Since his freshman year at Blue Springs South, Kevin Puryear said his only dream was to play for the Missouri men’s basketball program.
When then-Tigers coach Frank Haith showed interest, it felt as if a dream was coming true for Puryear, a 6-foot-7 senior forward with three-point range.
That also made it difficult when Haith’s interest waned, but the hiring of Kim Anderson last April — after Haith bolted for Tulsa — put Puryear back on MU’s radar in a big way.
“Coach Anderson ended up being the best fit,” Puryear said. “I love the guy. He’s a great coach and with him, what you is what you get. That’s what I really like about him.”
Puryear committed to Missouri in August and Wednesday followed through on that pledge, signing a national letter of intent to play for Anderson on the first day of the NCAA’s early signing period.
The Tigers, in fact, landed two in-state players Wednesday — Puryear and Pacific (Mo.) guard Cullen VanLeer.
The chance to stay home was a big draw for Puryear.
“It’s the home-state factor,” Puryear said. “Going out and having that Missouri across my chest gives me something to play for and it’s a motivation factor for me.”
Now, after signing and faxing in that letter of intent, Puryear said it’s beginning to hit him that he accomplished his dream.
“It’s definitely more real, but it’s still kind of surreal in a sense, because this is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Puryear said. “Now that I’ve solidified it and put my name on the line, I’m definitely excited about it … and I definitely feel like a Missouri Tiger now.”
Puryear, who plays AAU basketball with L.J. Goolsby’s KC Run GMC team, is a first-team all-state forward who averaged 19.2 points and 8.6 rebounds as a junior with Jaguars last season.
“Kevin is a versatile, combo forward who brings a great blue-collar, tough mentality that fits the culture we are trying to create here at Mizzou,” Anderson said. “He can shoot it from the perimeter or go inside and mix it up.”
Meanwhile, VanLeer is a 6-4 two-time all-state shooting guard who averaged 21.9 points with 3.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.7 steals as a junior at Pacific. His father, John, is his high school coach.
“They are two of the top players in the state of Missouri, and we are elated that they have decided to stay home and be members of the Tiger basketball family,” Anderson said. “Additionally, they are both high character young men who are winners.”