THAT Fil-Am Jawhar Purdy is being touted as the next Jayjay Helterbrand is easily understandable.
Like the popular veteran Barangay Ginebra stalwart, the 23-year-old guard out of Cal-State Stanislaus was a former 100-meter dash champion during his days at the Saugus High School at the Foothill League in California.
But his passion for basketball prompted him abandon the track oval and pursue instead his longtime dream of making it to the PBA.
“Back when I was still in the States, my relatives here would really tell me about the league,” Purdy recalled to Spin.ph shortly after leading the FEU-NRMF team in the 4th DeLeague quarterfinals.
“I just wanted to play basketball at a high level. The PBA has always been at the back of my mind. My mom and my relatives here have been telling me to play here,” said the Los Angeles-born cager.
A big fan of Kobe Bryant, Purdy claimed having played against the likes of James Harden, Kyle Lowry, and other NBA guys while in the US and training at the Impact Center in Las Vegas.
And having seen how he was able to hold his own against some of the world’s best players made the six-foot Purdy confident of carving a niche in Asia’s pioneering play-for-pay league.
“I played against taller guys, seven-footers who are now in the NBA. So I know I can excel in the PBA. I just want to let my game speak for me, everybody can see for themselves and I’m up for the challenge,” he said.
“I am a true point guard, a pass-first player. If you need me to run the team, I can run it. If you want me to score, I can score,” said Purdy, dubbed the ‘Dime King’ at the Impact Center for having the most number of assists.
Purdy showed what he can do during the game between FEU-NRMF and Siargao Legends led by two-time PBA MVP Willie Miller during the DeLeague quarterfinals.
The former US NCAA Division II guard torched the opposition with seven three-pointers to finish the game with 29 points, and proved to be one of the bright spots in the team’s 88-75 loss to Siargao.
[See video of Purdy’s interview and highlight reel here]
Shortly after the game, Purdy earned an instant fan in Miller, who did not hide his admiration for the way the Fil-Am guard played.
“Grabe yung batang 'yun. Ang tindi. Ang bilis. Tapos shooter. Magaling mag set ng play. Hindi mo maagawan. FedEx na FedEx. Magaling, magandang potential,” Miller noted.
“Siguro displina na lang sa sarili niya. Kasi pagdating niya sa PBA, mataas ang kumpetisyon dun,” added Miller, who encouraged Purdy to hone his skills more by trying to play in the D-League.
Siargao coach Ronjay Enrile, meanwhile, admitted seeing some flaws in the game of Purdy, especially his maturity in the backcourt.
“Yun siguro ang kulang. Kailangan mas mabilis siya mag-isip. 'Pag nagco-collapse na ang teammates niya, dapat siya mag-i-impose ng will at spark,” said Enrile, the former star player of Letran.
“Saka medyo maliit siya, kaya kailangan mas mag-focus siya sa pag-distribute ng bola. Dahil maliit siya para sa off guard. Kailangan talaga matutunan niyang i-instill sa mind niya na unahin (pasahan) ang kanyang mga kakampi,” he added.
Former Coca-Cola team manager Gerard Francisco is certain though that with proper nurturing in the D-League, Purdy can become a potential first-round pick in next year’s PBA Draft.
“He’s a steady point guard. Pag kailangang tumira, may shooting. Pwedeng umatake. Saka mabibilis ang paa. Para siyang batang Jayjay Helterbrand. Baka mas finesse pa nga sa ‘young’ Jayjay ha,” he added.
Purdy, who’s being represented by Terrence Romeo’s agent Nino Reyes, is set to join the 2015 draft.
Reyes told Spin.ph all of the needed documents of Purdy are now in place. They’re now just waiting to comply with the PBA requirement obliging Fil-foreign players aged 25 years old-and below to have at least completed two playing conferences in the D-League.
“This boy is ready. He is good. I hope the Filipino basketball fans will watch out for him. He is truly an exciting player,” said Reyes, founder of SMTM talent promotions which also handles Ping Exciminiano (Alaska) and Kia Sorento’s Paul Sanga and Alvin Padilla.
“Happy ako with what I saw from him sa mga games ng FEU-NRMF. Matapang siya and he doesn’t back down kahit sa mas malalaki at mas beteranong defenders. Actually, mas ginaganahan siya in those kind of competitions,” said the businessman.