Rodney Purvis felt right at home at North Carolina State when it came time to make his college decision.
He got to know the players on the current roster, and after learning about its new coach last season, Purvis wanted in. But for a while, he wasn’t sure the NCAA would let him experience his dream of playing for the Wolfpack.
Purvis had to wait as the NCAA went over his high school transcripts to make sure everything was on the up and up, and he was fully eligible. It was a stressful time for the 18-year-old, as the days seemingly grew longer as the wait continued. Sometimes the clock didn’t even move.
He was an excellent student at Upper Room Christian Academy, which made the delay that much more puzzling and frustrating. Purvis heard from many people, including some of the top college basketball analysts from some of the bigger networks, offering support.
“I was like, ‘Dang, you guys must really like me or something,’” Purvis said, smiling. “I don’t know.”
It’s not hard to like Purvis. His game attracts all kinds of hoops fans. At 6-foot-4, Purvis is considered a combo guard, meaning he can play the point or shooting guard positions. But finding Purvis intriguing goes well beyond his basketball qualities.
He has an appealing smile, is affable, and comes off as a pretty regular guy, which isn’t always the case for a high-profile athlete, especially a prominent basketball player along Tobacco Road. Hoops phenoms in these parts are often household names before they play in a real game, and once their basketball talents are on full display, they can reach superstar status before their first Christmas in college.
Through four games, Purvis is averaging 13 points a game for the No. 16 Wolfpack. Despite missing the team’s September trip to Spain while waiting to hear about his eligibility from the NCAA, Purvis he has meshed in with his older and much more experienced teammates. It hasn’t hurt having junior and likely NBA first-round pick C.J. Leslie as a personal mentor.
Leslie has been through some issues during his career, but appears to have made it through the toughest aspects of his adjustments. Purvis said Leslie and junior guard Lorenzo Brown stayed in regular contact during the waiting period.
“C.J. definitely, any time during this (period) he kept checking on me and seeing how things are going,” Purvis said. “And Lorenzo, also, he called me a few times. I’m sure his phone bill is something like that. He didn’t care, he was just making sure I was OK.”
Leslie wants to impart all of that accumulated wisdom onto his young teammate.
“I have had my learning periods and feel like I can help him out,” Leslie said. “One thing I’ve learned is that it isn’t just about basketball. Really, the basketball sometimes is the easy part. I want him to know that.”
Purvis was initially interested in NC State when he realized college basketball was in his future. But when Sidney Lowe was fired by NC State in April of 2011, Purvis wondered if he may end up somewhere else. He had to peel away a few layers about Lowe’s successor, Mark Gottfried, before choosing the Raleigh school.
“I did a lot of research on Coach Gottfried,” Purvis said. “I committed here without even seeing them play. I came to maybe one or two of their practices. I didn’t even take an official visit. I was really confident with Coach Gottfried, and I can see it’s really paid off with the (NCAA) tournament (run) and what he’s done for the university.”
NCSU failed to reach the NCAA Tournament in five seasons under Lowe, but came on strong late last season and reached the Sweet 16 before falling to Kansas, which eventually played in the national championship game.
The Wolfpack generated a great deal of attention for the run, and with two other McDonald’s All-Americans joining four returning starters, the Pack was an early national darling.
A 20-point loss to Oklahoma State last Sunday in the title game of the Puerto Rico Tipoff rattled the team’s cage and dropped them 10 spots in the national polls. Purvis scored 16 points on the evening, but winning is what he cares about. Purvis knows if he plays well further opportunities in the game will come along.
Purvis sharply understands that winning draws more attention than not, so winning is priority number one. And that’s part of the other reason he chose NC State over neighborhood rivals Duke and North Carolina. Purvis saw helping to build State into a national entity as more intriguing than just being a part in another program’s long line of success.
“I think we can do great things here,” Purvis said. “I think we can do that starting now.”
With his multidimensional talents on hand, that prospect became more realistic the minute Purvis stepped onto campus.