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WEST LAFAYETTE -- Chris Kramer is living A basketball dream, and if it's not THE dream, well, who can tell what will happen in a NBA world where LeBron James shows that, yes, you can go home?
Four years after earning his second Big Ten defensive player of the year award and helping Purdue reach its second straight Sweet 16, Kramer has the NBA itch. He wants a shot such as former Boilers Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson have had.
For now, though, it's another season in Germany and the EWE Baskets Oldenburg team
“It's a good experience,” the former Huntington North standout said, “but it's not here. It's not the NBA with all the bells and whistles and perks, but I'm very fortunate and blessed to play the game I love. It's a chance to see the world while I can do it.”
The love brought Kramer to Mackey Arena Saturday for the Purdue Alumni Game. He and 29 other former Boilers went at it for 40 minutes in a reunion time for hugs, smiles and hunting your shot rather than working the shot clock to the final second.
Yes, there was a shot clock.
Anyway, Kramer, the Boilers' career record holder with 274 steals, showed he had game with 14 points, nine rebounds seven assists and one steal for the Black team. Hoping for a NBA training camp shot, he had played in a NBA summer league to try to impress enough to sign with a team.
It didn't work out.
“I had an NBA out in my contract so I could do a summer league and do all the workouts, but I had to get a partially guaranteed deal (from a NBA team) to go to a training camp. I wasn't able to get that, so I'll go back over to Germany. That's fine. I have some great teammates over there. They'll really take care of me. I'm blessed to be able to play.”
Kramer's blessing has included stops with the Mad Ants of the NBA Development League, and with another German team, Wurzburg. He said he has no plans to give up on basketball any time soon.
“There's no timetable, man. I'll go to the wheels fall off or until I have a family and things start to change a little bit. Right now it's tough to say, but I want to play as long as I can.”
What's the plan after his playing days are over?
“I want to coach. I want to help kids, however I can. I feel like I have a way of communicating with them. I get them to listen to me. That's something not a lot of people can do. I want to help them anyway I can in basketball and life. Let them be the best they can in whatever sport they do.”
Kramer said a personal trainer-like option is also possible.
“It's too early to tell.”
Returning to his Mackey Arena roots to spend time with such former Boilers as Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore, Brandon Brantley, Carl Landry, David Teague, Brian Cardinal, Kenneth Lowe, Jaraan Cornell, Troy Lewis and Mike Robinson, brought Kramer “chills.”
“This is awesome to have some of the legends here, guys who played when I was growing up. Coming back with the guys I played with, having a chance to hang out and catch up with them, and see how everything is going, it was a great experience and a great event. I'm glad to be part of it.”
As far as the game, which had about 4,000 in attendance, the Black squad, coached by Hall of Famer Gene Keady, took charge early, led 61-49 at halftime and then faded to a 106-97 defeat against the Gold team directed by current Purdue coach Matt Painter.
“You could tell the ones who have played and the ones who haven't,” Kramer said. “You saw when it got down to the last five minutes, it got competitive. Each team was trying to win, and the Black squad fell a little short. I think we built a new Mackey with all the bricks we shot from 3s.”
For the record, the Black team was 20-for-62 from three-point range to the Gold team's 10-for-30.
Mike Robinson hit his first three three-point attempts, got seduced by that success and missed his final four, including one from at least 30 feet.
Lowe led the Gold team with 20 points. JaJuan Johnson added 15 points and 12 rebounds. Keaton Grant tied Kramer for Black team scoring honors, with 14 points.
Lewis Jackson missed the casual-defense message. The point guard defended with the full-throttle tenacity that served him so well as a Boiler player.
Moore, still looking to sign with a NBA team after Orlando failed to re-sign him, played a facilitator role and didn't score, surprising given he had scored more than 2,000 points in college.
Hummel's recently signed contract with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves prevented him from playing Saturday. The same with Landry, couldn't play because he plays for the Sacramento Kings.
The oldest player award went to Frank Kendrick, who graduated in 1974. He had three points, three rebounds and two assists in 12 minutes.
In the end, it didn't matter. It was a reunion to remember.
“We didn't execute the game plan,” Kramer said, “but it was fun.”