Winning is not easy. Particularly winning in the one-and-done, knockout NCAA Basketball Tournament.
For junior guard Carsen Edwards, he was trying to change the winning landscape for the Purdue Boilermakers. Years of heartbreak and losing have defined Purdue basketball since their last Final Four appearance in 1980. Before the 2019 season started, Edwards announced that he would return for a junior season. While playing in the NBA is his ultimate goal, Edwards believed another season under Purdue coach Matt Painter could increase his draft stock.
On Saturday night in Louisville, Carsen Edwards did not just put on a show of tremendous basketball skill. He cemented his legacy as one of the all-time great shooters in the NCAA Tournament. While putting up 42 points against the No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers caught the attention of the basketball world, Edwards’ dream of taking his Purdue team to the Final Four would fall short. The Cavaliers’ 80-75 overtime victory is a once again painful reminder of how perfect a team must be to get over the finish line and win.
“Going in you understand that it’s going to be a close game. You understand that it’s not going to be easy to win it,” stated Edwards after the game. “It just happens. That’s basketball.”
Carsen Edwards’ Basketball Roots Found in the Lone Star State
If you travel to Atascocita High School, remnants of Carsen Edwards’ legacy are put on display. Photos of Edwards in action can be found in David Martinez, Edwards’ high school coach’s office. Dale Reed, the coach of rival high school Woodlands, recalls the uncanny ability of Edwards to take over games with his dominant shooting.
“He takes over stuff,” Reed said. “I’ll see him do something and make a mistake, and you can see him give that little smile and boom — he makes a huge play right after it.”
As a senior, Edwards averaged 26.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 5.1 APG, securing him first-team All-State honors in Texas. Deeply connected to his parents, James and Carla, and his three siblings, Edwards was going to attend a basketball program in the Texas area, notably Baylor, Houston, SMU or Texas Tech. But visiting Purdue made the young guard realize that playing in the competitive Big Ten conference as a Boilermaker would increase his chances to turn pro.
“My visit when I was in high school, helped me feel more comfortable coming to Purdue,” Edwards said. “The guys I was around and the environment I felt from the whole team was exactly what I needed.”
Carsen Edwards Puts Together Valiant NCAA Tournament Effort
In a close basketball game, turnovers and missed shots down the stretch can be the critical, painful differences in the eventual outcome. Carsen Edwards experienced this firsthand.
After converting 10 threes in regulation, one shy of the NCAA Tournament record, Edwards did not sink a single bucket beyond the arc in overtime. Down by two points, Edwards elected to take a contested three, rather than elect to get a bucket in the post to tie. The eventual heartbreak play came in the dying seconds of overtime, where Edwards made an errant pass that went out of bounds, resulting in a turnover. Those are the mistakes that in hindsight, would be the difference in Purdue’s pursuit to the Final Four.
“We had a screen in for Ryan, and I was trying to kick it ahead before he fouled me,” said Edwards. “It was a tough catch for Ryan, and just how it happens. That’s the game of basketball.”
The game of basketball, where records can be broken but the pursuit of a championship can be dashed in a heartbeat. For the tournament, Edwards set a new record most threes converted with 28. He only played four games to complete this feat; the previous record holder played six. Edwards sits third all-time in most consecutive 25-point games in the NCAA Tournament with 5, tying Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry. The junior guard surpassed Curry with most points in a four-game stretch, totaling 139.
Edwards and Diakite Share Moment of Sportsmanship
Records broken does not equate to victories. For Edwards, the thoughts of “what could have been” will linger in the coming days after the tough loss to Virginia. But the journey to get to this moment, playing at a high level, is what Edwards will remember most about this experience.
“Being able to play at this level and play with a good group of guys, it’s a blessing for me,” states Edwards. “it’s just a blessing to be able to learn and be around a bunch of good guys.”
After the game, in the midst of tremendous disappointment, Edwards shared a moment of sportsmanship and class with the Virginia hero. Mamadi Diakite, who sank the game-tying shot to send the contest into overtime, had played with Edwards on the same “NBA Top 100” high school camp. A sign of respect from Edwards to a fellow competitor and future basketball star.
“It was back and forth thing, it’s crazy how the shot went in,” said Edwards. “Good game by him, good player. Good dude as well.”
The Future is Bright for Carsen Edwards
Averaging 23.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 3.0 APG this season, the decision for Edwards to stay at Purdue has paid off. Not only has he demonstrated his shooting ability, but has displayed an ability to compete in big games. While he may still need to learn to be unselfish with the basketball, his ceiling to grow is off the charts according to Coach Painter.
“Carsen has worked very hard and put himself in a special category and had special performances here in the NCAA tournament,” affirmed Painter. “We obviously would like to be playing in Minneapolis, but that’s the way things go.”
The cycle of a basketball program never stops. Carsen Edwards will head to the NBA, while Purdue will look for answers to get back to the NCAA Tournament. While losing a close game is a painful way to end, the Boilermaker will most certainly be making headlines as a prolific shooter in the NBA.