Coming out of high school, Rodney Purvis was touted as an athletically gifted guard who finishes strong at the rim. Expectations were high at UConn for the former McDonald's All-American, whose highlight reel is littered with vicious throwdowns at the rim. He was to team up with Ryan Boatright and form one of the most dangerous back courts in the country.
Unfortunately, he struggled out of the gate and for most of the season. Because the offense didn't have a true ballhandler, UConn's scorers were often settling for contested jump shots or frantically trying to make something happen at the end of the shot clock. Hopefully, this will change with Sterling Gibbs and Jalen Adams being added to the roster, but last year Purvis ended up having to shoot too much.
He shot 36 percent from 3-point range, taking almost twice as many shots from beyond the arc (150) as he did from the free-throw line (78). How often a player gets to the foul line is a good indication of aggressiveness. Purvis averaged just 2.4 free throws per game, and in 14 games he didn't get to the free-throw line at all. Jerome Dyson, who I think is a comparable UConn player to Purvis, failed to get to the free throw line in just 11 games during his 4 years in Storrs.
We were teased sparingly with instances of him blowing past defenders, but it wasn't enough. Even when he was able to get to the free throw line, Purvis shot a dismal 54 percent.
Despite being a poor free-throw shooter, when Purvis was able to drive and draw contact his performances were significantly better. In the 19 games that Purvis attempted less than three free throws, he averaged 9.6 points. In the other 14 games where Purvis took at least three free-throw attempts, he averaged 14.4 points with 2.8 points coming from free throws. With 4.8 additional points and only 2.8 of them coming at the line, we see that Purvis averages an additional basket elsewhere in games when he attacks.
Free throws, uncontested layups, space from defenders for jump shots, and creating plays for teammates are all benefits to driving into the lane. The latter is another aspect of the game that Purvis must improve on. Purvis averaged just 1.2 assists, never tallying more than three in a game last season. With the quickness Purvis possesses he should be able to wreak havoc on opposing defenses, creating room for easy lobs to Amida Brimah. For this to happen he needs to stay aggressive.
Despite the criticism above, Purvis' first season at UConn was not bad by any means. The redshirt sophomore was the team's second-leading scorer (11.6 points per game) and at times carried the Huskies when they could not seem to buy a basket—perhaps most notably in the SMU home game toward the end of the season.
The reason Purvis garners criticism is because he has the potential for so much more. The physical tools are all there, the strategy needs to change. Circumstances helped prevent him from doing that, but after one year we know Purvis needs to play an aggressive, high-energy style of basketball. He should not rely so heavily upon his jump shot. He is an explosive athlete and needs to make the most of it. He needs to drive fearlessly into the lane and finish strong at the rim. He showed us he can do it, and with the additions made to this year's team, he needs to be able to do it more often.