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Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Mason Schallert looks for someone to pass the ball to during the state championship tournament in Springfield last season. Schallert looks to lead the Eagles this season on the hardwood. Kyle Troutman/

Purdy seeks new identity after Final Four run

A Final Four appearance capped a remarkable run for the Purdy boys basketball team last year.

Though the team finished fourth, the fact that it finally got over the hump and reached the high level of competition proved that the little town in Barry County had what it took to turn the heat up and thrill the little city’s basketball-crazed fans.

Scotty Henry, with his 6-11 frame, will be asked to control the paint for the Eagles this season. Kyle Troutman/

Purdy finished the 2017-2018 season 19-12, but a rocky offseason has meant the squad has had to hit the reset button and begin a rebuilding effort.

First, the Eagles have had to come to terms with four of its five starters, Tyler Keeler, Colt Keeling, Hunter Cook and Jose Sanchez, along with top bench option Joby Young, are gone due to graduation.

Then, in August, Jeremy Dresslaer, head coach, asked to be let out of his contract to take a position in the Willard school district.

Purdy then tapped Ryan Stokes to lead the program.

In the grand scheme of things, a new coach with new varsity players, albeit with limited time together, may not be that bad a match.

“Last season was great for Purdy basketball,” Stokes said. “I know people around here are doubting the team because of all the people that left last year. I feel our team can be just as good or even better if we work hard at it. My goal is to prove the doubters wrong about this year. Everything is different this year. Both the team and the coach are different, and I have never played with these new players, but we have all the talent and skill to be great this year.”

Stokes credited a Higher Power for this path in his life and he believes this season is all about time. He and the team just need more of it together.

“I’m super excited to be a part of this team and community,” Stokes said. “This was not my plan at all, but God’s plans are greater than mine and this is just another one of his blessings. I can’t wait for the first day of practice, and I am super excited to see what this season holds. We have a lot to learn in the first three weeks of practice. I don’t expect us to be the same team come January as we are when we play our first game in November.”

Purdy’s lone returning starter is 6-1 sophomore Osiel Aldaba, who averaged 7 points and 3 rebounds per game as a freshman.

“Osiel became a starter mid-way through last year,” Stokes said. “He has a knack for hitting big shots and has the ability to lead our team in scoring if he wants. He can play inside and out. He should be a tough match for our opponents.”

Purdy will seek contributions from three seniors in Mason Schallert, Kyler Propps and Fernando Garcia.

“Mason saw a lot of valuable minutes last year,” Stokes said. “He can play in the post or on the perimeter. I expect him to do big things this season. He should give us the ability to spread teams out. On the defensive end, he should be one of our top rebounders.”

Propps is developing into the team’s 3-point sniper.

“Ky also saw a lot of valuable minutes last year as a junior guard,” Stokes said. “He is a great outside shooter, and I plan on him helping us really stretch the defense. I think he has the ability to hit multiple threes a game. I also believe he has the speed to guard anyone I ask.”

Garcia, at 5-11, has worked his way into the starting point guard role for the Eagles.

“Fernando was a role player last year,” Stokes said. “He played the backup point and was a great defender off the bench. He will be asked to take over the point guard duties and pick up a large portion of the scoring. He is one of the fastest players I have ever coached and should cause fits for the other team on both ends of the floor.”

Juniors Harley Stevens and Scotty Henry will also be a big part of the team’s future this season.

Stevens, at 6-1, gives the Eagles another post presence.

“Harley got in a lot of games last year,” Stokes said. “He was a solid role player. I believe this year will be a breakout year for him. He has the ability to lead us in rebounding and could be a consistent double digit scorer.”

Henry will be easy for fans to spot at 6-11. The paint will be his home, and Purdy expects him to rule it with authority.

“Scotty got to see some good minutes at different times in the season last year,” Stokes said. “At his height, he has the ability to take over the game. He should play a big part in our success this season. He will give us a mismatch every game and should make scoring against us in the paint very hard.”

Stokes also believes that a trio of newcomers in seniors Brian Ruiz and Cameron Carter and sophomore Clay Henderson will play a factor in this season’s lineup.

“Brian has been one of those guys that is right on the verge of being something special,” Stokes said. “He can get super hot at times and is crazy fast. He should be able to defend the other team’s best guard. I also expect him to change the game with his speed. He will make us very dangerous in transition.”

Carter, at 6-4, gives the team an advantage on the boards.

“Cameron is our leaper,” Stokes said. “He has the ability to play above the rim and should keep our fans on the edge of their seats when he gets in. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns into one of our best rebounders.”

Henderson, at 5-8, is a raw talent that Stokes believes, with some polishing, could be the team’s diamond in the rough.

“Clay got to play a little varsity last year, but his role should really expand this season,” Stokes said. “He is a true point guard and does a great job at distributing the ball. I hope to see him add some scoring to his game and give us a boost every time he enters the game.”

Purdy is in action this week in the Pierce City tournament.

The Eagles’ first home game is set for Dec. 4 against College Heights.

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