Devonte’ Graham and Rodney Purvis saw a lot of each other on the basketball court during open gyms and AAU games in Raleigh, N.C.
Now they’ll square off in the NCAA Tournament when Kansas faces Connecticut in a second-round South Regional game at 6:45 p.m. Saturday in Wells Fargo Arena.
Purvis left Upper Room Christian Academy before Graham graduated from Broughton High. But they both played for the Garner Road AAU organization, albeit on different teams, and shared the court at times.
“He was always good enough to play up with the older guys,” Purvis said of Graham.
In the summers, Purvis and Graham still play pickup hoops back in Raleigh, but on Saturday the stakes will be higher. Bragging rights in basketball-rich North Carolina are on the line.
“That’s what everybody talks about,” Purvis said.
Recently, Graham has been getting most of the attention. He won Big 12 Tournament MVP honors, scoring 27 points in the championship game, but was held scoreless in 24 minutes against Austin Peay in KU’s NCAA opening win. Still, Purvis called Graham “a household name.”
“I always knew he was good enough,” Purvis said. “… He just needed an opportunity and a chance.”
Purvis is a former McDonald’s All-American who led the Huskies with 19 points in their first-round victory over Colorado.
“He was a high school sensation,” Graham said, “one of those guys who was on Hoopmixtape.”
After Upper Room, Purvis played on North Carolina State’s 2013 NCAA Tournament team as a freshman. He left for UConn, then watched the Huskies win the national championship while he sat out because of NCAA transfer rules. Now Purvis has to get past Graham to have a shot at a title of his own.
“We’re rivals right now,” Purvis said.