Ex-Wolfpack guard Rodney Purvis enjoyed UConn’s ride to NCAA title

jgiglio@newsobserver.comApril 16, 2014 

The NCAA doesn’t allow transfers to travel with the team, so Rodney Purvis missed Connecticut’s first two road trips in the NCAA tournament.

The former N.C. State guard wasn’t about to miss the last one, so he saved up and paid his own way to the Final Four in Arlington, Texas.

“It was well worth it,” Purvis said in a recent phone interview.

The McDonald’s All-American from Raleigh got as close as he could get to UConn’s 60-54 win against Kentucky in the national college basketball title game.

“I sat right behind the bench, with all the other parents and family members,” Purvis said.

Purvis celebrated with the Huskies after their national title on April 7. After sitting and watching for a season, and having surgery to repair his left shoulder, he’s eager to do more.

“I’m already looking forward to next season,” Purvis said. “I’m ready to play again.”

Purvis left N.C. State after his freshman season in 2013. He averaged 8.3 points and started 23 times in an uneven but eventful campaign.

He decided to jump to UConn for a better fit in coach Kevin Ollie’s offense and the Huskies’ tradition of producing NBA guards.

The backcourt combo of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, with small forward DeAndre Daniels, carried the Huskies, a No. 7 seed in the East Regional, to their fourth national title in 16 years.

As much as Purvis missed playing this season, he was happy with the competition in practice against strong perimeter players.

“It was a great challenge every day in practice,” Purvis said. “Just being around those guys, I feel like I learned a lot from them.”

Napier is a senior and Daniels is expected to opt for the NBA draft. Ollie already said he’s eager to rebuild around Boatright and Purvis.

At the Final Four, Ollie referred to Purvis as “a Ferrari sitting in the garage that I can’t drive.”

Purvis appreciates the compliment but understands there is pressure and expectations now. When he chose UConn last summer, the Huskies were coming off a ban from the 2013 NCAA tournament for previous academic failures.

Now they’re national champions, which is the second time in three years a former N.C. State guard has transferred to the team that won the national title. Ryan Harrow was on Kentucky’s bench in 2012 when the Wildcats won the title.

Purvis said he’s not worried about what anyone else did after they left N.C. State or the pressure to fill Napier’s shoes next season.

“It’s not about that,” Purvis said. “I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody. We’re all really motivated to see what we can do without Shabazz.”

Purvis had surgery in December to repair a torn labrum and cracked rotator cuff. He returned to practice before the Final Four and has been given a clean bill of health to prepare for his sophomore season.

The way Ollie used Napier and Boatright together, both players capable of handling the ball and creating for their teammates, was the original appeal of Purvis’ decision to leave N.C. State.

He’s ready to get back on the court and prove he made the right decision to leave home and to backup Ollie’s confidence.

“Every single day I pinch myself,” Purvis said. “I know I’m not Shabazz or Ryan, but if you give me the ball and tell me to make a play, I know I can do that.”

Purvis will get that chance soon.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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