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Following dad to Purdue

The Purdue men's basketball bench celebrates a positive play during action at Mackey Arena.

Three members of the Purdue men's basketball team followed in their fathers footsteps in becoming Boilermakers. (Photo courtesy of Purdue Athletics)

Trio of legacy players showcase strength of Boilermaker basketball culture

Coach Matt Painter and his staff have built a culture like few others in college basketball and one that mirrors the team’s lofty national ranking.

Yet, great culture is only as good as the people in it. There may not be a better example to showcase the strength of the Purdue University men’s basketball program than in its trio of legacy players: Carson Barrett, Chase Martin and Brian Waddell. And for Painter, the trio plays an important role both on and off the court.

“The thing I like is they are all good guys and good players, and people around them, like their dads, know what they are getting into,” says Painter, Purdue’s L. Dick Buell men’s basketball head coach. “That is the key because when recruits come in, we don’t become them; they become us. Their families have the experience, and that really helps.”

The work of Brian, Chase and Carson is a big part of this team’s growth and success.

cuonzo MARTIN
Former Purdue men’s basketball player and assistant coach

Yes, the Barretts, Martins and Waddells know a thing or two about how a talented team environment looks, feels and functions. And they know a lot about winning, too.

The dads, Dave Barrett (a Boilermaker from 1988-91), Cuonzo Martin (1992-95) and Matt Waddell (1992-95), have five Big Ten titles among them, all learning from Hall of Fame coach Gene Keady. The sons have already accumulated six Big Ten titles, including both the 2022-23 regular season and tournament crowns. They are hoping for more hardware in 2023-24.

Much is expected, nothing is given

Yet, having all the connections hasn’t made it an easy road. Chase Martin and Carson Barrett entered the program as walk-ons, while Brian Waddell has battled injuries and stiff competition from his teammates to earn his playing time. The trio combined for a total of just under 300 minutes played entering the 2023-24 season. In comparison, the dads logged nearly 6,000 combined minutes during their careers.

“It’s hard for those guys because as walk-ons and role players, you often have to put in extra time to prepare the team for an upcoming opponent,” says Cuonzo Martin, who has four Division I head coaching stops on his resume. “Yet, those guys play a big part in helping the team improve. The work of Brian, Chase and Carson is a big part of this team’s growth and success.”

And like their dads, their love of the game is evident.

“They have the commonality of the three dads in that aspect,” says Dave Barrett, who coached Carson during his 17-year stint as head coach at Lafayette Central Catholic High School. “Carson has been a Purdue fan since early childhood, and it was always a dream of his to be a Boilermaker.”

Maintaining drive and a desire to play is key to improving and helping the program. Chase Martin and Carson Barrett are further from seeing regular playing time than Brian Waddell. But each knows that keeping that edge of competitiveness is essential to contributing.

“I want to show people I can be as good as my dad,” Brian says. “My dad was my No. 1 source of support during my knee injury and rehab a couple of years ago. He knew how difficult it is to get back on the court; sometimes it is more mental than physical.”

Matt Waddell and Cuonzo Martin suffered knee injuries heading into their senior years of 1994-95. Yet, both got back to the court sooner than expected to help lead Purdue to the second league title during the Boilermakers’ Three-Pete run from 1994-96.

“My dad, being who he is, has always been positive, especially during the tough times,” Brian Waddell says.

Chase Martin was born in Lafayette while his dad was an assistant for Keady. He had options to play at Ivy League schools and Division II, but choosing to matriculate from Columbia, Missouri, (Cuonzo was coaching at the University of Missouri then) had as much to do with the University’s engineering offerings as the opportunity to play basketball.

“Carving out my own niche was important to me,” Chase says. “I didn’t want to be here just because my dad had been here. I wanted to be at Purdue for me.

“Yet, my dad’s legacy has made it easier.”

Carson Barrett is interested in following in his dad’s coaching footsteps and wants to join Painter’s staff next year as a graduate assistant.

“That was the main reason I chose to walk on instead of playing at a smaller school,” Carson says. “I knew with the opportunities earned by (former walk-on) Tommy (Luce) that there might be a path for me.”

Talking about their dads…

The trio of current Boilermakers each admit that the legacy status that links them isn’t something they talk about much. And they haven’t heard too many “when I played” tales from their fathers, but are familiar with some of their exploits. It appears to be a good balance.

Carson Barrett has seen the game ball given to his dad after a come-from-behind win in IU’s Assembly Hall in 1990. Brian Waddell has taken in the YouTube highlights of his dad’s role in a stunning comeback win over Michigan’s Fab 4, which paved the way for the Boilermakers’ 1994 Big Ten title. And yes, Chase Martin has seen clips of his dad’s 29-point performance against Kansas in the ’94 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. (In case you’re wondering, Chase Martin has seen Glenn Robinson’s in-your-face dunk over the Jayhawks’ Greg Ostertag a time or two.)

“It always motivated me when I watched that Michigan game,” Brian Waddell says. “It ingrained in me what is expected when playing at Purdue. But it was also cool to see Dad play against (Michigan stars) Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard and to beat them.”

Cuonzo Martin drives past Michigan’s Jalen Rose during a game between Purdue Men’s Basketball and the Wolverines. (Photo courtesy of Purdue Athletics)

The three dads all played with Painter during their careers, but the sons never heard much about Painter’s playing from their dads. Brian Waddell’s mom, on the other hand, added the following story.

“My mom used to say, ‘If you thought Matt Painter would have been a highly successful college coach by the way he kept his room in college, I would have said you are crazy,’” Brian relates with a laugh.

Dads talking about their sons…

Matt Waddell, a pharmacy graduate who is an executive with Eli Lilly, says it is “totally different now from when we played.” But some of the lessons are still the same as they were in the 1990s.

“Being a player is difficult, but being a parent is equally hard at times,” Matt says. “They are at the age where they must learn to work through things; as parents, we must let them do that.

“It’s been a really unique experience. I share a lot of pictures with Dave and Zo, and we reminisce a lot. It is special to see our sons interact. Dave, Zo and I have always been close, but life happens, and seeing the boys together has been great and has brought the three of us back together.”

Yet, Matt Waddell puts it all into perspective with the lessons learned.

“The dads talk about what our kids are going through now and being on a team that has been ranked No. 1 in each of the last three years,” he says. “We agree that reminding them that this doesn’t define them is important. It is part of their life, and they spend much time doing it. But it is a short period of their life.”

Cuonzo Martin seeks spiritual help when he thinks of the three young men.

“My biggest prayer for them is peace of mind, and try to enjoy this experience,” he says. “They are all likable guys and great young men and they are working hard. Very hard.”

Written by: Alan Karpick, akarpick@goldandblack.com