Kevin Puryear shared the stage at the College Basketball Experience with the top players from both sides of the state.
Although the 6-foot-7 Blue Springs South junior did not win the DiRenna Award, which is given to the top player in the metro area, he still sported an ear-to-ear grin Thursday night.
“I'm hoping next year will be my year,” said Puryear, as he was the lone underclassman among the group of five standouts.
If you happened to play against Puryear and his Jaguar teammates, it would be hard not to argue that this was his year, too.
Puryear led South to a 21-5 record, a Suburban Big Six title and a championship at the William Jewell Holiday Classic. He was named the Jewell Classic MVP, the Big Six Player of the Year and was named to the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association All-State team.
Puryear averaged 19.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 55 percent from the field and 73 percent from the free throw line.
He might not have won the DiRenna Award, but he was a unanimous selection for The Examiner’s 2013-14 Boys Basketball Player of the Year award.
“The Examiner Player of the Year is an award that I have followed since I was a young kid,” said South coach Jimmy Cain, who won the award when he was a senior standout at Blue Springs High School. “To have one of my players honored with this award is very special.”
Puryear feels much the same way.
“My coach won this award when he was at Blue Springs, and now I’ve won it and I think it’s great to share the award with a coach I love and respect,” Puryear said. “Coach Cain has done so much for me and helped me become a better player and person. If I can share something like this with him, that makes it even more special.”
Puryear entered his junior year with a big target on his back as he was expected to be the area’s dominant player, and he didn’t disappoint.
“I faced a challenge this season – our entire team faced a challenge – and I think we did well,” Puryear said. “Now that the season is over, it’s fun to look back at the success we had, winning conference and winning the championship at the Jewell Tournament.
“But we didn’t win the ultimate championship, and that’s state. And I know that I speak for all the guys who are coming back – that is our only goal next year.”
Well, it’s his only prep goal. This young man has his future well in hand, and he says the ultimate goal is a spot on a NBA team.
“I’ve been so fortunate to have been blessed with God-given talent, great parents, great coaches and great teammates,” said Puryear, who receives 50 to 75 letters, e-mails and phone calls a week from Division I programs around the country.
“It looks like my dream of playing Division I ball is going to come true, and I have to work with my folks on selecting the right school. Then, I can work hard and hopefully achieve my dream of playing in the NBA. That’s my ultimate goal. That’s what keeps me working so hard.”
Puryear has worked hard to become a complete player, and Cain believes the best is yet to come.
“We are all really excited for next season,” Cain said. “Kevin and his teammates have had great offseasons in the past, and I know this will be another hard-working summer to prepare to go after all the goals we will set.
“Kevin has become very mentally tough as he has matured as a player. He sees so many double-teams and absorbs so much contact, and that used to frustrate him. This year he was so good at playing through whatever happened on the court, and his steady demeanor really helped the rest of the team.”
Much like Becca Jonas, the 6-foot-1 center from Truman High School who was The Examiner's Girls Player of the Year, Puryear is effective at any position.
“He really played a point-forward type role for us this year,” Cain said. “He was able to be effective anywhere on the floor. He can obviously score, but he also does a great job reading defenses and finding teammates when he is doubled. He would be the first to also mention the luxury of having some great teammates who he trusted.”
Puryear would much rather talk about his teammates than himself.
“We had some great guys on the team last year, great guys who graduated,” Puryear said. “And we have K.J. (Robinson, a guard who is also a member of The Examiner’s All-Area team) and other players coming back, so next year should be real successful, too.”