RALEIGH — John Wall watched from the back of the gym at Upper Room Christian Academy as Rodney Purvis announced his decision to go to N.C. State today. Of all the people in the room, Wall may understand better than anyone the burden Purvis has chosen to carry.
Theres a lot of pressure, Wall said. Hes the hometown hero now.
Wall chose to go elsewhere for college, although under no less pressure at Kentucky. Given the results -- all-American, No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, all-rookie first team -- its hard to argue with his decision.
Purvis, a 6-foot-4 guard rated among the top 20 players in the country by every recruiting service, chose to stay home. He chose to play for a program that hasnt made the NCAA tournament in five years. He chose to take a leap of faith with new N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried -- not out of a plane, but into the unknown. He chose to accept the expectations that will be placed upon him by N.C. State fans desperate to return to relevance on the basketball court.
His mother, Shanda McNair, had mixed feelings about that. She wanted him to get the experience of going away to school, meeting new people, seeing new places. And then there was the inherent pressure that would come with being seen by fans as the player to lead N.C. State out of the wilderness.
My plan is not to allow him to put that pressure on himself, McNair said. He just needs to work hard, act with good character and be true to who he is.
If it feels like weve been here before, its because we have been. Only 13 months ago, another five-star Raleigh recruit, C.J. Leslie, committed to N.C. State as part of a recruiting class that was supposed to jump-start the Sidney Lowe Era. That group fizzled, N.C. State finished 10th in the ACC and Lowe was invited to return to the NBA.
Purvis case is a little different, in part because of how the coaching staff convinced him to buy into their vision for the program. Lowes staff offered Purvis a scholarship, but never really pursued him. (No lines of communication, McNair said. Never built a relationship.) Gottfried, with assistant coach Orlando Early leading the way, pressed Purvis from the moment he backed off an earlier commitment to Louisville.
Purvis was willing to listen, but that was only half the battle. Gottfried and Early had to win over not only Purvis but his mother as well.
What didnt coach Gottfried say? McNair joked. That entire staff, theyre hard workers. Theres nothing I can do at this point but respect them.
Gottfried may not have won a single game yet, but hes winning over the moms.
As for the fans, theyre won over. Those in attendance cheered wildly when Purvis announced his decision. He had no fear of disappointing them, but did he expect there to be so many?
Yes, Purvis said. I did.
He seems to have a pretty good idea of what he has gotten himself into. He thinks hes ready. This is the path he has chosen.
DeCock: twitter.com/LukeDeCock or (919) 829-8947