INDIANAPOLIS — The memories remain fresh for Purdue fans. The clutch shots steps behind the 3-point line. The free throws made to force overtime in an eventual Sweet 16 win over Tennessee.
But former Purdue guard Carsen Edwards is not one to live in past glory, however recent. Edwards declared for the NBA Draft as a junior shortly after helping lead the Boilermakers to their first Elite Eight appearance since 2000. His performance in the NCAA Tournament was other worldly, averaging 34.8 points while making a single-tournament record 28 3-pointers in just four games.
That tournament, though, is in the rearview mirror for Edwards, who went through an up-and-down predraft workout with the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. With NBA legend Larry Bird and other Pacers brass looking on, Edwards missed a point blank, wide-open runner in the lane but followed it up with a nice baseline drive and a couple of 3-pointers.
“The pressure is there, but I always put the pressure on myself, which is wanting to do well,” Edwards said. “I mean it’s a blessing to be here, to have this opportunity. I enjoy just working out and just doing basketball and not worrying about school.”
Asked about the record-breaking March accomplishments, Edwards said: “I don’t even try to reflect on it much anymore. It’s on to a new beginning. You’ve just got to continue to play. You’ve just got to continue to improve and get better.
“I mean, honestly, I don’t even to try to sell that for me as a player. I just continue to try to get to work and just be better and just be consistent in what I do.”
Edwards was named Most Outstanding Player of the South Region of the NCAA Tournament despite Purdue losing in the Elite Eight, becoming the first player since Steph Curry in 2009 with Davidson to earn MOP honors on a losing Elite Eight team. Some have projected a Curry-like upside for Edwards, based on his profile as a combo guard with deep shooting range.
“He’s a totally different level,” Edwards said. “It would be cool to be a player like him, but, I mean, I’m still just trying to get out of college, trying to get a team to like me. Still working out, still trying to prove myself. I wouldn’t even put myself in the same category like that.”
Edwards measured at 6-foot-4 in sneakers at the NBA combine last week in Chicago, taller than his listed 6-1 at Purdue. He said he was advised by his agent not to take part in 5-on-5 scrimmages but went through all other drills.
Most mock drafts project Edwards as an early-to-mid second-round pick. Edwards has other workouts lined up with the Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics and is close to getting one scheduled with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I just want one team to love me to try to come in and play my role, be able to stick,” Edwards said.
That role could take on a different form than Purdue, where Edwards was a volume shooter last season. Edwards may need to show he can play more point guard in the NBA because of his size.
“If that’s what they need me to (do), yeah, I can (do it),” Edwards said.
Edwards learned from playing at Purdue under Matt Painter the importance of filling and adjusting roles while being part of a team.
“You kind of realize that once you leave that there are a lot of guys that sacrificed their playing styles just to make sure that we were a good team and do things for us to help us win,” Edwards said. “I just learned from them, and that’s one thing I can take for being a teammate, being a good guy. I feel like being around good guys helps me understand culture and just know how to be around a winning team and be positive in the locker room.”
From humble beginnings in Humble, Texas, to becoming one of the best players in college basketball, Edwards said hearing his name called in the NBA Draft on June 20 would be the ultimate dream.
“For the most part, it will mean everything,” Edwards said. “That was kind of my goal since I was young and just putting in the work, putting in the time, sacrificing time from other things just to be able to work to get into this position.”