Young big man from Amsterdam helping put magic back in Mackey

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN – DECEMBER 16: Matt Haarms #32 and Vincent Edwards #12 of the Purdue Boilermakers celebrate against the Butler Bulldogs in the second half of the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 16, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Purdue won 82-67. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In the 90’s, the Pacers had the Dunking Dutchman, who quickly became a fan favorite.

Purdue now has its own hoopster from Holland, an energetic European who’s exuberance is helping put the magic back in Mackey.

“It’s just a game,” said redshirt freshman Matt Haarms, an Amsterdam native. “ If you’re not having fun with it, why are you playing?”

Haarms brings the fun and the emotion. On the bench or on the court, every block, every bucket, the redshirt freshman seven-footer lets everyone know about it.

“I try to keep it constrained to outside the whistles, but sometimes you just gotta let it go, you know? Just let it out, the crowd goes wild and I love that, gets me going for the rest of of the game.”

That energy wasn’t always positive. Learning the game in Europe made Haarms a work in progress.

“When I was younger, like 13 or 14,” added Haarms, “ I was a little emotional, always getting mad, mad at myself. I just learned to phase out that negativity and focus on the positive and try to get myself going, it really helps.”

And when he gets going, so do his teammates.

“I love it,” said fellow seven foot teammate Isaac Haas. “I think sometimes we get down, but when he’s in the game, he’ll just have fun with it, reminds you that this is just a game, we’re here to have fun, it’s not a job yet, we’re enjoying this, so we just draw off the energy that he brings, so it’s really good.”

The head coach likes the added spark Haarms brings as well.

“For him, it’s authentic, it’s real,” said Matt Painter. “It’s not like, hey, I’m going to come up with something to get everyone excited. That’s how he feels, he’s into the game, he’s engaged. When something happens like a blocked shot or a basket, he’s got the fist pump going, and it doesn’t take away from his game, and that’s a good thing.”

“Obviously he’s a fan favorite,” added Haas. “You gotta love that, I just enjoy having him on the team, he’s going to have a great future, I think he’s going to be the king of Mackey.”

A Dutch King.

Haarms plans to keep the fires burning for years to come at Mackey Arena.

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