Carsen Edwards just wants to play basketball.
Sometimes, it really is that simple. Isn’t that the darndest thing? A skilled basketball player just wants to go out there and play the game he loves. This is true for almost every player with NBA-level talent, but at Edwards’ draft workout with the Indiana Pacers, that became incredibly apparent.
Edwards was asked about his relationship with Ty Jerome, a guard from the Univerity of Virginia who worked out for the Pacers earlier that day. Jerome and Edwards faced off in an Elite Eight matchup in the NCAA tournament, a game in which Edwards’ Boilermakers walked away defeated. His response was all business.
“Ty Jerome, he’s a good example [of] a guy I can compete against and just learn from,” he started his answer with solemnity. Then, he continued, “Y’all kinda blew [our relationship] up.” At first, I was caught off guard by the harshness of that statement. But after thinking about it, I realized Edwards didn’t mean anything rude by it. He’s just tired of talking about mundane things like relationships.
He just wants to ball.
“I enjoy just working out and just [playing] basketball,” Edwards said. “I’m just trying to come out [to workouts] and compete.” That answer came after the former Purdue guard fielded a question about the pressure he feels in the workout process. Yeah, the pressure is there for him. He made that clear. But he doesn’t care about pressure. He is simply enjoying playing basketball.
Carsen Edwards’ oozes intensity and passion for the game. A source close to the Purdue basketball team told me it is basically a constant with him. “He’s intense most of the time. Off the court, he’s very happy-go-lucky. But on the court, it’s pretty much kill-or-be-killed to him and usually, he does the killing.” I had just watched Edwards work out and scrimmage against other prospects. That sentiment about his constant intensity could not be more accurate.
He has no off. Even after flicking an outlet pass to an assistant coach, a formality in a 4-on-4 halfcourt drill that is done to reset to the next possession, Edwards would bolt to the next spot to receive the ensuing pass or set up the next action. His energy and passion shine, even in a scrimmage.
If you watched the NCAA Tournament this past March, you saw what I saw at his workout. Edwards was not going to let Purdue lose. He averaged a tournament-best 34.8 points per game for the Boilermakers, pulling them just moments from a Final Four berth. Yet that may not be the most impressive stat to display his resiliency. The best stat for that is his minutes per game, which in the NCAA tournament was 42.
College basketball games are only 40 minutes long.
Overtime(s) lifted that MPG number. But Edward refuses to be taken off the floor. He, like was described to me, is in “kill or be killed” mode and will not be taken out in a tight battle. He is fearless no matter the situation, and he’s coming for you. I asked a source close to Purdue basketball what the most “Carsen Edwards” moment was and he brought up that fearlessness, unprompted.
“The most ‘Carsen’ moment is definitely when he dunked on Josh Newkirk at IU his sophomore year. Purdue was only up by a little and the game was in the second half, so it was kind of risky for Carsen to go for the dunk,” they said. “But that’s just how he is. He’s fearless and he’s going to go right at you no matter what.”
The NCAA tournament, the dunk, the workout, those are all things Carsen has done that show off his passion for the game and desire to win. But the key words there are “has done”, as in, in the past. That’s where they are for Edwards, who is looking ahead and ready for the next challenge. “I’m just trying to be ready for the next thing. It’s a new beginning; I’m just trying to work and just improve and just be ready.”
He’s hardly reflective. He had a magical tournament run, and he’s appreciative of all the teams that have complimented him on it. But he’s ready to grow into the next version of Carsen, the one that improves and gets to play NBA basketball. Purdue, and that spectacular March run, is behind him now. “I honestly don’t try to reflect on it much anymore.” Edwards said, “It’s on to a new beginning… I just continue to play, continue to get better.”
He wants to get better so he can continue to play the game he loves. Duh. We all want to improve our craft in our careers. But he isn’t blind to the off-court things he needs to do. For example, sacrifice, which he assimilated at Purdue. “Being around guys that fill roles and were unselfish and just kinda helped us go… you realize that [looking back] there’s a lot of guys that sacrificed their playing styles to make sure that we were a good team,” Edwards said of his Boilermaker teammates. “I just learned from them.”
As a rookie, Edwards will likely have to be the one doing the sacrificing. He’s aware of his size limitations and that he might have to facilitate more to help his team win. But if he continues to learn the game he loves, he could grow into a leader and a potent offensive player. Thankfully, the people around him at Purdue saw him grow into that guy in the black and gold.
“He’s grown a lot as a leader [at Purdue]. His first two years, and even early on this past year, his intensity sometimes got the best of him and he got frustrated time to time with himself and others. But he got better at being a role model for others and pushing them to be better since he was by far the best player. Specifically, he made Eric Hunter Jr. a lot better.”
There are often questions about the personality of prospects. I have zero about Edwards’ temperament. I can tell that he is very comfortable mentally with where he is in his basketball life, and he’s prepared for the next step in his journey. He’s got the perfect mindset to grow into a great player in the NBA, the league that will allow him to continue to play the game he loves.
Now, he just wants a team to give him that chance to play. “I just want one team to love me,” he said. Then, later, he made it clear how he will make a team adore him in the way he wants. A reporter asked Edwards about adjusting his role in the NBA to something different to than what it was at Purdue. “If that’s what they need me to do, yeah I can [adjust my role].” He will do whatever he can to play more basketball and make his team better.
That’s what he’s always done. “He does put a lot of time in the gym when things go poorly to make himself better,” is what was told to me. That is perfectly reflective of his character and drive to play more basketball.
That time in the gym is about to be crucial for Carsen Edwards as he tries to make a name for himself in the NBA. As much as Edwards loves basketball, I think it will be hard to take him out of the gym. He’s got a chance to be a great player for whoever drafts him.