Only four times in the history of the Indiana Mr. and Miss Basketball awards have both winners chosen to attend the same college. This year’s winners, Caleb Furst of Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian and Jayla Smith of Lawrence North, are headed to Purdue.

The Boilermakers have pulled off this double-double three times: Troy Lewis and Sharon Versyp in 1984, and Glenn Robinson and Jennifer Jacoby in 1991. Indiana pulled off the feat in 1987 with Marion co-winners Jay Edwards and Lyndon Jones plus Lori Meinerding.

Furst and Smith got me to thinking about who were the best Mr. and Miss Basketball winners to play at Purdue. On the men’s side, there are 11 Mr. Basketball winners in addition to Furst. Versyp was the first of 10 Miss Basketball selections to become Boilermakers.

Here are my rankings from 11 to 1 for Purdue Mr. Basketball winners. We’ll do the same next week for Purdue’s Miss Basketball selections.

Mr. Basketball countdown

No. 11: Dan Palombizio (1981)

The two-year relationship between the former Michigan City Rogers star and Purdue coach Gene Keady was on shaky ground well before the final split days after the Boilermakers were eliminated from the 1983 NCAA tournament by Arkansas.

During the last-second victory against Robert Morris in the NCAA opener, it had not escaped Keady’s eye that Palombizio was the only player not cheering after Steve Reid’s game-winning shot.

As Bob Scott of the Journal & Courier wrote at the time, Palombizio was used to being the main man on offense in high school but was just another player at Purdue.

His father, Dan Palombizio Sr., hinted that was an issue. 

“How would you feel if you averaged 30-something points a game and came to a school and the coach made you a role player?,” Palombizio Sr. said to Scott.

Scoring would not be an issue at Palombizio’s destination. He would average 26.3 points and 11 rebounds as a junior and 20.2 points and 10 rebounds as a senior for Ball State. He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2020 and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

No. 10: Kyle Macy (1975):

Macy would also leave Purdue early, departing after one season for Kentucky. Playing time, though, was no issue for Macy. The former Peru star had been a starter for the final 25 games of the 1975-76 season after Bruce Parkinson fractured his right wrist.

At the time, coach Fred Schaus was vague about the reasons for Macy’s departure. 

“Promises were expected by the family that were totally impossible for me to meet,” Schaus told Bruce Ramey of the Journal & Courier. 

Some interpreted that statement to mean that Macy wanted to be guaranteed a starting role upon Parkinson’s return. With a roster that included Eugene Parker and Jerry Sichting in the backcourt, it’s no wonder Schaus could not make such a promise.

Years later, Sichting said that if Macy had stayed there was a chance he would have left Purdue. Macy likely would not have elevated Purdue to national championship contention like he did at Kentucky. But Sichting was a key player in Purdue’s 1978 Big Ten championship run under first-year coach Lee Rose.

Macy was elected to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.

No. 9: Denny Brady (1964)

Purdue coach George King almost had three Indiana Mr. Basketball players on his 1967-68 roster. But the lure of professional baseball was too much for Brady to resist.

Unlike today’s rules that would allow a basketball player to play pro baseball while still retaining eligibility, Brady gave up his senior season to sign with the Cleveland Indians.

Brady averaged 10.3 points a game as a sophomore and a junior. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

No. 8: Woody Austin (1988)

Austin was the rare Mr. Basketball talent who was actually pushed to attend Purdue by his Richmond coach, George Griffith.

Austin was a gift that kept on giving to Gene Keady and the Boilermakers. Despite losing a semester to academic issues, Austin averaged 11.6 points a game for his career and was a first-team All-Big Ten guard as a senior.

No. 7: Wilson Eison (1955)

The first great African-American basketball player at Purdue, the former Gary Roosevelt star chose Purdue over UCLA and Michigan State.

Eison also was part of a barrier-breaking class for the Boilermakers that also included Crispus Attucks standout Willie Merriweather and Harvey Austin from Buffalo, N.Y. All three would earn All-Big Ten honors in 1958.

Eison had 16 double-doubles during his junior season in 1958, averaging 14.6 points and 10.4 rebounds. Eison was even better as a senior, putting up 18.7 and 13.

Eison was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers in 1959 but was inducted into the Army before he could take his shot at the NBA. Eison was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990.

No. 6: Joe Sexson (1952)

Until Terry Dischinger came along, Sexson was Purdue’s all-time leading scorer with 1,095 points. His career scoring average of 16.6 points still ranks among the best in school history.

Sexson was Purdue’s first Indiana Mr. Basketball winner, gaining the honor after leading Indianapolis Tech to the title game that season against Muncie Central. 

Sexson was also one of the greatest athletes in Purdue history, also earning All-Big Ten honors in baseball.

In 1997, Sexson was one of 12 players named to Purdue’s Centennial All-Time team. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Purdue Hall of Fame in 2000.

No. 5: Billy Keller (1965)

One-half of the Indiana Mr. Basketball backcourt that led Purdue to the 1969 NCAA title game against UCLA, Keller came to West Lafayette after leading Indianapolis Washington to a state championship.

That season, he was the first winner of the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award as the nation’s outstanding college player under 6 feet in height. 

While overshadowed by Rick Mount, Keller could score, too. It’s unlikely Purdue will again have a backcourt that combines for 71 points in a game (Mount 40, Keller 31) as the duo did in a 120-76 victory over Indiana in 1969.

Keller scored 1,056 points before embarking on an eight-year career with the Indiana Pacers, winning three ABA championships. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Purdue Hall of Fame in 2007.

No. 4. Caleb Swanigan (2015)

Among Purdue’s most decorated high school recruits in history, ranked among the top 20 in his class while leading Homestead to a state championship, Swanigan will be remembered for his work ethic and his skill on the boards.

The Big Ten Player of the Year in 2017 and an All-American forward, Swanigan posted four games of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds as a sophomore. 

He became the eighth player in Big Ten history to lead the league in scoring (18.9) and rebounding (12.6). 

Swanigan would leave Purdue after his sophomore season and was chosen in the first round by the Portland Trail Blazers.

No. 3: Troy Lewis (1984)

One of only five 2,000-point scorers in Purdue history, Lewis put up 2,038 while earning first-team All-Big Ten selections in 1987 and 1988. Those seasons also saw the Boilermakers win Big Ten championships under Gene Keady.

Lewis shared Mr. Basketball honors with Delray Brooks, who played briefly at Indiana before transferring to Providence. His scoring prowess at Anderson High School was legendary. His 76 points in the state semifinals and finals in 1983 outpaced names like George McGinnis, Oscar Robertson and Glenn Robinson.

He was one of 12 selections to Purdue’s Centennial All-Time Men’s Basketball Team in 1987. Fittingly, he was inducted into the Purdue Hall of Fame in 2010 alongside Keady and teammates Todd Mitchell and Everette Stephens.

No. 2: Glenn Robinson (1991)

It was tempting to rank Robinson 1B just for his two-year impact at Purdue.

Arguably the best high school player in the country alongside Chris Webber, Robinson swept Mr. Basketball, McDonald’s All-American and Parade All-American honors after leading Gary Roosevelt to the state championship.

Coincidentally, Robinson was such a great scorer that he put up 1,710 points at Roosevelt and 1,706 in two seasons at Purdue. 

His dominating 1994 season may never be seen again at Purdue. He set Big Ten single-season records with 1,030 points and a nation-best 30.3 average while leading Purdue to the Elite Eight. Not surprisingly, he was the Big Ten Player of the Year and consensus National Player of the Year.

Robinson became Purdue’s second overall No. 1 NBA Draft pick, going to Milwaukee. During an 11-year NBA career, Robinson won a title with San Antonio in 2005. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.

No. 1: Rick Mount (1966)

From the moment he became the first high school athlete on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Mount has never been out of the spotlight.

Mount more than lived up to the reputation as the nation’s best high school basketball player (given that honor by USA Basketball Yearbook in 1966). While most high school players never approach their high school scoring numbers, Mount nearly matched his 33.1 points a game mark at Lebanon as a junior and senior.

While at Purdue, Mount averaged 32.3 points a game. His 2,323 points, in three varsity seasons without a 3-point line, remains a Purdue standard 51 years after his final collegiate game.

To some, including myself, he remains the standard for jump shooters in college basketball. Mount was part of the first Purdue Hall of Fame class in 1994 and followed his father, Pete, into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Purdue offers Westfield’s Smith

Westfield junior guard Braden Smith posted on Twitter Monday night that he had been offered a basketball scholarship by Purdue.

The offer from coach Matt Painter is the first known significant offer for Smith, an honorable mention All-State guard this past season. The website 247Sports.com lists other offers for Smith from Montana, Toledo and Appalachian State. Rivals.com lists an offer from Belmont.

Smith averaged 22 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.7 steals while helping Westfield post an 18-5 record in 2020-21. Painter, whose recent recruiting emphasis has been on shooters, probably noticed Smith’s 55 percent overall mark and 45 percent from 3-point range (69 of 153). Smith also shot 83 percent at the line this past season (96 of 115).

Notes

The Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame will now bear Leroy Keyes’ name. That announcement came just before the Boilermaker football great’s funeral this past Saturday.

Purdue also will create the Leroy Keyes Inside Athletics Graduate Leadership Fellowship, designed to aid a student seeking a career in college athletics. 

"Leroy is an icon in our community for not only his accomplishments as an athlete, but as a mentor and role model,” athletic director Mike Bobinski said. "These two initiatives will honor Leroy's legacy and continue his mission to make Purdue Athletics a more diverse and welcoming community for students from all walks of life." . . . 

  • Carmel guard Brian Waddell made his decision to play basketball at Purdue official, signing a letter of intent last Thursday.

“He’s just a winner,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter, a former teammate of Waddell’s father, Matt. “He can guard people, has good size, has good length, can rebound and really competes. He’s really worked on his shot and his efficiency is off the charts. Brian is just a good all-around basketball player who will help us win a lot of games here.” . . .

  • The Purdue volleyball team made history by finishing seventh in the final American Volleyball Coaches Association rankings. 

The Boilermakers’ previous best final ranking was eighth in 1982 and matched in 2013. The rating also matched Purdue’s seed in the recently concluded NCAA tournament. 

Purdue lost in three sets to eventual national champion Kentucky in the Elite Eight. First-team selection Grace Cleveland led four Purdue players named to the All-America team (Caitlyn Newton, third team; Hayley Bush and Jena Otec, honorable mention).

Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Courier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.