INDIANAPOLIS-- When junior captain Chris Kramer's Purdue career is finally finished, what will Boilermaker fans most remember him for?
Taking his team to the NCAA tournament every season?
Setting the unofficial record for floor burns? (Apologies to former Purdue great Brian Cardinal.)
Hitting a shot from his knees in March Madness? (See first round, Arizona, 2007.)
Being named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2008?
Or maybe, just maybe...it will be Friday's vicious dunk that sparked the Boilermakers to their first-ever Big Ten tournament win in Conseco Fieldhouse.
With the Boilermakers reeling after dropping two straight games to end the regular season, the 6'3" Kramer took matters into his own hands early.
Instead of flipping the ball up to center JaJuan Johnson on a two-on-one break, Kramer shocked the crowd of 14,647 by elevating, exploding, and finally posterizing a helpless Penn State defender.
The highlight-reel play seemed to make a statement and energize a Purdue team that desperately needed momentum. The Boilers capitalized, going on to post a 79-65 victory.
Kramer told me afterwards that, "I dunked on a couple guys in high school, but never like that." He added that making the amazing play on the season's biggest stage gave it extra significance.
The Boilermaker guard described his team's play (and 55 percent shooting) as a "step in the right direction."
"It's huge for our confidence to make shots offensively," Kramer said.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Purdue basketball game without finding No. 3 sprawled on the floor a few times. Anyone who has seen Kramer's hustle and effort up close knows there aren't many tougher competitors in college basketball, and the former high school football player gets his share of bumps and bruises.
On Friday, he took a knee to the thigh from Jamelle Cornley and limped off in the middle of the second half.
A few minutes later, I was startled to hear fans from behind me yelling "Suck it up, Christopher! We need you! Get back in there!"
"Suck it up?", I thought. "The guy can barely walk. What kind of Purdue fans would yell something like that? No one can question Kramer's toughness."
I turned around—and realized the noisy fans were Kramer's parents.
Chris, don't you think there should just be a little sympathy, at least from your family?
"No, no, no, no," he chuckled later. "Ain't no sympathy coming from there."
"I heard my mom," he added. "But with us being ahead, there was no need for me to come back. I'll be fine though [for Saturday]."
Kramer's Purdue squad is hoping to win the Big Ten Tournament for the first time, and to accomplish that, they'll have to knock off an Illinois team that eliminated them a year ago. The Illini have three straight wins over Purdue, two of which came in overtime.
So, Chris, when you saw the bracket for this weekend, did you want another shot at Illinois? Revenge on the mind?
"We really don't care who we play," Kramer shrugged. "It's all about Purdue."
The Boilermakers came into this season with high hopes, and after polling the locker room last night, that hasn't changed at all. Freshman point guard Lewis Jackson told me, "We haven't lost our confidence and swagger", and I heard the words Final Four mentioned multiple times.
Winning the Big Ten title would be a good first step—and limping or not, Chris Kramer will be leading the charge (or more likely, taking the charge) for the Old Gold and Black.
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