Pack's Purvis happily puts eligibility saga behind him

Pack’s Purvis happily puts eligibility saga behind him

CorrespondentOctober 9, 2012 

N.C. State's C.J. Leslie, left, Rodney Purvis, center, and Richard Howell laugh as the basketball team is introduced during the first half of N.C. State's game against The Citadel Saturday, September 22, 2012, at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com

— The only time Rodney Purvis says doubt ever entered his mind was when he talked with his mother.

While Purvis tried to project an air of confidence during the 44 days in August and September that his eligibility was in question, Shanda McNair would occasionally attempt to prepare her son for the possibility N.C. State’s appeal to the NCAA might not be successful.

“My mom always told me the truth. She was always like, ‘Just be prepared for what could really happen,’” Purvis said. “She’s was like, ‘There’s a chance you might not play this year.’ ”

The NCAA ruled Purvis ineligible on Aug. 4 while it conducted a review of Upper Room Christian Academy. Purvis was part of the first class to graduate, and Purvis was the first athlete from the school to go through the NCAA eligibility process.

While the NCAA investigated Upper Room’s academic credentials, Purvis wasn’t allowed to go on the Wolfpack’s trip to Spain in early August. He was also prohibited from attending the first couple days of class at N.C. State so he didn’t permanently jeopardize his academic standing.

Even if Purvis tried to appear confident, his teammates sensed he was a bit depressed. They tried to cheer him up – junior guard Lorenzo Brown and others even called while they were in Spain.

“I told him to stay positive, and it’s going to work out towards the end because everyone is behind you,” said Brown, who had to go to prep school for a year before making it to N.C. State. “Plus, with the whole UNC thing, if they got off, how could he not?

“You know what I mean?”

Finally on Sept. 17, Purvis received a call from a private number on his cell phone. After debating whether he should answer it, Purvis decided to pick up and had a hard time hearing who was on the other end.

Just as he was about to hang up, the connection improved and Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried told him that N.C. State’s appeal was successful. The McDonald’s All-American was eligible to play this season.

“Finally getting cleared was probably the best day of my life,” Purvis said.

It’s good news for the Wolfpack, too.

With expectations running high after a 2011-12 season in which N.C. State won 24 games and reached the third round of the NCAA tournament, North Carolina’s high school player of the year in 2012 is expected to start at shooting guard.

The Wolfpack hopes the 6-foot-2 Purvis will mesh with Brown and senior small forward Scott Wood to provide a multi-dimensional threat on the perimeter. Recruiting analysts praise Purvis’ ability to score, both in transition and in the half-court, where his first step figures to be an asset.

Purvis will likely be N.C. State’s only new starter this season, replacing senior C.J. Williams. While Williams wasn’t a dynamic offensive presence, he made a lot subtle contributions to the Wolfpack’s cause.

“I think it’s going to be tough not only defensively, but we’ve got to fill his leadership role,” Wood said about the challenges of replacing Williams. “I don’t think a lot of fans and a lot of media realize how big he was as a leader. I think the leadership aspect is going to fall back on me, Zo (Brown), Richard and C.J. a little bit.

“But at the same time, I think Rodney has all the components to be a great defensive player. I think if he just puts it in his mind that he’s going to stop the best player every night, he could definitely do it.”

With the missed opportunity of working out some kinks with his teammates in Spain and the mental energy he spent on his eligibility ordeal, observers might wonder if the saga will have a lasting effect on Purvis’ freshman season.

Perhaps cognizant of this fact, Purvis said he made a quick pivot to concentrating on what he needs to do to succeed on the court this season.

“Once I got cleared, I put everything in my past, and I’ve just been looking forward ever since,” Purvis said.

“I think over those 44 days I was ineligible, I got as mentally strong as I could get.”

And when he steps onto the PNC Court for the first time in the Wolfpack’s season opener against Miami of Ohio on Nov. 9, Purvis will feel a heightened sense of gratitude.

“I don’t take anything for granted,” Purvis said.

Then, by way of emphasis, he repeated himself.

“I don’t take anything for granted.”

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