When Mason Gillis delivered a hard foul on Indiana’s Malik Reneau on Saturday afternoon, Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis rushed to confront the Purdue forward, chest to chest.
Players from both teams immediately entered the scrum, and for a moment it seemed anything could happen as emotions began to boil over.
It was just the latest reminder that this IU-Purdue rivalry runs at a different temperature — red hot.
But things are a bit different off the court.
There are friendships among the players, relationships developed during recruiting, a degree of mutual respect, and at times even camaraderie.
Jackson-Davis is a player Purdue coach Matt Painter recruited when he was a star at Center Grove H.S. in Greenwood, Ind. Through that process, the pair had each other’s phone numbers, countless conversations and text message exchanges, and a bond was developed.
After watching Jackson-Davis’ development since he was in high school to where he is today, Painter tipped his cap on Saturday evening in Bloomington.
“Trayce is fabulous, just a great person you know, great player, we were on him early (as a recruit) and put a lot of time into him and obviously he chose to come here (to Indiana) and that’s his choice but he’s he’s fabulous man,” Painter said.
“He’s added more pieces to his game. His decision making when he first started when we doubled him was just okay and now he’s really good. But tonight he was physical, when he made moves and he did stuff like he was our guys were bouncing off of him. I mean it was impressive, like he made a couple spin moves and you know the dunks.
“He’s got a bright future. There’s some really really intelligent NBA people out there that understand that so you can look at those mock drafts or whatever but he’s going to spend a long time in the NBA, he’s fabulous.”
That’s the type of commentary you often hear from Big Ten head coaches, as they express their admiration for players they’ve battled for four years.
But Painter continued, and shared something you may have never heard in a heated rivalry like this one.
Over the summer, former Purdue star big man Caleb Swanigan passed away at the young age of 25. It was shocking news across the basketball world, and particularly heartbreaking in the Purdue program.
Swanigan had overcome a very difficult childhood, and with the help of Painter and many others, turned himself into an All-Big Ten performer and NBA player.
His far too early death was a tragedy.
On Saturday, Jackson-Davis rushed to confront a Purdue player to defend his teammate.
But things in this rivalry aren’t always what they seem.
Over the summer Jackson-Davis picked up his phone to reach out to Painter to share his condolences for Swanigan.
“He’s a super super person,” Painter said of Jackson-Davis. “When Caleb Swanigan passed away he reached out to me and sent me a text, and you know it just kind of shows you, you know what’s inside of him.”
When he learned Painter relayed the story, Jackson-Davis reminded there is more to all of this than a heated rivalry.
“Bigger than basketball. Nothing but respect for y’all,” Jackson-Davis said in a Twitter post.
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