Kevin Puryear may be one of the purest examples of a “True Son” currently walking the University of Missouri campus. If not, at least he’s the best representative on the basketball team.
Much has been made about of Puryear’s lifelong Missouri fandom, and his commitment to the Tigers can still largely be looked on as one of the few positives of the Kim Anderson era. Puryear flashed legitimate Division I ability as a freshman, earning All-SEC Freshman status and has since proven to be a valuable rotation member on a tournament team. On top of that, he’s a hell of a lot of fun to root for based on how much drive he has for the program’s success.
#24 Kevin Puryear
6'7" 238 lbs
This year offered us the first glimpse of Puryear’s truest role in a thriving D-I program, as he was asked to do less with more talented players surrounding him. If there were any emotional growing pains to taking a backseat, you wouldn’t have been able to tell, as Puryear came out this season with a rekindled desire to succeed and a bigger chip on his shoulder.
A lot of preseason talk was focused on how Puryear would handle the shift from program figurehead to role player. How well did Puryear make that adjustment?
Sam Snelling: I’d say the reviews were somewhat mixed. Kevin didn’t play as well as he would’ve liked offensively. His efficiency improved, but his outside shooting took a hit, which is a surprise because I thought that would be one of his strengths this season. Puryear still struggles to finish around the rim and often gets his shot blocked, but one area where you cannot question KP is with his heart and energy. Puryear is a guy who wants to win, and you could tell the last two years were hard on him. So it was fun to watch him be part of an NCAA tournament team.
Winning suits KP well as he came through with multiple winning plays, most notably his game winning three versus Mississippi State. Kevin Puryear provided leadership without needing to be the primary option offensively. He improved on defense as well. There is still room for improvement, but I think you have to be happy with the role KP’s played this year.
Matt Harris: At this point, we know what Puryear’s game entails: mid-post drives, filling voids on the weak side and putbacks. His spot-up shooting? Not great. Post-ups? Well, there’s a reason me and Sam joke about an opponent’s block rate getting a booster shot. And you have to hide Kevin a bit defensively.
Still, he carved out a niche.
There were times where Mizzou’s offense stalled out, and Puryear would nurse them through by going the offensive glass — his 7.6 OR% during SEC play ranked 21st — and finding a way to get a stick back. Or he’d squirt free to take a pass from Jeremiah Tilmon or Jontay Porter across the lane for a bucket. Fans will remember Puryear knocking in a corner 3-pointer, but there were scores of little plays — putbacks, tap-outs to generate a second possession or charges — he made to help tip the balance of games in MU’s favor.
Like a lot of the remaining holdovers from Kim Anderson’s tenure, Puryear is mortar you can use to fill in around foundational pieces. He’ll take what the flow of the game offers. And he can model what you want for young players trying to acclimate to the college level. I don’t know if there’s much room for growth left, but if Puryear continues to ably do the work he carried out this season, Martin and the staff should be pleased.
Tashan Reed: Kevin Puryear was frustrating to watch this year. From flat, hesitant 3-pointers, to forced hook shots, he just looked off. It’s a tough thing to say given how passionate he is about the team and the university, but it’s the truth. After a strong start in which he cracked double digits in seven of the first 10 contests, he hit a wall. Puryear averaged just 7.3 points on 39.5 percent shooting the rest of the way and couldn’t seem to hit his stride. Coming off the bench didn’t work, but starting him didn’t work, either. This all culminated in a two-point performance in the SEC Tournament against Georgia in which Puryear fouled out in just 10 minutes. With Michael Porter Jr., Jordan Barnett, and (maybe) Jontay Porter gone, Puryear should see his role shoot back up to what it was before. Hopefully, for Missouri, more steady playing time will put Puryear back on the right track.
Josh Matejka: You’d be hard-pressed to say Puryear’s transition was a failure, but I think it’s fair to say he struggled to find himself at times. Puryear didn’t shoot well enough to earn respect on the outside, and his size still prevents him from posting up for easy buckets down low. You could always tell his game was off when he was settling for one or both of those options.
However, Puryear’s time under the KA regime clearly developed a star’s edge in him. Missouri doesn’t get its marquee win against Tennessee without his gritty performance, and it doesn’t avoid a bad loss at home to Mississippi State if he doesn’t have the stones to take that corner three. And when he was barreling to the rim for drives or putbacks, you could see the player who was once an All-SEC Freshman. So for all the games Puryear struggled to make an impact, there were just as many where his fingerprints were all over. As one of the two eldest statesmen (literally!) on the team, it was fun to watch him reap the benefits of being on a good team for once.
Chris Bohkay: I thought Puryear performed masterfully in his transition from one of the two leaders on this team to taking a backseat and becoming a guy who came off the bench. In looking at this season’s stats versus his previous two years, not much has changed. Puryear has remained consistent in what Mizzou fans should expect from him on a game per game basis. I’ll be interested to see what Puryear does in his senior year and with another off season of tutelage under this coaching staff.
Catch up on the rest of our postseason player analysis pieces: