After a hectic spring and summer of AAU basketball, Kevin Puryear is relaxing a bit before his senior year at Blue Springs South High School begins.
At the same time, though, he’s dealing with one of his biggest challenges – whittling down his possibilities and ultimately deciding on where to attend college.
The 6-foot-7 Puryear, two-time Examiner Player of the Year and one of the most sought-after basketball recruits in the Kansas City metro area, has received 11 Division I scholarship offers – the latest coming this week from Nebraska – and says he has no favorites. Alabama-Birmingham, Creighton, Duquesne, Liberty, Miami (Ohio), Mississippi, Murray State, Oklahoma State, San Diego and San Francisco also seek his talents.
Puryear said he wants to take his official visits soon – he’s got trips to Ole Miss and San Diego already scheduled – and ultimately make a decision in September, “to get it out of the way before school starts.”
Of course, the official scholarship offers are only the tip of the recruiting-mail-iceberg he’s received, not to mention the electronic correspondence. In the Puryears’ living room are two storage boxes full of mail, which Kevin’s mother Vicki jokes will get dropped around her son for a candid senior photo.
As blessed as he feels to have received such attention, Puryear is looking forward to being finished with the recruiting process. Playing on an AAU team (KC Run GMC) full of college recruits, he and his teammates could share their recruiting experiences.
“We’d vent to each other about the problems we had because all our problems were the same,” he said. “We won a lot of games and played great as a team. I'm definitely going to miss those guys.”
Puryear’s KC Run GMC teammates included Lee’s Summit and future Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, Lee’s Summit West’s Jarred Dixon, Raytown’s Jailen Gill, Raytown South’s Tyrone Gibbs, Columbia Rock Bridge’s Ryan Kreklow and Jimmy Whitt from Columbia Hickman, as well as Blaise Gammon from Blue Valley West and four other players from Kansas high schools.
Of course, Lock’s Lee’s Summit team upset Puryear and the Jaguars in the district finals last year.
“We joked about that all the time, but at the end of the day we’re still friends,” Puryear said. “We’re both very competitive. If we’re going to lose to someone I’d want it to be him.”
While AAU basketball has develop a reputation of being littered with me-first players not concerned as much about how the team plays, Puryear said his team had no issues in becoming a cohesive unit.
“There’s (individual-based) teams like that, but we all have the same goal and we’re all hungry,” Puryear said. “We knew that playing together would look better than playing as individuals. The coaches still know how good we are. Everybody on the team accepted their roles, and on their high school teams they’re the best players.”
“That’s something we try to pride ourselves on,” added L.J. Goolsby, the Run GMC coach. “Luckily we’ve got players who believe in that and trust in what we’re doing. They know the more we win the more exposure they get.”
After Whitt, Puryear was Run GMC’s next-best scorer, and Goolsby said he thought Puryear became much more aggressive over the summer.
“He has become more assertive, which was a big deal,” Goolsby said. “He shot the ball pretty well, but he’s always done that.
“He’s so versatile. If I had to pick one (strength), it’s his aggressiveness. He’s figured that part out and how much that helps.”
Puryear said he grew tougher mentally and physically through the AAU season.
“In school ball, guys just wanted to get the best of me, and sometimes they did,” he said. “Being around players just as big and bigger than me in the summer helped.”
Puryear, who averaged 19.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists with 55 percent shooting last season for a South team that went 21-5, also played in June with his Jaguar teammates. Though South lost two equally tall starters Kendall Blanton and Jacob Towler, Puryear will be rejoined by the backcourt of K.J. Robinson and Brandon Kilgore, and junior forward Briley Moore-McKinney is back from a knee injury. Puryear not only earned all-state honors for the second straight year, he was the only junior picked as a finalist for the DiRenna Award as the top player in the metro area.
A potential run to state was cut short by Lee’s Summit, and Puryear says the Jaguars have no reason not to shoot again for raising the championship trophy in Columbia.
“It’s the goal every year,” he said. “We went to the KU team camp and got to build some chemistry, and we’ll build more when practice starts. It’s different (without Blanton and Towler), but we have some different things we’re going to try.”
And like last year, Puryear knows South coach Jimmy Cain is going to ask him to play all around the floor and have a multifaceted role.
“Since sophomore year, he’s had me doing that,” Puryear said. “I’m ready to accept the challenge.”