Purdue Prefers Humble Style
Purdue men’s Coach Gene Keady had an interesting comment after the Boilermakers had upset a Duke team that was poised to become No. 1 in the polls.
“We don’t have any kids that are not as good as they think they are,” he said after a 78-68 victory in the title game of the Great Alaska Shootout. “They are better than they think they are, and that’s an unusual thing.”
More people probably knew who Duke freshman Luol Deng was than knew the names of Purdue’s three senior starters -- Kenneth Lowe, Brett Buscher and Chris Booker, even though Lowe was the Big Ten defensive player of the year last season.
“We don’t have arrogant or cocky players on this team, or guys who think they’re superstars,” Lowe said. “We’re a hard-working team that doesn’t care about the limelight or glory. We just want to play good basketball.”
Keady has this sort of team by design.
Only the season before last, it was possible to believe the game might be passing him by. His team failed to make the NCAA tournament two seasons in a row and fell to 13-18, his worst record in his 23 years at Purdue.
Along the way, Keady reassessed things, reorganizing his staff with such former Boilermaker players as Todd Foster and Cuonzo Martin, and changed his recruiting approach.
“We started recruiting kids who really wanted to come, not ones we had to talk into coming,” he said. “We want players like Brian Cardinal, who are good students, work hard and would like to be pros, but don’t think they’re there yet.
“If somebody tells me they want to stay one year and turn pro, I probably wouldn’t recruit them.”
It seems he had this crazy idea nobody was ever going to win an NCAA title with a player who stopped in for a year on the way to the NBA.
“Until Carmelo Anthony proved that theory wrong, I didn’t believe you could win with freshmen. I was wrong,” Keady said.
Still, he’s doing it his way -- not the only way, but his way.
The Boilermakers got back to the tournament and reached the second round last season with a team led by Willie Deane.
This team belongs to Lowe, the captain and best defender and a better scorer than he used to be.
“He’s special because he’s had three shoulder operations and he’s done a really tremendous job of rehabilitating,” Keady said. “He has great charisma. He loves to play, plays hard and does all the things you have to do.”
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski went out of his way to compliment Lowe after the game.
“He gives them such a powerful leader. He’s a really good player,” Krzyzewski said.
An organizational leadership major at Purdue -- more or less a business management major -- Lowe has learned some of, but not all, his leadership skills in school.
“I’ve taken several leadership classes, and it’s almost redundant because a lot of it I already learned from Coach,” he said. “Stuff the books say, I almost laugh when I’m in class. I’m like, ‘Coach told me that already.’
“He has really helped me be a leader. It’s hard. The biggest thing is always knowing your teammates are watching you. They’re looking at you to make sure you’re going hard. If I go hard, everybody else will.”
Krzyzewski called the Boilermakers a veteran team and said, “They’re ahead of us right now.”
The Boilermakers are ranked 20th this week, but they’re picked to finish in the middle of the Big Ten and they’re determined not to let their egos get ahead of them.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Keady said of the victory over Duke. “We beat Arizona a few seasons ago and then had one of our worst seasons. You’re only as good as your next game.”
Kansas Headed for Anaheim
At last, the Wooden Classic is looking more ... classic ... with perhaps the best field since the first doubleheader at the Arrowhead Pond in 1994.
Kansas -- which rose to No. 1 after beating Michigan State and Connecticut, Duke and Arizona lost last week -- plays No. 21 Stanford in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
UCLA plays No. 9 Kentucky at 10:30 a.m. in a game of basketball bluebloods, though it shouldn’t be much of a contest, given the state of the Bruins.
It was a doozy the last time the teams met in the Wooden, in that first Anaheim doubleheader in 1994.
No. 5 UCLA beat No. 3 Kentucky when freshman J.R. Henderson made two free throws with less than a second left for an 82-81 victory. It was the start of a season in which UCLA would win its 11th national championship.
That overshadowed the other game -- a game in which No. 1 Massachusetts was upset by No. 7 Kansas.
This season’s field can’t match four teams in the top seven, but No. 1 will be on hand -- and it’s a significant improvement over last season’s field of California, Georgia, Missouri and USC.
Stress at Stanford
There is no good news about the left foot of Cardinal forward Josh Childress, who will be sidelined during Stanford’s bid to upset Kansas on Saturday and is unlikely to play at least before the beginning of the Pacific 10 Conference season.
News came this week that Childress, who has yet to play, will sit out not only against Kansas but also against Gonzaga on Dec. 20 in the Pete Newell Challenge at Oakland.
Childress, Stanford’s leading returning scorer, has a stress reaction in his left foot, and team and medical personnel are concerned that it could become a stress fracture similar to the injury that caused point guard Chris Hernandez to sit out last season.
Another notable injury around the Pac-10 is at Arizona, where forward Isaiah Fox underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday, with no timetable set for his return.
Fox doesn’t start but is a valuable depth player and had been averaging 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
The most interesting early-season coaching move in the Pac-10 is at Cal, where Ben Braun responded to a season-opening loss to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo by starting three of his prized freshmen in the next game.
Forward Leon Powe, one of the nation’s top recruits, has had a double-double in each of his first three games and has been starting from the beginning.
But Braun has added guard Ayinde Ubaka and forward Marquise Kately to the lineup for the Golden Bears, who are 1-2 and play UC Irvine tonight at Berkeley.
News From the Palouse
The Dick Bennett Era has ushered this painful statistic into the record book at Washington State: The Cougars’ 36 points in a 55-36 loss to Southern Utah constituted their lowest scoring total since a 40-36 loss to No. 5 Oregon State in 1982.