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September 17, 2012
Raleigh Upper Room Christian Academy made sure to wait until the school day was over Monday before telling the students that NC State freshman shooting guard Rodney Purvis was cleared by the NCAA.
Why? The excitement of the news would basically cause a celebration the rest of the school day. URCA boys basketball coach and athletic director Avie Lester was thrilled with the news that Purvis had finally been cleared after several months of having the issue hang over the head at both NC State and his own school.
"I know it has been hard for him and I can just imagine dreaming about something and thinking about something for a whole year, and then when it's here, being told you might not be able to do it," Lester said. "I knew it would be hard and difficult for him."
The issue struck deep for Lester, who graduated from NC State played for the Wolfpack. He also has four children attending Upper Room — three daughters who are in the third grade, sixth grade and 10th grade, and one son in the second grade.
"My third grade daughter knows Rodney because he's been here since she was in pre-school, and even she was asking, 'Why? Why? Why?'" Lester said. "We have kids that graduated with Rodney in college right now.
"Maybe the outside perception has been somewhat cleared up. I really appreciate the support the Wolfpack fans have given."
Lester would get questioned about the situation nearly every day once individuals realized who he was.
"I was on my lunch break and the librarian asked about Rodney, and I told her that the vast majority of our students were never going to play college sports," Lester said. "My daughter in the 10th grade isn't going to play in college because she doesn't have the desire, but I know she's going to do well in school. I know she'll do well in college when she gets there."
"When I look back at my own days, the happiest time I had playing was at NC State," Lester said. "I know how that feels and that rush you can get. I know the support you can get, and the highest level you can play that. It's great he has the opportunity to experience that.
"If there is one good thing that can come from this it's to let you know to not take any day for granted. Take every day and live it to the fullest."
Lester never doubted that Purvis would eventually be cleared to play for NC State.
"I was just trying to encourage him because at the end of the day I told him, 'I've seen you every day at school where most people have not for the last four years,'" Lester said. "I said, 'I know what you've done and the work you put in. I know what the teachers have done to ensure you'll be ready for college.' It was just something he had to wait on."
Lester was able to take part in NC State basketball alumni gathering over the weekend at coach Mark Gottfried's house. Purvis' situation came up periodically, but the other former Wolfpack standouts understood.
"The players from the area have kind of seen us grow," Lester said. "Chris [Corchiani] has seen us grow as a school. Phil Spence, I talked to him and he's seen us.
"I talked to Tom Gugliotta, and he wasn't aware of the situation until a couple of weeks ago. He asked, 'Man, what is going on?' I told him my daughter goes to the school. He was like, 'If your child goes there, I know you wouldn't put your child in something bad.' The players understood I wouldn't put Rodney in jeopardy."
The 6-foot-2 1/2, 195-pound Purvis, who Rivals.com ranked No. 12 nationally in the class of 2012, played in both the McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic. He also played on USA basketball's gold-medal winning U-18 squad June 16-20 in Brazil. He averaged 26.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game his senior year, and was named The Associated Press and Gatorade North Carolina prep player of the year.
Purvis will showcase his slashing, athletic game for the first time against Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 9 at PNC Arena in Raleigh.
"One thing is, he'll have hunger," Lester said. "If you thought he was hungry last school year, now he'll be multiplied 10-fold. He was a decision away from not playing at all. Now he has it, and he needs to take advantage of it. The sky is the limit what he can be.
"I'm glad that by December, no one will be thinking about this. Now, he can focus on being a better student and player."
N.C. State NEWS