play): Adelaide's Julius Hodge (N.C. State) and Adam Ballinger (Michigan State); New Zealand's Kirk Penney (Wisconsin) and Singapore's Rod Grizzard (Alabama).
Keaton Grant won't play in Australia, but has resumed playing some open gym games with his teammates this summer, after undergoing knee surgery in April. The procedure repaired a partial tear in his patella tendon.
"I'm trying to see what I can do," Grant said. "I don't think I can go full-speed right now even if I tried."
Grant said the strength in his knee, "is back up, but I still have a long way to go."
"I'm getting there," said Grant, the team's MVP last season.
Building back up
After a vicious, and unpleasant, weeklong bout with salmonella poisoning in the spring, Robbie Hummel said he lost nearly 20 pounds, dropping into the 180s.
"When I first came back from being sick, we did a rep test (in the weight room) and I got a zero on every one of them," Hummel said. "I'd been pretty good before that, but I couldn't do one rep after being sick."
Now, though, the 6-foot-8 forward said he's back to 210 pounds - his highest ever - with his strength back to where it was.
"I've been working on my diet," Hummel said. "We got a grill and it's grilled chicken or pork chops pretty much every night. I haven't (eaten fast food) since I got sick, and I'll probably never be back."
Two players have cited senior big man Chris Reid as one of the team's most improved players this summer.
"Reid's gotten a lot better," Hummel said. "He's worked a lot in the weight room. He's trying his hardest."
Added guard Chris Kramer, "Chris Reid's got a whole new mind set to his game. It's his senior year, and he really wants to get to play."
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