Haas can’t wait to play with Hammons and Men of Mackey

Isaac Haas has a hard time hiding his enthusiasm.

At 7-foot-2 and 295 pounds, Haas has a hard time hiding much of anything.

But when the former Boilermaker center learned he would be re-united on the basketball court with A.J. Hammons, it was icing on the cake.

“I can’t wait to play again with A.J.” said Haas, who appeared in 129 games for Purdue from 2015-18. “That makes this year extra special for me.

“He’s just a really goofy guy. But a lot of fun to be around.”

Haas thinks he and Hammons have a complementary skill set. But it didn’t set well with Haas that he wasn’t able to send Hammons out of his Purdue playing days on a higher note.

“When we lost that year to Little Rock (in the second round of the NCAAs), that really broke my heart,” Haas said. “I saw so much talent on that team and so many options in him, for him to be such an amazing professional player. I just wanted him to go further. So, we get a chance to do it again and we will see how to do it for him, as well as myself.”

With the opportunity to be surrounded by “older” Boilermakers like Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson and coach Ryne Smith, Haas feels confident that the second version of the Men of Mackey can do damage in TBT.

“I think these guys are committed to coming in and putting together a team that’s gonna have a chance to do something special,” Haas said. “And do it together representing Purdue in the process. That’s what makes it fun.”

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Haas said last year’ experience, which included an opening round win over Heartfire before being eliminated by Boeheim’s Army, was the start of something big.

“You can go back in my tweets from after last year, where I said this is a stepping stone for future Purdue TBT teams,” said Haas, who had 11 points and 10 boards against Heartfire and 12 and 8 against Boeheim’s Army. “I didn’t know that it was going to jump from four Purdue guys last year to 10 this year. And when you add Ryne Smith, that’s an amazing step forward.”

Haas, who will train in Minneapolis before joining his Men of Mackey teammates in Columbus, Ohio, on July 19, says his game continues to evolve. After playing last year in China, the Hokes Bluff, Ala., native is pondering his options in Europe and in the States. And, he hasn’t given up on making a mark in the NBA.

“In pro basketball, especially at this level. you have to continue to develop” Haas said. “I am working hard in training that I am really capable of being more than just being in the low block. I’ve shown that I can shoot really well and getting more comfortable with that 15-footer. Even my threes are coming along really nicely.”

As soon as Haas spoke the last sentence, he said with a chuckle, “I’m not like I am a 70 percent three-point shooter, but I am working to get guys to respect me from range. The spacing on the court is different in the pro game, and I have to show I can take advantage of that.”

.Haas has enjoyed a great relationship with Purdue fans, and it is something he values even more today. So, what is his message to the Gold and Black faithful?

“I just ask that you come out and support us, you go out to Columbus, buy the tickets, come out there and show us love,” said Haas, who relishes the opportunity to play in front of fans in addition to playing for the $1 million prize that goes to the champion in the winner-take-all format. “I know that we’re gonna love to have you guys there and we’ll look forward to meeting each and every one of you.

“So, whether you’re sitting at home, or whether you’re at the arena with us, we love you guys. We’re doing this for you.”

To win that prize money, the No. 8 seeded Men of Mackey have to win a total of six games in the 64-team event, surviving three contests the first weekend in games played at Ohio State’s 3,700-seat Covelli Center, and then winning three more the following weekend in the “Elite-8” final played in the University of Dayton Arena (13,435).

Up first is the No. 9 seeded “Ballinteers,” a team comprised of University of Tennessee players. The game well be played Friday, July 23, at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

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