#24 Kevin Puryear
6'7" 236 lbs
From unheralded freshman who we openly wondered if he would play much at all, to starter from the gate and making the All SEC freshman team, Kevin Puryear had himself quite a year. Puryear was the first player to commit to Missouri last fall, and he was somebody who the coaching staff felt stronger about than Indiana freshmen sensation O.G. Anunoby, who they pegged as an undersized post, instead of the combo forward or wing that he's played at IU. This isn't to detract from what Puryear has accomplished, he's certainly shown a knack for being the type of building block that Missouri needs to get the program out of its current doldrums.
Where Puryear helped the most, is his knack for being able to simply put the ball in the basket. Something the Tigers, in large part, struggle to do. Puryear is amazingly effective in the mid-range with his jump shot, but also crafty enough with his left hand release to be effective around the basket as well. He struggled from 3-point range, but showed enough ability to improve that percentage by 6 or 7 percentage with further work in the future. A face up power forward with the ability to hit the 3-point shot at a 38% clip is a pretty desirable piece.
Scoring is the obvious strength of Puryear's game right now, but he was miscast as a go-to player on a bad team. This isn't to point anything out other than if Puryear is on a team that is in contention for an NCAA bid, he's certainly not the leading scorer. However, you have to feel good about the progress of the program with pieces like Kevin Puryear because of his ability to score the ball, and you'd have to imagine that skill improves. Still, Puryear was a sub-par defender, rebounder and passer. So there are really a lot of areas that KP needs to improve upon if Missouri is to get better. Next season I think you'd like to see Puryear at or around 13-14 points and 6-7 rebounds. Improved defense likely finds a rebound or two more per game.
So in some ways, the progress of a player like Kevin Puryear is going to be a marker for the progress of the program. KP might not have the highest ceiling as a player, but he's got enough that he can push this program up the ladder as the staff continues to surround him with better and more talented players. Maybe KP's scoring average actually goes down, but his efficiency goes up, something that would signal drastic individual improvement from the guys currently on the roster, and drastic recruiting improvement from the staff. Either way, I think Kevin Puryear is as important of a cog for the future of Missouri basketball as one exists on the current roster. As he becomes more consistent and more efficient, he'll help steer the Tigers to more wins.
When the season began the question surrounding KP was how many minutes he would get backing up Jakeenan Gant and D’Angelo Allen. Well in game 1 that all got blown out the window as he came in and scored 20 points as a starting forward. Then the question became, well could he do it against power 5 competition? The answer to that came against Xavier and loudly in SEC play, where showed out enough to earn all SEC freshman team honors. KP blew everyone’s expectations out the water and was a revelation. Sure he had a stretch of bad play in the middle of the season, but every freshman does. If this year was just the beginning I can’t wait to see what KP can do in years two and three as he will only get bigger and stronger. And you can’t even credit his play to an improved Ryan Rosburg, because he was blowing up before Ryan got his Groove Back. Also, props to KP for managing to stay out of foul trouble the entire year, which for a player spending time on the blocks, that’s not too shabby! Looking forward to see what the future brings for KP, a bright spot in the darkness that has been two long cold winters of Mizzou basketball.
I don't think anybody saw KP coming. Mostly, I think we all saw a low recruiting ranking and less than ideal height and figured the coaching staff was grasping at straws. Having watched him play for a year, though, I think I'm higher on him than my compatriots on the masthead. He's not the most athletic player, and his height is less than ideal, but I think a guy who can score like KP, in as many different ways as he can, has a higher ceiling than just as a useful cog. He's got great strength for his size and age, he just needs to learn from Rosburg about how to play with guys with more bounce than he's got. I'm very excited to watch this young man develop.