How does Rodney Purvis look?
Ollie, who has a penchant for memorable metaphors, said having Purvis in practice and unable to play was like having a "Ferrari in the garage."
It was a simple quote. It was meant to convey that Purvis is talented and his ability was something Ollie wanted to use last year but couldn't. It made sense. It was blown out of proportion.
Since that comment, UConn fans, media, and just about anyone who watches basketball, has wanted to see the Ferrari in action. The sports car is exciting and powerful and everyone expected Purvis to be the same too.
The expectations were high.
Every game that Purvis has played for UConn this season has been judged against a Ferrari. In that sense, it's hard to impress. For the most part, his inconsistent play and inability to use that power and speed has led to disappointment and frustration.
Then there are games like Sunday.
The Huskies' NCAA hopes are hanging by a thread, a national TV audience on CBS and No. 21 SMU in the building. Purvis put on a show when it matters most and that's what the Huskies need going into March.
Purvis scored a career-high 28 points, was aggressive getting to the basket and added a highlight dunk to lead UConn to a 81-73 win over SMU at a sold-out XL Center.
This was the purpose we've been waiting to see.
“His aggressiveness, he hit first 3 and wasn’t tentative at all," Ollie said. "That’s the explosiveness we wanted to see. Not shy away from contact and dunk on you.”
For Purvis, who is averaging 9.8 points per game on 41.2 percent shooting, Sunday was his coming out party. Purvis was aggressive getting to the basket and attacked the rim. A 46.4 percent foul shooter, he went 7-of-7 from the free-throw line.
"I came out aggressive," Purvis said. "That's been the coaches' pitch to me, stay aggressive at all times. As long as I am aggressive that is all that matters."
Purvis put up 28 points with 3-pointers, mid-range jumpers and a thunderous dunk off the dribble. It's that explosion at 6-4, 210-pounds that got his Ferrari nickname in the first place. His dunk over SMU center Yanick Moreira (see above) is one of the highlights of the season for the Huskies.
The key to the play was aggression with no fear."If I floated it (Moreira) would have thrown it into the second row," Purvis said. "I tried to go up aggressive. When he saw me going up, he changed his mind.
It was a highlight play, but there was free throwing shooting, efficient driving and even some passing (three assists) that were more important. it's his entire game on Sunday that was impressive. Purvis is too talented to score only 9.8 points per game.UConn senior Ryan Boatright, who scored 23 points on 11 shots, knows talent when he sees it. there's nothing that Purvis has done that surprises him.
"I've been waiting on him to prove to himself that he can do it," Boatright said. "I knew he could do. I've seen him play like that plenty of times in the summer time. When Bazz (Shabazz Napier)and Kemba (Walker) come back, he competes. He stopped thinking so much and let his athleticism and instincts take over tonight."Letting those natural gifts flourish has been a challenge for Purvis. The Ferrari comments put the mark on him and he's tried to balance being a teammate and a key performer. When Purvis hits double figures, the Huskies are formidable. It's taken most of this season, after sitting out a season after transferring from N.C. State, for him to get there. It hasn't been easy.
"It's been tough," Purvis said. "Just staying patient and staying ready, because it has been a tough time for our whole team, not just me individually. We've been struggling as a team. For us to come together at this point of the season when we needed to, there is no better timer to come together. "
Purvis' up-and-down play is understandable as far as Boatright is concerned. Boatright has on-and-off struggled with his role and game for years at UConn. Add in the Ferrari expectations and the spotlight is bright.
"It's growing pains. He really only played one full year of college basketball and he sat our last year, had surgery and saw us make an unbelievable run," Boaright said. "He got that pressure from the Ferrari, I think early in the year he had his ups and downs. You have to go through those things. I went through it last year, ups and downs. Last year wasn't my best year but I stayed with it and we finished strong."
Purvis hopes to finish it strong. He doesn't mind the pressure and expectations. That's the truth of how Ollie felt about him.
"(Ollie) said it because that is what he felt," Purvis said. "He saw me play last year. He didn't say it for no reason. This whole thing is a process, it happens different for different people...I don't regret him saying that."
On Sunday, Purvis made Ollie look like a prophet.