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Men's Basketball: Rodney Purvis Ready to be Leader Ollie's Looking For

As Kevin Ollie looks for his alpha dog, Purvis already feels like he's the guy to lead the Huskies.

Purvis throws one down in the Huskies' final exhibition against New Haven.
Purvis throws one down in the Huskies' final exhibition against New Haven.
Stephen Quick

Kevin Ollie is looking for a leader, an "alpha dog," he says. Rodney Purvis says that is him.

"That's what he's looking for, and I feel like I can be that type of player he's looking for," Purvis said Friday ahead of UConn's Saturday exhibition against New Haven. "I can bring different things to the table. I'm one of the older guys, so I'm definitely the leader on his team. Guys follow my lead on this team."

UConn will need strong leadership to recover after last season's struggles. The Huskies went 20-15, bowing out in the first round of the NIT. A lack of leadership—and, by extension, a lack of chemistry—did UConn no favors during the 2014-15 season.

Early on, UConn looks like it will not struggle in the chemistry and leadership departments. The Huskies return most of last year's squad, with the exception of Terrence Samuel, Rakim Lubin and UConn's eighth-leading scorer in history Ryan Boatright.

Boatright's absence may not be as big a hit as some think, especially if Purvis picks up where he left off at the end of last season. When Boatright went down in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game against SMU, Purvis took over, and the Huskies nearly mounted an improbable comeback late. A few days later, he led another big—albeit unsuccessful—comeback effort against Arizona State.

This year, he is ready to lead from the start.

"He really is leading us," Daniel Hamilton said, "and he's leading by example, not just talking. He's also talking, but he's leading by example in practice. He shows up with intensity and he gets everybody going, and he gets everybody playing hard."

But it will not be just Purvis, as the Huskies made up for the loss of Boatright by adding two graduate transfers: Shonn Miller and Sterling Gibbs. Miller brings valuable experience from the Ivy League. Gibbs brings the traits of a veteran, as well, and as the team's point guard, he will be looked upon to guide the younger players.

Any one of them—Purvis, Miller or Gibbs—can be an alpha dog in Ollie's eyes. That's good, because while Ollie is looking for one, he wants more.

"It can be two guys," Ollis said. "I don't mind. I just need someone to step up and really get these guys going in the right way. The best teams are the teams that police themselves, not me going around policing everybody. That's what I'm looking for."