By Ray Hamill — College of the Redwoods basketball has attracted a lot of Big 5 MVPs in recent years and that trend continued this offseason with Kai Purcell recently signing a letter of commitment to play for the Corsairs next season.
Purcell, who helped lead the Arcata Tigers to a memorable Big 5 and Dick Niclai tournament championship this past season, received a lot of attention from some quality colleges, but after spending some time with the CR team last summer, he decided to keep his talents local and join the two-time defending Golden Valley Conference champions.
“Really the reason I chose (the Corsairs) is I kind of fell in love with the CR way,” Purcell said. “I really like the players, and I really like the coaches.”
A lot of Big 5 MVPs apparently do, and Purcell joins a long list of recent H-DNL stars to commit to the team over the past few years, including Thomas Nelson, Zac Claus, Donald Willis and Drew Gillette — each of whom was a Big 5 MVP — as well as Mason Railsback, who likely also would have been a league MVP had the league named one during the 2021 COVID season.
All of those players have had a big impact at the JC level, and Purcell will be expected to do the same.
“Outside of being just a great person and a perfect personality fit for our program, he’s also a player we’ve admired for a very long time,” CR head coach Ryan Bisio said. “He’s a worthy MVP for the Big 5, and he was getting contacted by a lot of quality schools.”
Purcell also joins a growing list of recent Arcata Tigers to join the local community college program, including Bisio, who coached at Arcata before taking over at CR, as well as his former teammates Railsback, Niko Zambas and Aidan Atkins-Salazar.
And all of that played a role in his decision, as did the time he spent with the team and coaches while taking classes there last summer and this spring.
“I like the relationships the coaches have with the players,” he said. “It’s awesome how close they are. And I have a lot of former teammates who play there, and I love the culture they’ve built.”
Purcell leaves an impressive resume of success with the Tigers, who were the best team in the H-DNL for the past two seasons, in large part thanks to his presence in the paint.
“Really, I’ll just remember all the guys I played with,” the three-year varsity player said. “And I’ll also remember the tournaments we won, especially in my senior year. Winning those tournaments (Arcata, McKinleyville and the Dick Niclai) as a senior, it was amazing. It was a goal of mine throughout high school, and we really did accomplish a lot in my senior year.”
In particular, playing varsity ball alongside twin brother Shane Purcell — who will play football at Contra Costa College after graduation — for the past two seasons was also special.
“Getting to play with him in my last year was great,” Kai said. “It just couldn’t have been better.”
Arcata head coach Kellen Maynard also appreciated Purcell’s contribution, which was instrumental in the team’s success.
“Kai was such a great senior leader and super positive and always pushing the guys,” Maynard said after the MVPs were named earlier in the year. “He just wanted to win so bad.”
Bisio expects Purcell to adapt to the next level and play a key role for a CR team that is in transition with four key two-year starters moving on this spring.
“I see him being able to stretch the floor and shoot the 3 for us,” Bisio said. “And we’re going to look for him to continue to be physical and rebound the ball for us.”
Purcell, who is still undecided on a major, wants to eventually play for a four-year school and sees CR as a good stepping stone in that direction and a program that will help him develop his game and prepare him for the next step.
He also paid tribute to his family, for all their support on his journey.
“They’ve been at like every game,” he said. “They’ve supported every decision, both my parents and my brother.”
And he’s excited about taking his talents to the collegiate game and in particular CR.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I really think I made the right decision.”