By CLIFF BRUNT
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Brian Cardinal was awestruck when he saw the court that bears his name and the surrounding new facilities.
Back in 2008, Cardinal and his wife, former Purdue women’s player Danielle Bird, donated $250,000 to the renovation project for a practice court, leading Purdue to name it after them. Cardinal, a four-year starter from 1996-2000, got his first look at the finished product when he returned this past weekend for the Alumni Game.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “It’s awesome to be a part of the transformation. The facility, I think, is one of the best in the country. It’s fun to come back and be a part of it.”
Cardinal averaged 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds for Purdue in 1999-2000 and helped the Boilermakers reach the Elite Eight. Since then, he has played for seven NBA teams in 12 years. His highlight was winning a world championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Now 35, he appreciates the title more each day.
“People look at your career, people gauge people’s careers by championships,” he said. “Having a chance to contribute and be a part of it was awesome.”
Last season, he averaged six minutes per game for the Mavericks. He is a free agent who doesn’t know what the future holds.
“Keeping our fingers crossed that things work out,” he said. “At the same time, if they don’t, I’ve got a fantastic family. My son is five, daughters three and one. We’ve got a couple dogs and a wonderful wife. Life is good. Either way, it’s going to be wonderful.”
The Cardinals have a plan in case the NBA doesn’t call.
“We own a farm in Westfield, just right up the street,” he said. “When it’s all said and done, we’ll retire back there and kind of figure out the next phase. Hopefully, it includes Purdue and coming back and being a part of the university and the John Purdue Club and having a chance to share my experiences and doing some mentoring with the guys on the team.”
If it’s over, he leaves with good memories. In his best season, he averaged 9.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 2003-04 with Golden State. He is an 86 percent career free-throw shooter and a 37-percent 3-point shooter.
“It’s been an awesome ride, a lot longer than a lot of people anticipated,” he said.
He showed he still has some skills on Saturday. He set the pick that helped spring Lewis Jackson for the game-winning 3-pointer.
“It was great,” he said. “It was great to be a part of the game, it was great to be on the bench, talking to the guys and just catching up. It was an awesome experience. It was great to play one last time at Mackey. It was great to play under coach Keady. I think it was a special day all around.”
He also got a chance to watch the present Boilermakers scrimmage, and he came away encouraged.
“I think it’s an exciting time for men’s basketball,” he said. “I think it’s an exciting time for Purdue in general. I think coach Painter is a fantastic coach, I think they have some fantastic players in here. I think the expectations are where they need to be – high.”