Busy with basketball: Purdue grad Hummel remains involved in the game as 3-on-3 player, analyst
VALPARAISO — For most basketball players, the end of their on-court days typically means the end of their time in the sport, a transition that’s often hard to accept.
“I can see why rock stars play until they’re 70,” the Valparaiso High School and Purdue University graduate Robbie Hummel said. “I still love to play basketball. The first time I got hurt, I honestly worried I would never run out of that tunnel again. Adversity’s not a stop sign, it’s a way to look at where you are and a way to re-examine what you’ve got to do to get to your goals.”
Despite a litany of injuries continually sidetracking his college and professional careers, it’s been the best of both worlds for Hummel. At 33, he remains active in the game as a member of the Princeton 3X3 team on the FIBA 3x3 World Tour, while working as an analyst for ESPN and the Big Ten Network.
“It beats a normal job,” Hummel said. “Most of my friends are working 9 to 5. I really enjoy doing it. It’s a good way to stay in basketball. I work with awesome people, Jason Benetti, Brendan Gaudin, Kevin Kugler. I’m fortunate to have really good games. I love being in those atmospheres. That’s why I enjoy games more than doing the studio. I always felt as a player it was so cool to see Brent Musberger calling a game, Erin Andrews, we had ‘Lav’ (Steve Lavin) all the time, Gus Johnson. I feel I take pride in the fact that I’m trying to make the game feel bigger.”
Networks obviously noticed as Hummel took on a hectic workload that also included an occasional Bulls game.
“Russia kind of drove me to that. I was like, I can not go back,” he joked of his time there. “Travel is the hardest part. You get a little sleep deprived during the year. I was doing 80 games. You have to prepare, watch games, understand what players like to do. Maybe initially it was harder, but you get used to it. You just want to see a good game. You want good endings. The hardest thing in broadcasting is when you have a blowout. Of course I want Purdue, coach (Matt) Painter to do well. I know the players. The Wisconsin game, they banked in 3s to win. It’s a good thing for me that’s Jason’s time to shine. I can shut up and kind of compose myself. I stinks Purdue had to lose.”
At the same, Hummel added, he has a job and he knows where his pay check comes from
“You’re just trying to call the game like you see it. (Criticism) is the hardest part, I think. I expected to get it from Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana. It’s been worse from Purdue people. They feel like in order to not be biased, I’m biased against Purdue. I get it. They want to win. I also form relationships with other coaches and players. The hardest part of the job is officiating things. You’re looking at a monitor 18 inches wide. Sometimes, you see it live, then you see a replay, well, I was wrong. I understand those officials have the hardest job.”
On the playing side, Hummel was happy to get some more run after not making it to the Olympics.
“There was no way I was going to play anymore,” he said. “With the Olympics stuff, it was definitely kind of a sour taste. I hadn’t trained a lot. I (worked) so many games, once the Final Four came around, I started getting back to working out. There’s some really good pickup run in Chicago, Lincoln Park, former college, pros, good high school players. I played in Paris, Montreal. I was just in Tokyo. It’s just an incredible way to see the world. When it’s over with, it’ll be legit over with. I’ll play some pickup stuff, but I don’t anticipate going for (the) 2024 (Olympics). I’ll do this year and we’ll see where it goes.”
Hummel and another Valparaiso product, Purdue’s Brandon Newman, spoke to the student body at their middle school, Thomas Jefferson, last month, sharing advice with the kids while also engaging in a Q-and-A.
“The road paved to do whatever you want,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be basketball, find something you really enjoy doing and immerse yourself in it. Whatever it is, go all in on it. My goals going into high school were, play varsity, be an Indiana All Star, play in the NCAA tournament. I was the third, fourth best player on the team (here). I grew a lot. I listened to the coaches because they’re right most of the time. I couldn’t ask for a better set of mom and dad.”
In addition to two torn ACLs in college, Hummel suffered a meniscus tear and a dislocated shoulder as a pro.
“As you get older, you miss time, it’s harder to get back,” he said. “There were days like, I don’t want to do this. You push through those tough days. The boring stuff allows you to do the fun stuff. It can only help going forward. My first night in Spain, I didn’t speak the language, I only had two years of Spanish in middle school, I hung up the phone with parents, and I cried. I was in one of the best leagues in the world. I’m 23, playing guys who are 30, 31. I think because it was harder earlier, it was easier to work harder later.”
Robbie Hummel signs a t-shirt for a student during his visit to Thomas Jefferson Middle School last month.