By Derek Shore (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Purdy Eagles are not far removed from their first appearance in state quarterfinals in 25 years two years ago.
In fact, the Eagles 18-9 overall record (5-1 in Ozark 7) last year shouldn’t be overlooked considering they return more starters (three) then lost (two) coupled with another returnee and six newcomers.
Purdy was eliminated by archrival Pierce City in the second round of districts last season and only lost James Hughlett, Justin LaNore, and Matt Wilson to graduation.
However, this upcoming season marks the first without longtime head coach Tommy Egan, who moved closer to home and accepted a head coaching position at Skyline.
Enter first-year head coach Jeremy Dresslaer.
“I am very excited for this season,” Dresslaer said, who enters 2017-18 in his first varsity head coaching position. “Coach Egan left Purdy in a good spot to allow a new coach to hit the floor running.
“With a senior dominant team, I think we will be very competitive all year with a chance to compete for a couple of championships throughout the season.”
Headlining the senior class is Tyler Keeler (5-foot-10), who is a three-year starter and Purdy’s leading scorer the last two seasons. The First-Team All-Ozark 7 recipient averaged 17.1 points a game, 6.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 3.3 steals per game over 26 games as a junior.
“He is a great kid and a great competitor,” Dresslaer said. “He can score from anywhere on the court and also is one of our better defenders both in the post and on the perimeter.”
Returning alongside Keeler is yet another three-year starter in senior Hunter Cook (5-foot-11), who was also a first-team All-Ozark 7 honoree. Cook scored 12.5 points per game last year, posting 3.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game, respectively.
“Hunter is a great shooter and stepped up as a vocal leader this summer,” Dresslaer said.
Among the other returnees includes seniors Jose Sanchez (5-foot-10), Joby Young (5-foot-11), and juniors Kyler Propps (5-foot-7) and Fernando Garcia (5-foot-10).
Dresslaer said Sanchez is a very tough player and stronger player, who can play all five positions on the floor and looks for him to carry more of the offensive load. Young, described as a long, athletic player, is a great spot up shooter and attacks the basket well off the dribble.
Propps, a quick guard, will look to be a solid player on both ends of the floor coupled with being one of the more skilled and complete players on the team. Garcia is a quick, craft guard, who can score in a variety of ways.
Top newcomers include senior Kole Rea (6-foot-2), junior Mason Schallert (5-foot-11), and sophomores Harley Stephens (6-foot-2), Bryan Ruiz (6-foot-0), and Scotty Henry (6-foot-8).
Rea played as a junior last year but is expected to provide more of a contribution in his senior campaign. Schallert is a strong kid, who can score inside and out.
Stephens has good size combined with a soft shooting touch that extends out to the perimeter. Ruiz is described by his coach as a “scoring machine with tremendous upside.” Henry has spent a lot of time working on his fundamentals and shooting form, developing a shot that stretches out to the perimeter.
The Eagles also welcome senior Colt Keeling (5-foot-11), a Purdy native, who transferred from Berean Christian Academy and has three-year varsity experience.
“He is a great addition to Purdy and fills the missing gaps to complete our team,” Dresslaer said. “He is a combo guard that can do a little bit of everything.”
Despite being relatively undersized again, the Eagles return a balanced offensive attack, and their quickness is expected to be an asset on the defensive end, looking to wear teams out and force points off turnovers.
“The team makeup will be similar to last year’s team with the two cornerstones of Keeler and Cook carrying the team,” Dresslaer said. “The addition of Keeling will make us very versatile on the offensive end of the floor. A lot of our success will be placed on Sanchez and his ability to be our defensive backbone and create matchup problems for the other teams.
“I also look forward to Young and Propps to have major contributions this coming season. Even though we lack overall size, I feel like the players will compete and not back down from a challenge.”
Purdy opens the season at the Pierce City Tournament, starting November 27.