The Mankato Free Press
---- — Maybe if Robbie Hummel had never traveled to Minnesota on Feb. 24, 2010, to play a game against the Gophers, things would have been different.
Maybe he wouldn't have torn the ligament in his knee that night, derailing a promising season for his team and dooming his opportunity to jump to the NBA. Maybe he wouldn't have returned to Purdue and torn the same ligament in the following preseason, forcing him to stay in college for his fifth season.
Maybe he wouldn't have lasted until the second round of last season's draft, where the Timberwolves selected him. Maybe he wouldn't have been released after the preseason and spent the season playing in Spain.
But all of that stuff happened, and he's still trying to find a home in the NBA.
"It's hard not to think about it," Hummel said, following a practice last week at Bresnan Arena. "But you can't go back and change it."
Hummel is one of three players competing for the 15th and final spot on the Timberwolves roster. He's known as a perimeter shooter, which might give him an advantage with shooter Chase Budinger sidelined a month or more with a knee injury.
"I never wish an injury on someone else, especially with what I've been through," Hummel said. "But when someone goes down, there's an opportunity for everybody."
At the end of one practice last week, Hummel made 78 of 100 shots from various spots behind the arc. But the Timberwolves know he can shoot it. It's the other stuff that they need to see, like defense and rebounding.
"He's had a really good camp," Wolves general manager Flip Saunders said. "He's been very aggressive, and he's making shots. His problem has always been the ability to stay healthy, and he's done that so far."
Hummel might have been a huge pain in the rear for Gophers fans when he was at Purdue, where he scored 1,772 points and grabbed 862 rebopunds, both of which rank in the top 10 in program history.
But now he's a person you can root for. He's quiet, unassuming ... doesn't do a dance or fancy hand gesture just because he made a 3-point shot that he practices every day. He's an underdog, someone who would have gotten a mulit-year, million-dollar contract if he'd stay healthy but now bounces around the basketball globe trying to stick somewhere.
He's learned about competition and adjusting to your environment. He said last season in Spain, he was called fro travelling eight times in the first three games.
"(The Timberwolves) know I can shoot," Hummel said. "I have to show them that I can defend and rebound and battle."
For all the Timberwolves players who have come through here the last few seasons feeling like they were owed something — Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, Rasha McCants, etc. — it's refreshing to talk with Hummel, who has worked hard to earn a few basketball scraps.
He faces an uphill battle to make the final roster, though Budinger's injuiry history suggests that he'll miss more games than he plays this season so Hummel has a chance.
That's really all he's asking for. He'll take care of the rest.
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at email@example.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.