Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Purcell Verbals to Keene St.

After covering her final high school game a few weeks ago, a heartbreaking playoff loss to Winnacunnet, I wrote that Sandi Purcell plays as hard and with as much heart as any player I have covered. I still stand by that statement. Purcell led the Broncos to the Final Four as a freshman, she scored 1,000 career points and made Division I first team all-state twice. She may only stand 5-foot-3 but Purcell is still one of the best guards to come out of NH in recent years.

She was a Bronco in high school but now she'll be an Owl in college, as Purcell will be attending and playing basketball at Keene State College.

"Keene has been very successful in the past, but aside from the success of the team, the girls themselves made the athletics really desirable" Purcell told the NH Notebook. "On my official visit to Keene, I met the entire team, and instantly felt like I was already being taken in as one of them. They didn't treat me like another recruit, they treated me like a teammate already, and that really made me adore the Keene State program."

Purcell also took academics into strong consideration when making her decision.

"Keene is a fantastic school, both athletically and academically" Purcell explained. "Academically, I am majoring in Education, which Keene is famous for. A couple of my teachers I have now graduated from Keene, I've had family members who are teachers who graduated from Keene. It really is a great academic school for what I'm looking for. The academics are just as appealing as the athletics."

Both of Purcell's older sisters either played or are still playing at Rivier College. Amandra scored over 1,000 points before graduating from Rivier in 2012. Deanna or "DJ" will be a senior next year at Rivier and has already scored over 1,000 points. Sandi and DJ started together for Alvirne's Final Four team in 2011, when Sandi was a freshman and DJ was a senior.

"My recruitment process was a stressful time for me, just like any other athlete" Purcell pointed out. "When my dad told me his idea of me looking at Keene, I thought it was just another school for me to look at, but after I went on my first visit, I knew it was different. I heard a lot of opinions and had a hard time figuring out my own opinions. Obviously, the one constant question I got from everyone was if i was going to follow my sisters and go on to Rivier. Rivier was a school I knew i would enjoy playing basketball at as well going there for a great education. However, I wanted to explore and experience the "college life" of living on my own, not having mom and dad to take care of me. Of course, being able to play with DJ one more year was hard to turn down, but I knew I had to do what was best for me."

For the past couple years Purcell played on the AAU circuit for the Rivals Basketball Club and before that for the NE Shooting Stars. For all four years in high school her head coach with Alvirne was Steve Tracy.

"I was very fortunate to have a highly skilled point guard that could both distribute and score for all four of her high school years" commented Coach Tracy. "We had a really good working relationship with good two-way communication and feedback. It was a great experience watching her growth from a young freshman thrown into the mix (and almost getting us to the finals!) to a confident senior helping to always keep us competitive. In addition to her shear skills, some of her best attributes are her competitiveness, knowledge and love of the game, her court vision and quickness, and the ability to make clutch plays and get to the rim. She's probably the best penetrating guard I've ever coached. She was a difference maker for us."

Amandra began her basketball career at Alvirne in 2004, and Sandi ends hers in 2014. The 'Purcell Era' for the Broncos lasted 10 years. While Alvirne fans are sad to see them go on to college, you can bet the opposing D-I coaches are glad they no longer have to stop a Purcell for Alvirne.

"For Alvirne basketball, Sandi, as well as her two sisters Amandra and DJ, brought court leadership, great skills and play-making ability, competitiveness, and a high level of basketball I.Q." said Coach Tracy. "Each one got to overlap the one ahead of them for one year to sort of 'pass on the torch'."

Since all three Purcell sisters grew up playing basketball and all three have now gone on to play in college, it should be no surprise that their father is a coach. Scott Purcell coached them on travel teams and AAU ball growing up, and he still coaches as an assistant to Frank Girginis (who the girls played for at Hudson Middle School) with the NE Flames AAU program. According to Girginis, Scott Purcell excels at coaching the game's fundamentals. This truly is a basketball family.

"Growing up in a basketball family wasn't anything special to me, until I realized most families don't do that" said Purcell, a lightning quick point guard who plays hard and is always looking to attack the rim off the dribble. "It was always entertaining - my sisters and I were always outside playing, and we knew to come in when the street lights came on. Even then, on summer nights we would complain about not being able to play anymore, so my dad got us a floodlight to hang off the shed so we could see! Watching my sisters play in their games and tournaments was always fun too, I was their little cheerleader (I even had a cheerleading uniform for them, how times change). But when I think of being a part of a basketball family, I think of when I was first learning how to play. I remember I was outside dribbling, and I finally learned how to dribble with my left hand. I went into the house screaming for my dad to come watch me dribble up and down the driveway using only my left hand. With my reaction, you would've thought I just dunked."

Stories like that are priceless. Sometimes though, with a kid who has grown up playing basketball, their siblings also played, their parent coached, the one concern is that they may get burnt out on the sport by the time they get to college. However that is not the case for Purcell.

"I've been on a team since second grade, and never once have I felt 'basketballed-out'" Purcell noted. "I've definitely had times where I probably should have taken a little break just to give my body a break, but I've never wanted to stop. I love the game way too much."

With comments like that, Purcell seems like someone who may someday go on to coach basketball, especially since she plans to major in education. If so, she would definitely make a good one. But first, she has four more great years of her to still play at Keene.

"As far as my role goes, I'm ready to take whatever role is thrown at me" concluded Purcell, a true team player. "I don't know what that will exactly be, but going in, I know I'm going to take the role of making that team better, however that may be."

Now Purcell will look to be a difference maker at Keene. Little East Conference. Their leading scorer last season was also a NH product, sharp shooting wing Christan Wojtas (Amherst, NH). And they only graduate 2 seniors of last year's squad (and 1 of them was a rotation player) so they should be a team on the rise.

"I believe Sandi can and will make an immediate impact at Keene State" added Coach Tracy. "She certainly proved herself in high school (1st team all-state the last two years and 1000 point scorer) and will continue to do so at the next level despite her size!"

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