WATERBURY — Rodney Purvis couldn't put on the UConn jersey and play in games last season, so he had to make each behind-the-scenes moment count.
Late at night, sometimes after midnight, he and Ryan Boatright would walk back to Gampel Pavilion, turn on the lights and go at it, man on man.
"Not many people know this," Purvis said. "Me and Boatright were in the gym every single night, basically beating each other up, some days going back to the room not speaking to each other because one of us got the better of the other one that day. … I just appreciate Boatright. He's a great guy and I can't wait to play alongside him."
Purvis, who transferred from North Carolina State in April 2013, had to sit out last season, and had surgery in December to repair a torn labrum and stabilize his left shoulder. All the rehab work, plus the conditioning with strength coach Travis Illian, has Purvis (6 feet 4, 205 pounds) in prime shape. He played a little in a pro-am league back home in North Carolina this summer, and on Saturday he appeared in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am at Crosby High in Waterbury, scoring 26 points and showing some of the nifty moves that made him an elite recruit.
The UConn season begins Nov. 14 against Bryant.
"I really appreciate all the love and the support from the fans," he said. "I'm just preparing myself every day to be ready for that moment. It's right around the corner. I'm preparing for that first game, and I'm just ready. I'm super ready."
Purvis started 23 games for the Wolfpack in 2012-13, averaging 8.3 points and 2.4 rebounds. Before his surgery, Purvis' presence was important to the Huskies. Not many teams have a player of his caliber to challenge the starters in practice, or pose as the upcoming opponent's top player. As he was pushing Boatright and Shabazz Napier, they were pushing him and, Purvis said, always made him feel "in the loop" as part of the team.
"Sitting out of basketball for a very long time is rough, but I've tried to make it worth it," he said. "I took advantage of everything, going up against guys like Shabazz and Boatright every day in practice, I was in Shabazz's ear all the time, in the room watching film with him, asking questions, and he gave me a lot of great feedback before he left."
With Napier gone to the NBA, Boatright, a senior, Purvis, Sam Cassell Jr. and Terrence Samuel will form a deep cast of guards. After surgery, Purvis had an insider's view of the Huskies' run to the championship and has a template to work from as he assumes a leadership role and tries to re-create that chemistry.
"We stayed together," Purvis said. "That's the most important thing. We stayed together no matter what. Any time you saw one of us, there was always five or six of us. I don't think people understand how being close off the court carries onto the court. We're really brothers. We don't put on a front for Twitter or the media, we take our relationships seriously amongst each other. We're always there for each other and it carried onto the court. That's how we did it, we stayed together.
"Now, I'm in the guys' ears every day in the locker room, 'Let's stay together, let's do things together.' Me and Sam, we're roommates. We go everywhere together, do things together. Same with [freshmen Daniel Hamilton and Rakim Lubin] — I don't want them to feel like outsiders because they're new guys. I'm real strong on brotherhood, that's how I was raised and I saw what brotherhood can do last season and we want that same thing this season."
Cassell, Hamilton and sophomore Amida Brimah were at the game Saturday night watching Purvis. Brimah had similar shoulder surgery after the season, and Purvis has been helping him through the rehab process, which has eight weeks to go.
"I went to see him the day of the surgery to make sure he was in great spirits," Purvis said, "because it's a long process, a six-month recovery. That's my brother, so I had no choice but to be there."
Brothers, of course, also argue and push each other. The relationship between Napier and Boatright often showed in-game tension, but in the end it worked. Purvis is a passionate, exuberant player in that same mold.
"That's love," Purvis said. "Brothers argue and fight all the time. Me and Boat have our fair share of arguments as well. That's what's going to make us better, though. I believe strongly in off-the-court relationships. I feel like I complement his game, where he complements my game. We're both attacking guards, nonstop, and we'll just look for each other, and lead our team."Copyright © 2015, CT Now