WEST LAFAYETTE -- Somewhere along those summer workouts—the ones that were so critical after a miserable last season—a rough reality hit Travis Carroll.
“This is probably my last year of basketball, which is kind of weird, because I’ve been playing for 15 years,” said the senior forward. “I want to make the most of it.”
This is likely it for Carroll. One more year on the basketball court, the place you can always find the Danville, Indiana native.
Carroll was named a captain this season, a high honor for the senior leader. But that doesn’t change a thing. Carroll has always been the first guy on the court, the last to leave, the leader by voice and example, and the example of how Matt Painter wants a Boilermaker to play.
In each workout, practice and game, Carroll has played like it’s his last.
“I take a lot of pride in it,” Carroll said. “My main goal is to help Purdue win, whatever way we can win.”
Added fellow team captain Terone Johnson: “He does everything 100 percent right.”
Adversity has hit Purdue for the first time this season—a mild case, granted, with A.J. Hammons missing two exhibitions and the regular-season opener—and Carroll has his team ready to respond.
In the days after A.J. Hammons’ suspension, Carroll and his Boilermaker teammates heard out the sophomore’s apology, offered forgiveness, then worked toward a solution. On the court, Carroll and redshirt freshman forward Jay Simpson will fill the void. Against weak competition, the absence of Hammons won’t matter too much.
More importantly, Carroll will be there to guide Hammons past his mistakes. It’s the part of being a teammate which he truly embraces.
“I want to help out any way I can and take pride in that,” Carroll said.
The pick of Carroll as a captain is an easy one. Only Purdue Pete could represent the Boilermakers better.
Carroll is there to push his teammates each day. He communicates like a point guard, as point guard Ronnie Johnson said. He doesn’t cheat his teammates in practice. Purdue is now getting the most out of its players because of Carroll’s daily grit and grind.
“He just brings a lot of energy, but he does it in a different way,” said Terone Johnson. “He’s always picking those big guys up; he’s not letting them have a day off.”
For this Purdue team, there are many reasons for motivation. There’s playing time available and NBA opportunities for some. But Carroll is keeping the team focused on its most important goal.
“I think the motivation is last year, I don’t know if it’s necessarily starting,” Carroll said. “It’s more so winning, getting back to the NCAA Tournament, and doing a complete 180 from last year.”
While Carroll’s playing days may be over after this season, his time around the game of basketball could continue. If he wants a gig in coaching, he won’t have to look far.
As a Purdue player, Carroll has served as an extension of his head coach. It’s no coincidence he said “Play Hard” five times during a five-minute interview. It’s not some cliché; these are the words plastered on the Cardinal Court walls and on each player’s practice uniform. Carroll just gets what it means to be a Boilermaker.
So begins the end of Travis Carroll in black and gold. He’s ready to play hard for one last season.
“I want to remember how I was able to turn this program around,” he said, “and leave my mark as someone who always gave himself to Purdue and wanted to win as bad as anybody.”