RALEIGH, N.C. -- At a news conference Friday afternoon on the campus of Upper Room Christian School, a statement was made. Rodney Purvis (Raleigh, N.C./Upper Room), the nation's No. 16 overall recruit and No. 5 shooting guard, declared his intentions to sign with the NC State Wolfpack.
Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried was immediately introduced to the pressure cooker that is basketball on Tobacco Road when he was hired this past spring. Everywhere Gottfried turns, there are great programs, and the challenge is to acquire enough talent to lay the foundation for long-term success while competing against college basketball juggernauts North Carolina and Duke.
To run with the big dogs, the Pack must have a succession of quality recruiting classes and a player with big enough shoulders to carry the burden and pressures of success. At NC State, the previous two coaches signed elite players but the results were drastically different. Herb Sendek battled Syracuse and Maryland for Julius Hodge. The New Yorker then battled Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest's Chris Paul like it was his sole purpose in life to close the gap between the programs. He led the Pack to the Sweet 16, and his passion ignited a run of tournament appearances for NC State.
J.J. Hickson was Sidney Lowe's Hodge, but the Atlanta native wasn't wired the same as Hodge. He averaged 14 points and 8.5 rebounds in a season, which was good enough to confirm his status as a first-round selection in the NBA draft, but the Pack never reached the same heights they did with Hodge. Hickson never played in the NCAA tournament, and Lowe didn't take the Pack there during his tenure, either.
Purvis is Gottfried's statement recruit, and he's a good one. He's one of the top scoring threats in the Class of 2012, and there's every reason to think he can come in as a freshman and score at the highest level. He's played against the top players in the country, and physically he'll be ready to step in and make a big contribution.
"I think Rodney being a Raleigh kid and wearing the Red is a tremendous statement for NCSU athletics," Hodge said. "The magnitude of it, you ask? Imagine if John Wall would have committed to NC State over Kentucky, UNC and Duke? That's the element that Rod brings that J.J. didn't; he has that smile, too."
Purvis brings a considerable amount of street cred to the Pack, but before he steps on campus, he's got a job to do. He's tasked with convincing other recruits to come with him and helping Gottfried assemble the type of talent it's going to take to stack recruiting classes and bridge the gap between the neighbors.
One of the shortcomings of the previous regime was the lack of attention to detail in its own state. During a time when the state cranked out its highest number of high-major prospects in decades, the Pack were not competing enough for in-state recruits. Immediately, Gottfried set about solving that problem.
Before landing Purvis, the Pack successfully retained the commitment of point guard Tyler Lewis (Statesville, N.C./Oak Hill), an ESPNU 100 prospect. Plus, this weekend, NC State will host T.J. Warren (Durham, N.C./Brewster Academy), one of the elite small forwards in the country and a top-25 prospect. Warren, whose dad played for NC State, also has been offered by North Carolina, Florida, Georgetown and Kentucky.
On Sept. 9, the first day of the contact period, Gottfried pledged his allegiance to the two best uncommitted juniors in the state of North Carolina. As was his custom at Alabama and one that he's apparently adopted in Raleigh, the coach makes a point to stop in and see the state's top underclassmen the first day of the contact period each fall. It's savvy recruiting. Kennedy Meeks (Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte) and Allerik Freeman (Charlotte, N.C./Olympic) were on the list to be seen Sept. 9.
Ask Hodge, and he'll proudly tell you he helped the Pack recruit guys to Raleigh. Gavin Grant, Cedric Simmons and Tony Bethel were recruits he had a hand in bringing to campus. Hodge was a beacon, an ambassador, and for his contributions, he's a beloved figure in Raleigh and on NC State's campus.
Once Purvis announced his decision, he became a representative of the Wolfpack, and he now is linked forever with Gottfried. Unlike Hodge and Hickson, he grew up wearing Red; he's the local kid who made the choice to remain in Raleigh.
Purvis has Hodge's smile, and he loves to play.
The hope is that he helps secure the necessary talent to send a statement to the neighbors: NC State is back, and it's looking for more members to run with the Pack.
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on