Damian Arsenis takes a timeout with Auburn University's incoming freshman forward from Victoria, Jack Purchase.
The next generation of potential Australian Boomers are fast emerging and is being led by the offspring of former Australian National Basketball League (NBL) stars. Dante Exum is already a near household name, with Ben Simmons, Jonah Bolden and Keanu Pinder all currently playing in the United States in pursuit of their hoops dreams. However another promising ‘son of a gun’ has now joined them after arriving at Auburn University; his name is Jack Purchase.
Jack with father Nigel after winning silver at the 2012 U17 FIBA World Championships - Courtesy Nigel Purchase
As the son of 250 game NBL veteran Nigel and Simone, who was also a more than handy player in Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) with Bulleen, the 6’10 Purchase was born to play basketball. With one of his father’s best friends in Australian legend Andrew Gaze also in the wings, it is not exactly surprising that Purchase has emerged as a genuine talent.
Purchase has enjoyed a highly successful junior career in Australia, tasting success in the Victorian Junior Basketball League (VJBL), Australian School Championships and National Junior Classics. While Purchase was a perennial Victorian state representative, culminating in winning the Under 20 Australian Junior Championship in 2013. However it was in 2012 that Purchase made the world start to sit up and take notice, when he first represented Australia successfully in defeating New Zealand at the 2012 FIBA Oceania Championships, and then going on to help his country earn a silver medal at the 2012 Under 17 FIBA World Championships. He averaged 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game in playing alongside good friends and NBA-bound Dante Exum and Ben Simmons.
With growing confidence and an ever improving game, Purchase was outstanding in the 2012 Big V Youth League (U23) competition. He continued to impress on the big stage, averaging 21.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5 assists per game in leading the Melbourne Tigers to the title and being named MVP. What was even more impressive is that he was able to clearly demonstrate his sweet stroke, shooting an impressive 47.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Playing in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) with Auburn, Purchase will likely do most of his damage in hurting opponents though his ability to stretch the defense via his deadly perimeter shooting. From Melbourne to the Auburn, one thing is for sure he will bring the eye of the tiger.
The Pick and Roll’s exclusive interview with: Jack Purchase
Damian: Thanks for making the time to catch up. I believe you selected Auburn within just 5 days of visiting the school. What led you to settling on the Tigers who play in the Southeastern Conference
Jack: As soon as I got here I felt like it was where I wanted to be. The people here are all so nice and everywhere you go people say hello and want to have a chat. The boys on the team are like brothers; they are all so close. When I was here on a visit they all made me feel welcome and a part of it. So in the end I knew where I wanted to go.
Damian: Were there any other programs looking to add you to their roster?
Jack: There were some other programs that I was talking to. The main other school that I was talking to the most and also considering was Saint Mary’s. Other schools like Hawaii also showed that they were interested, but in the end it really came down to either Saint Mary’s or Auburn. It would have been fun to attend Saint Mary’s because I have a few mates there and I know there are a lot of Aussies on their roster. However in the end I loved Auburn and decided to come here
Damian: Was choosing the college pathway always what you were planning?
Jack: Yeah - ever since I was about 14 or 15 my goal was to get to college. I had just started watching it on TV and thought how good it would be if someday maybe I would be able to play on the big stage in the NCAA. Getting to college is very tough, but being here and having to work so hard to get a chance to play is on a whole other level for me. It really means a lot.
Damian: I believe that you also played Australian Rules football as a junior, and they tried pretty hard to steal you away from basketball. Is there any truth to this?
Jack: Yes that is true I love my footy and I still do. It was either footy or basketball for me but in the end I had to choose basketball because my Dad said I wouldn’t be able to eat if I don’t play basketball! Seriously though, I went with basketball because I loved it more and wanted to go further with it.
Damian: It’s well known that your father Nigel was a pretty decent player with the Melbourne Tigers (now known as Melbourne United) in Australia’s National Basketball League, playing alongside the great Andrew Gaze. What role did he play in your basketball development?
Jack: If it weren’t for my Dad or my Mum, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I was lucky enough to have my Dad coach me ever since I was a little kid. With his knowledge and expertise, he helped develop my game ever since I was 6 years old. Andrew Gaze is a very close friend of my Dad's and has coached me since I was 12 and right up until the weekend I left for college. So he also played a major role in helping me get to where I am today.
Damian: What about your Mum Simone? Was she also into hoops and what role did she play?
Jack: Mum was also into her hoops and played a little bit in the WNBL for the Bulleen Boomers (now known as the Melbourne Boomers). She always encouraged and helped me like Dad, but she never coached me on a serious level. She was always there at my games to support me though and without both my parents support, I don't think I would be here right now.
Damian: As a junior, were you always a Melbourne Tiger?
Jack: When I first started I played for the Bulleen Boomers from when I was about 6 years old through to when I was 12. I then made the move across to the Tigers.
Damian: You had an outstanding junior career; representing your state of Victoria and also earning the honour of playing for your country in the same team as Dante Exum and Ben Simmons - a team that earned a silver medal on the world stage. Can you talk us through some of you career highlights to date?
Jack: I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a pretty good junior career with success at pretty much every level. However playing for Australia is definitely my highlight - it was the best time I have ever had with basketball. It was with a great team, great friends and great coaches. Winning the silver medal made it so much better and something that will always remain with me.
Some of the other highlights of my career in Australia would include winning the under 16 National Junior Classic and the Victorian state title in the same year. I was also part of the winning under 18 National Junior Classic for two straight years as a bottom and top age player, while also winning the Victorian state title as a bottom age player. I then followed up by winning the under 20 Australian Junior Championship for two consecutive years, and was part of the Big V Youth League team that won the title in 2012.
Damian: That is a fair amount of success right there! In heading to college you are now a student first and an athlete second. What are you studying? Do you see this as something you may pursue in life after basketball (hopefully a very long time away)?
Jack: Not too sure what I’m studying yet. I think they call me undeclared or something but I’m not too sure. At the moment I am stuck on what I am going to study.
Damian: I'm sure you will find something suitable soon. In joining Auburn, what role does the legendary Head Coach Bruce Pearl have in store for you as a freshman?
Jack: Well Coach has informed me that he plays a lot of guys so I think I may be lucky enough to secure an opportunity to come off the bench to be a shooter - especially if I continue to improve and work hard. At the moment I believe that the plan is to use me as a shooter.
Damian: What are your own expectations for the year ahead as a player and for the team?
Jack: Expectations for this year are that we earn a good record through playing well as a team and ultimately push for the NCAA tournament. I think every team's goal is to obviously make the tournament, and that is what we have in mind. We should also be able to go a long way in the SEC this year.
Damian: That would be great to see. Standing at 6’10 you are by all accounts a pretty decent perimeter shooter for a big man. With former NBA star Chuck Person on the coaching staff, who would win a three-point shootout between you and him?
Jack: You should see that guy shoot! I think he turns 50 soon and he still makes it from everywhere. They called him 'The Rifleman' when he played, and now that I have seen it first-hand, I know why. I think he would still get me now, but hopefully after my time is done here I might be able to get a win against him...
Damian: Just hope he doesn't read that for your sake! Who would you give credit to for helping you develop your deadly stroke with range?
Jack: All the coaches I have had over the last few years have given me the license to shoot, so getting confidence from that has helped me a lot. However I would probably say it would be Andrew Gaze, as he has coached me for many years now and taught me a lot that I now know. He was and still is an outstanding shooter himself and you could not hope to learn from anyone better.
Damian: Totally agree. In junior basketball in Australia, players often get stereotyped based on their size. What position do you prefer playing and how you describe your own individual game?
Jack: My favourite position to play would be the 3-man or small forward. I love facing the basket and enjoy it even more when I am knocking down the three-ball.
Damian: What player would you say you would be most like at this stage of your career?
Jack: I'm not really sure of a suitable comparison at this point. However the player I want to be like is Chandler Parsons. The way that he plays is what I hope I will be able to replicate some day.
Damian: Everyone has goals and ambitions. Fast-forward four years and life at college has come to an end; where do you see yourself in the future?
Jack: The goal for me is to be able to play professionally somewhere. Every player's dream is to be able to play in the NBA and play with and against the best players in the world - that would be my ultimate goal. However coming back home and playing in the NBL would be great, or even playing in Europe. All I know is that I just want to play professionally somewhere!
Damian: I like to try to find out just one thing that very few people would know about you that we can share. Hopefully you can make it interesting!
Jack: Not sure I can help you mate, I got nothing that interesting!
Damian: Nothing that you obviously wish to share with us at least...thanks so much for your time Jack. Wishing you and the team a great year ahead.
Jack: No worries. Any time.
You can follow Jack Purchase on Twitter: @jackpurchase6