A breakthrough junior season made Whiteland boys basketball player Tom Purdie that much more motivated during the off-season.
The versatile 6-foot-5 guard/forward took it upon himself to do much more than simply launch jump shots and rehearse potential pivot moves inside otherwise empty gymnasiums during the off-season months.
A healthier diet combined with hours in the weight room have resulted in a stronger body. Even at 225 pounds — roughly 10 heavier than the 2014-15 season — Purdie claims to have improved endurance in the latter stages of practices and games.
“With my diet I just tried to cut down on the fat. It’s more meal-based now, and making sure those meals are healthy,” said Purdie, who last season led Whiteland in four major statistical categories — points (16.5), rebounds (9.0), assists (3.0) and steals (1.3) — on his way to being named to the Daily Journal’s annual All-County Team.
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Purdie does his best to avoid fast food, but sometimes gives in when it’s the best option available at a certain time like AAU road trips, etc.
“I do occasionally because it’s so quick and easy and even cheap,” Purdie said.
A rugged inside presence with a surprisingly soft touch from the perimeter, Purdie also made 44 3-pointers and finished just under 70 percent at the free throw line (.697).
Purdie, who in November signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at Marian University in Indianapolis, scored 14 points in Whiteland’s season-opening loss to Mt. Vernon on Nov. 24.
More recently, the Warriors won their Mid-State Conference opener at Plainfield, 49-44, with Purdie producing 10 points.
If these numbers sound somewhat low, it’s important to remember Whiteland returns 93 percent of its point production from last season.
Purdie is flanked by the likes of varsity veterans such as junior Mike Valle and seniors Terr’e Moss, Will Higdon and Aaron Eblen, which means not having to shoulder the statistical load night in and night out.
The ability to make these and other teammates better is an area where Purdie has grown.
“Last year I considered Tom an emerging leader. He was learning to deal with the responsibilities that come with being a team’s leading scorer. He had to learn how to handle the defensive pressure you face when you are the focal point of each team’s scouting report,” fourth-year Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth said.
“In addition, he had to find ways to make his team better when he wasn’t scoring. This year he is more comfortable in that role.”
Wadsworth points to the victory at Plainfield as an example.
With Whiteland holding a three-point lead late in the game, Purdie dove into a scrum to gather up a loose ball and immediately called timeout. This was followed by a Moss 3-pointer that pushed the spread to six.
“We will have an excellent season if Tom and his teammates continue to make these plays,” Wadsworth said.
Purdie is projected as a ‘3’ at the next level, though that means little to him at this point.
Starting with Friday night’s home game against Roncalli and a Saturday trip to Seymour, the Warriors hope to begin picking up ‘W’s on their way to what Purdie believes could be a special season.
“The cool thing about this team is we have so many weapons. As far as scoring goes, that doesn’t matter as long as we win,” Purdie said. “I want to see this team and this program do something great that has never been done before.”
Whiteland’s last winning season was in 2008-09. It hasn’t won a sectional since 2002 and hasn’t won a champion Johnson County Tournament title since 1955.
No shortage of motivators for Purdie and his teammates.
THE PURDIE FILE
Name: Tom Purdie
Born: East Chicago, IN
Family: Parents, John and Cherri; brothers, Joe, 15, and Sam, 13
Favorite TV show: “First Take”
Favorite food: Chinese
Favorite movie: “Like Mike”
Favorite athlete: LeBron James
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts