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  • Associated Press Purdue forward Grady Eifert could be in for an increased role in the NCAA Tournament with starter Vincent Edwards slowed by an ailing ankle. Eifert's dad played for the Boilers when they won the Big Ten title in 1983-84. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 1:00 am

Eifert follows in father's footsteps

Trip to Final Four at dad's school would 'mean everything'

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Purdue

vs. Cal State Fullerton

When: 12:40 p.m. Friday

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV: Tru TV

Radio: 1380 AM/100.9 FM

WEST LAFAYETTE – In 1983-84, Greg Eifert was a key contributor on a Purdue team that won a Big Ten title. Now, 34 years later, Eifert's son Grady has a chance to help the Boilermakers reach an even bigger prize.

Forward Grady Eifert grew up in Fort Wayne but spent plenty of time in West Lafayette when he was younger, as his family had season tickets to football and men's basketball games. Helping the Boilermakers reach the Final Four for the first time since before his father wore the gold and black would “mean everything” to him.

“That's something we dream of when we're growing up. Going to your favorite college team and then going to the Final Four would be amazing,” Eifert said Monday. “We just got to take it one game at a time.”

Eifert, a junior who joined the No. 11 Boilermakers (28-6) as a preferred walk-on out of Bishop Dwenger, played a total of one minute in three NCAA Tournament games a season ago. This season, he has worked his way into the Purdue rotation as the primary backup to forward Vincent Edwards and will likely play a much larger role in the tournament.

How much court time he ultimately sees when second-seeded Purdue opens the tournament against No. 15 seed Cal State-Fullerton (20-11) on Friday will depend in large part on Edwards' health. The senior sprained his ankle in mid-February, causing him to miss two games. He said the injury was still bothering him in the Big Ten Tournament, especially in the final against Michigan.

After a week off, however, Edwards seems to be close to full health. 

“(Vince) is looking good,” said Eifert, who often guards Edwards in practice. “With the ankle injury he had, I think he's back to 100 percent and he's healthy.”

Edwards is Purdue's leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, but Eifert has already proved that he's ready to step in if the starter is hobbled. The Fort Wayne native, who brother Tyler plays in the NFL, got his first two career starts when Edwards was out, playing 51 minutes and scoring 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting against Penn State and Illinois. Purdue won both games. For the season, Eifert averages eight minutes per game and ranks second on the team in field goal percentage, hitting 61.3 percent of his shots this season.

“(Grady) gives us another guy that can guard that position (the 4) and rebound the basketball,” coach Matt Painter said Monday. “(He can) switch four (positions) on ball screens so we stay out of rotations. (He's) a guy who's going to give us energy and do a lot of little things to help us win.”

Those little things extend beyond the games. One of Eifert's most important roles on this team is pushing Edwards in practice. Even before he came a full-fledged member of the Boilers' rotation, the 6-foot-6 Eifert played a reasonable facsimile of a Big Ten forward for Edwards to work against.

“Grady has been impressive since the day he got here,” Edwards said in September. “He pushes me to get better because he's always attacking the basket. ... I joke with Grady to stay out of my bag of tricks because I see him doing a couple of moves that look very familiar.”

Eifert has been a particularly effective foil for Edwards and the rest of the Boilers' first string in practice because he's adept at learning upcoming opponents' tendencies and giving the starters a look at what they'll be seeing in the game, according to Painter.

“We do a great job with the coaches going over personnel, so the days leading up to (a game), you want to give the starters the best look at what they're going to get in the game,” Eifert said. “I think that's huge just knowing the scouting report and being able to set up for the guys who are starters.”

dsinn@jg.net