Grady Eifert

Excelled on the court and in the classroom

Story by Ken Thompson, Photos provided by Purdue Athletics

Grady Eifert

Grady Eifert seemingly was destined to be a Boilermaker.

His father, Greg, was a starting forward for coach Gene Keady’s first Big Ten Conference championship team in 1984. The Eifert family had Purdue basketball season tickets, and Grady made many trips to Mackey Arena from his hometown of Fort Wayne.

Unlike his father, Grady had to earn a scholarship after he arrived on campus. He was a preferred walk-on as a freshman and sophomore and wondered at times if he made the right decision.

“Those first two years were not always the easiest,” Grady Eifert says. “I think every athlete goes through a time where school is tough and then basketball is tough as well. You think, ‘Did I make the right decision?’ But I think it’s really how you react and can learn from those situations and get better, push through. I came into it with an open mind that this isn’t going to be the easiest thing in the world. You’ve got to be able to take on the challenge when it’s presented to you.”

Not only did Grady meet that challenge, he triumphed.

Eifert was a team captain during the 2018-19 season, starting every game and helping the Boilermakers reach the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight for the first time since 2000.

Purdue has had a handful of outstanding walk-ons, including 1984 Big Ten Player of the Year Jim Rowinski, in the past four decades, but head coach Matt Painter says Eifert was not a typical nonscholarship player.

“Every walk-on is different, but what set Grady apart was his physical attributes,” Painter says. “Most walk-ons typically aren’t physically and mentally ready to play in the Big Ten.

“He had good size (6-foot-6) when he arrived, and his family’s background and athletic experience told us he had been around the game a long time. He was a selfless team player that would do anything it took to help Purdue be successful.”

Now, Eifert is taking on a new challenge. He’ll serve as one of two graduate assistants under Painter starting in the 2019-20 season, alongside former teammate P.J. Thompson.

Eifert is a leader by example, whether it’s on the basketball court or in the classroom.

“I think I try as hard as I can,” Eifert says. “I show up on time. I tried to do the small things to get those grades. As a student I always maintained over a 3.0 and I’m a two-time Academic All-Big Ten, so I think that shows the time you have to put in because it’s not easily done.”

One of his instructors, Anita Dale, says Eifert applied the same effort in her Fundamentals of Negotiations class as he does on the basketball court.

“Grady excelled in giving his best to each of the assignments,” Dale says. “Grady also did a good job of applying what he learned in one case to another case of a different type.”

Eifert earned his degree in selling and sales management in the College of Health and Human Sciences in May and until his recent decision to stay on campus, he considered following in another of his father’s career paths.

“My dad is involved with sales,” Eifert says.

“It’s a unique education to get here. Not a lot of schools offer it. I just think the experience it was able to give me was huge because it gave me real-life experience.”

With his playing career ended, Eifert takes pride in having helped Purdue basketball regain its place among the Big Ten’s elite.

“Being able to go to the NCAA tournament four years in a row, going to the Sweet 16, going to
the Elite Eight and then winning two Big Ten championships — and having an unbelievable career against IU — will be something that I’ll always remember,” Eifert says.

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