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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 4

Gold and Black is a multi-platform media company that covers Purdue athletics like no one else.

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Page 9 of 88

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 4 10 T o my knowledge, no one's ever been caught on a wiretap talking about making illicit payments to Dakota Mathias. When Vincent Edwards made unofficial visits as a high school recruit, I'm quite certain it was him and his family footing the bill, as NCAA recruiting rules require. I'm safely assuming that no third party took Isaac Haas' SAT for him, and I'd bet my life that P.J. Thompson isn't cur- rently being bankrolled by a prospective agent. Purdue's four seniors have always come off well and rep- resented their school admirably, but look even better these days when framed against college basketball's soot-filled skies. These four men, these four players, they've been ev- erything people want college basketball to be that college basketball just isn't. As you may be aware, college basketball's — and maybe the NCAA's amateurism model's — day of reckoning seems to be stepping to the door, ready to knock. Between the North Carolina academic scandal, the FBI sting op, Michi- gan State's morality mess of its own making and Louisville's, well, all of the above, people are starting to figure out how the sausage gets to the plate, realizing just how much excre- ment is contained in their dinner. Up against that backdrop, Purdue, and especially its senior class, stand as an excep- tion, not the rule that following the news from day to day would suggest the game to be. Vincent Edwards, Dakota Mathias, Isaac Haas and P.J. Thompson have all been really, really, really good players at Purdue, but together, they've been something more, some- thing great, over the course of four years. No one transferred, and nowadays, everyone transfers. These players were all in with Purdue from Day 1 if not before and never seemed to waver. None of them made short-sighted decisions to leave to pursue long-shot ear- ly-entry NBA hopes. Nobody flunked out, flaked out or got kicked out. Their longevity alone sets them apart. In NCAA basketball, the four-man, four-year senior class has gone the way of the diplodicus. And easy, it's not been. Edwards switched positions — probably to his modest detriment — for a season-and-a-half to accommodate Caleb Swanigan. What that move might have meant to Edwards' career arc, we don't know, maybe nothing, but maybe some- thing. Haas came to Purdue expecting fellow 7-footer A.J. Hammons would go pro early, which he didn't, and having no idea a McDon- ald's All-America big man would be coming in next. And so he waited 'til his senior year to start a season beginning to end. No one stays anymore. No one waits anymore. And if they do wait, they don't do it with- out been a hell of an annoyance. Mathias was a sick, wobbly and disoriented mess his freshman year, then waited not so patiently his sophomore year while Purdue played too many shooting guards, none of them nearly enough. Thompson just kept dealing with the doubts that come with the territory when you're small, while his coaches just kept piling grad transfers around him at his position. He didn't care, just wanted to win. That stuff people say about him about that, that's true. You know it when you see it, and Thompson's shown it his entire career. And that says nothing of the scorched earth of their first two NCAA Tournament appearances, something weaker people might have allowed to brand them. No, this hasn't been easy for these guys. You'd never have known it. They've made things easier for each other, those around them and those coaching them with the sort of self- lessness that's defined them. They made things easier for Rapheal Davis to lead early in their career by bringing with them open ears, open minds and open hearts, and again, it's not only been about them. A lot of other places, Vincent Edwards averages 20 a game, not 15. A lot of other places, Dakota Mathias gets more than the 8.8 shots per game he's averaging this season as a se- nior and wouldn't be his team's fourth-leading scorer. A lot of other places, Isaac Haas backs up no one ever. A lot of other places, P.J. Thompson averages more of everything, overshadowed by no one. But there a lot of other places they wouldn't have been winning their 100th career game togeth- er in their final outing as a foursome on their home floor, as they did on senior day. A lot of other places wouldn't have seen 14,000-plus peo- ple sit through 10 minutes of garbage time basketball on a Sunday afternoon so they could hang on each of the four players' farewell words and farewell tears afterward. There are few places in the country that'll appreciate you more when you're a good basketball player and a good per- Foundational Four From Editor Brian Neubert

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