By Daniel Taylor, For The Miami Student
As the Miami University women’s basketball team leaves behind a 7-23 transition season and enters head coach Cleve Wright’s third year, they look for new leadership.
The RedHawks may have found a future star in point guard Leah Purvis, and everyone around the program excited.
“Not only can she play that position and get people shots that are open,” Wright said. “But she can knock down shots herself.”
Purvis is a 5-foot-6 guard from Sherman Oaks, California. ProspectsNation.com rates Purvis as a three-star prospect.
The young point guard played high school basketball at The Buckley School, where she is the all-time scoring leader with 2,168 points. She averaged 24.6 points, 4.8 assists and 9.5 rebounds per game. She added nearly four steals per contest last season.
NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson has taken notice of Purvis.
“Congratulations my love. Make sure you put your work in now,” Johnson said in an online video.
Johnson told her to work hard in the offseason to maximize her performance once basketball season finally arrives.
Purvis played for the California Sparks Gold, one of the most elite AAU teams in the nation. According to the AAUSports.org preseason rankings, the Sparks are the 10th best team in the nation.
While with the Sparks, Purvis played behind Pacific Athletic Conference-12 freshman of the year Jordin Canada, who now plays at the University of California Los Angeles.
Sparks coach Elbert Kinnebrew raved about his former point guard.
“She brings a maturity that’s unusual for a girl her age,” Kinnebrew said. “She plays the game real hard, she plays the game smart.”
When she started playing with the Sparks, Purvis sat the bench for the first time in her career.
“It was a completely different experience for her, going from school ball to club ball,” Kinnebrew said. “She handled both with grace with what was expected of her.”
Kinnebrew thinks Purvis and her leadership abilities will make her a key contributor at Miami by her sophomore year, or maybe earlier. The Sparks coach has his own Miami hat now and said he is excited to watch Purvis develop across country.
Miami competed against University of Denver, Pepperdine University and others when recruiting Purvis. Wright said recruiting from across the country is always difficult.
“It’s tough because you don’t get to see them play in person as much,” Wright said. “Our first evaluation of her was on film, and then we talked to her on the phone quite a bit before we actually seen her play in person.”
Because of new NCAA rules that allow players to practice with college teams once their high school eligibility is exhausted, Miami was able to see Purvis workout with her future teammates.
Though Purvis does not have many contacts in the Midwest, she did have one key connection in her mother, who went to the University of Cincinnati.
“Her mom was aware of Miami University and its academic reputation,” Wright said.
Wright said the coaches have not begun to think about starters for next season. He sees Purvis as being able to make an immediate impact on the team, but she must earn the starting once she gets to campus.
“Certainly Leah’s going to be a leader,” Wright said. “But I think Leah will be a primary leader because she has the heart for it.”