N.C. State’s Purvis learning valuable lessons

RALEIGH, NC — Rodney Purvis sure doesn’t mind taking on Boston College.

The freshman wing for North Carolina State entered Wednesday night’s game with a previous career-high of 19 points in its five-point victory at BC in its ACC opener in early January. In the second matchup against the Eagles, the slumping Purvis erupted again, for a new career-high of 21 points in an 82-64 victory.

Purvis didn’t get off the bench Wednesday until nearly eight minutes had run off the game clock, but he scored five quick points and had a skip in his step the rest of the way.

From fast breaks to driving layups, shots in the lane and his first 3-pointer since Feb. 2, Purvis got the job done on both ends of the floor. But it wasn’t exactly a performance he, his coach or anyone else saw coming.

In between the meetings with the Eagles, the 6-foot-3 Purvis reached double figures just four times, only once scoring more than 13 points. In fact, he hadn’t scored in double figures in N.C. State’s last five games, totaling just 16 points in that stretch, and had reached double figures in just seven of State’s previous eight contests.

Even more interesting is that this performance comes in the third game after coach Mark Gottfried made a change, inserting fellow freshman T.J. Warren into the starting lineup in place of Purvis. The move to get Warren on the floor with Purvis on the bench more began four games ago, as Purvis went from averaging 30.8 minutes in NCSU’s first 10 ACC contests to 17 in his last four before Wednesday’s rout.

“It would be the same if they said you’re (media) going to go cover junior high soccer from now on,” Gottfried responded when asked how Purvis handled the demotion. “You’d probably be a little down in the dumps for a little bit, and you’d kind of regroup, you’d take yourself a few days, you’d have your feelings hurt and that’s life for all of us, and I get it and I understand and I’ve talked to him about it.

“He was, like we all would be, it’s tough, and I think he’s come back, he’s had a great attitude in practice, he’s worked really hard in practice, and then bang, all of the sudden you play well. And I think that’s the way life works sometimes.”

Purvis said he could see a possible shifting of the lineup coming because he hadn’t been playing as well in February as he had earlier in the season and his minutes had recently dropped. He refutes any notion of hitting a freshman wall, saying he had some personal issues to deal with, and combined with the grind of the season, he just went through a lull.

He didn’t like Gottfried’s decision, but he knew it was best for the Wolfpack (20-8, 9-6 ACC).

As a reserve, Purvis played a season-low 16 minutes in an overtime win over Virginia Tech on Feb. 16 and a new season-low of 12 minutes in a home win over Florida State. He admits it was quite frustrating.

“The last two weeks have been really, really tough for me, but never did I get down on myself or anything,” he said. “I stayed in the gym at night and just tried to (lift) myself mentally.”

But feeling terrific about things, wearing a smile that wouldn’t quit, and besieged by a throng of media asking the same question about what he’s been through about a dozen different ways, Purvis couldn’t help but express he sees the experience as a positive.

Perhaps he felt like it’s in his rear view because so much went so well Wednesday night, though the lineup isn’t going to change and Purvis will be called on again and again to serve in this new role.

Even with this night’s 21-point outburst in 28 minutes of action, it’s highly unlikely that will be the norm moving forward. Thus, the lessons learned must stay with Purvis.

“I’m not looking at lack of playing time because I’m all for the team,” Purvis said. “I wasn’t playing well, so there was really no need for me to be in the game… I just look at it as a learning experience, I can learn from it, (and) it was humbling for me.”

It was, but it also may have been the best thing to happen to Purvis and the Wolfpack.