NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Three local basketball players were recognized for their achievements this season at the Downtown Tip-Off Club’s season-ending banquet at the Wyndam Riverfront Resort on Monday.
Conway’s Preston Purifoy, who was named the Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year and Full-Court Player of the Year, shared the overall honors of being the Downtown Tip-Off Club’s player of the year with Jonesboro Westside’s Hunter Mickelson. This was the first time in the history of the club that co-players of the year were named.
Conway junior Taylor Gault and Kelly Hays, a junior from the Class 2A state champion Conway Christian, were also honored for capturing player of the week awards during the season. All players who won a weekly award were automatically in the running for the player of the year trophy. North Little Rock’s Markisha Hawkins took home the Downtown Tip-Off Club Player of the Year award after leading the Lady Charging Wildcats to an undefeated season that culminated with a Class 7A state championship.
"I’m very honored to win this award," Purifoy said. "To win a state championship and get Gatorade Player of the Year and all these other awards in my senior year means a lot to me. I couldn’t have planned to end the year better than this."
That excitement was shared by Purifoy’s coach.
"He’s an outstanding young man and he has represented Conway very well," Conway coach James Bates said. "We’re proud of him, and the future looks very bright for him. He’s going to a place where he’ll be a fine addition to their program because he just want to go play and do what he’s coached to do."
Purifoy had another huge fan to speak about his successful career at Conway. His father Hesterly Purifoy was not only a fan, but a teacher.
"I told him from the beginning of the year to just go out and prove yourself on the court," the elder Purifoy said. "I told him to not go off of what he was hearing. He knew he had to take care of business on the court. He know that anywhere that he goes in life is not because of where man’s gonna put him but where the good Lord is gonna put him."
Hays were one of the key cogs that helped Conway Christian win a Class 2A state championship.
"It’s really cool to be recognized with all of these great players and hear these coaches speak," Hays said. "It’s cool to be a part of and a great honor."
Gault has become one of the hottest junior prospects in central Arkansas on the recruiting trail. Her ability to score and play tenacious defense has become an interest for college coaches.
"I just thank God for my talent," Gault said. "I thank all of our fans who cheered us on this season. I also like to thank my family for all of their support. It’s really cool to be recognized here with all of these great players."