Remember that scrappy Michigan freshman who hit four threes in the first half of the 2013 NCAA championship game against Louisville? Spike Albrecht’s breakout performance that night—and his cheeky tweet at Kate Upton afterwards—made the Crown Point, Ind., native a household name for one shining moment.
That was four long years ago, and what looked to be a potential rise to stardom never materialized. Albrecht’s career has been plagued by injuries, mainly due to a degenerative condition in his hips. After posting career-best numbers (7.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists) as a junior in 2014–15, he had surgery on both hips in the offseason.
He made it back onto the court for his senior season, but his body didn't feel right and his production suffered. Nine games into the year, he made the excruciating decision to cut his senior season short. His college career seemed to be over. But Albrecht was determined to complete his basketball journey on his own terms, so he rehabbed his way back into playing shape. After receiving his degree and a release from Michigan, he transferred to Purdue, where he was immediately eligible as a fifth-year graduate student.
Now 24 years old, Albrecht is averaging 1.7 points in just under 13 minutes per game for the tournament-bound Boilermakers.
Albrecht spoke with SI.com to discuss that magical night four years ago, his hips, his comeback—and what it was like to be back in Ann Arbor for Senior Day wearing a Purdue uniform.
Daniel Rapaport: When people hear your name, they immediately think back to the 2013 national title game. You came into that game averaging 8 minutes and 1.8 points, then you hit four threes in the first half. What do you remember most from that night?
Spike Albrecht: First of all, it feels like forever ago. I just remember going in, I was giddy like a little kid. A year before that I wasn’t sure if I was going to be playing college basketball, then I’m on the biggest stage. That was surreal. When my number got called early on, I just remember thinking, I’m gonna be aggressive. I didn’t want to be the reason we let the lead slip. With Trey [Burke] on the bench, I knew I’d take all the blame!
DR: Then after the game, you tweet at Kate Upton—truly the ultimate heat check. Did she ever get back to you?
SA: Nope. She did not. Cold shoulder. That’s O.K., though.
SI.com: Take me back to that moment when you knew your senior season was over.
SA: It was so tough on me and on my family as well. They knew how much the game means to me. My whole life revolved around basketball—and then in an instant it’s taken away from you. The hardest part was not being able to finish it out on my own terms. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my story was going to end like that.
DR: Once you did get healthy, how did you settle on Purdue? It’s a bit unconventional to transfer within the same conference.
SA: They were one of the first schools to reach out after I got my release. Being from Indiana, I wanted to stay close to home because I know how much it means to my family to be able to watch me play. When I started talking to Coach [Matt] Painter, I got a really good vibe from him. Super honest, super up-front. It felt like the right place for me.
DR: You just played against Michigan on its Senior Night. How weird was that?
SA: Weirder than I could have ever imagined. I cannot even begin to describe it. When I first saw the schedule and saw that we had to go back to Ann Arbor on Senior Night, I started laughing. No way. Quite the coincidence.
DR: Putting results aside, what has it meant for you on a personal level to be able to overcome the injuries and finish your college basketball career on your own terms?
SA: I might not be having the year I had hoped for, hurting my back earlier, but to get back up and get out here and finish my career with no regrets—that’s the most important thing. I started something and I’m going to be able to see it through. I have a chance to get another Big Ten championship and I’ll get my master’s degree in August. That’s all I could ever ask for.
DR: You’ve played in a national title game and won a Big Ten championship, and Purdue has struggled in postseason play recently. How does your experience help as you guys prepare to make a run in March?
SA: I hope more than anything to help bring a calming voice and some poise when I’m out there on the floor. We definitely have the talent and the capability to make a run and do some special things. I just try and stay in guys’ ears to stick to the game plan, do what we do, keep outside distractions limited.
DR: You’re healthy. You’re playing. You can still shoot. There’s still a chance for you to go off in a tournament game!
SA: (Laughs). Just got to stay ready. You never know when your number will be called.
DR: What does your basketball future hold? Does the journey continue?
SA: Right now I’m focused on finishing out this season, staying healthy and doing everything I can to help Purdue win. But to be completely honest, I don’t see myself playing much after this year besides maybe some rec basketball. My body has been speaking to me, and after bilateral hip surgery and then the back injury this year, I’m just trying to make the most of these last four to six weeks.