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Carsen Edwards Q&A: ‘Coming into college, I did not see myself being able to leave early’

Following three remarkable seasons at Purdue, NBA prospect Carsen Edwards is one of the most exciting guards in the 2019 draft class.

After winning the Jerry West Award for the nation’s top shooting guard as a sophomore, he was a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award for the player of the year as a junior. Edwards averaged 24.3 points and 3.8 three-pointers per game, scoring more points than all but two players in the NCAA.

The 6-foot-1 guard twice scored at least 40 points during March Madness, totaling at least 17 points in all but five games for Purdue last season. HoopsHype caught up with him as he prepared for the pre-draft process.

You had a fantastic tournament run with Purdue. What were your biggest impressions of playing on such a national stage?

Carsen Edwards: I think it was a blessing to have the opportunity at that stage and play at that level with a good group of guys. Individually, I did some things that I was proud of. But for the most part, just being able to play with a group of guys who worked so hard the whole season and come together and build our relationships tighter and bond and continue to work and go to battle with each other was what I took from it.

You accomplished things that haven’t been done in the NCAA Tournament since Stephen Curry. What allowed you to perform at such a high level?

CE: For the most part, I just stayed the course and continued to do the same thing and prepared the same way. Honestly, before the tournament, I had been struggling shooting for about five or six games. But I didn’t want to change anything. I just stayed in the gym and just kept the same routine. My teammates believed in me even when I was struggling and that was really important and it all came together.

What were some of the biggest surprises that you faced in March Madness?

CE: Obviously, social media was such a big thing. The attention I got from that tournament run was pretty big. I feel like that was new. Not unexpected but very different. People in the league were tweeting about the games and knowing they were watching was pretty cool. Not even for me but seeing when [my teammate] Ryan Cline had a big game in the Sweet 16 and his name was trending, that was pretty cool for me.

You have such a diverse scoring portfolio with the ability to shoot off the catch, dribble and so many other ways. Where does that come from? 

CE: I have so much to work on and so much left to prove with my game still and so many places to grow with my game. I think it comes from just staying in the gym and I find it fun being able to learn new things. I’ve spent so much time learning how to score the ball whether it is going all the way to the rim or on the perimeter, midrange or off screens. I’ve wanted to score the ball efficiently, too, which is mainly what I’ve been trying to focus on the last four or five years going back to high school.

What were some of your proudest accomplishments you had while you were at Purdue?

CE: I just continued to grow and get better every season. That was my main focus. Honestly, coming into college, I did not see myself being able to leave early. But after three years, I gradually got better and won games and we had winning seasons all three years with two conference championships and made it to two Sweet 16s. We also got a run in the tournament all three years I was there. Those were big.

How have you been preparing for the upcoming NBA draft?

CE: I’ve just been really going at it every day. We start early in the morning, there is a group of us in this draft class together. We go to weights and do a lot of lifting or treatment. Sometimes, we get back in the gym and get shots up. The weekends are a bit lighter with yoga.

What are some ways that you think your game can translate to the next level in the NBA?

CE: I still have a lot of work to do. But I believe that it’s an offensive league. The shot clock is shorter and it’s up and down, fast-paced. I believe that I can fit in with that. I can shoot threes and score the ball and get up and down. I can shoot from the perimeter and make reads off those plays, especially being in transition.

What are some elements you want to add to become the player you want to be?

CE: A lot of my game has been focused on ball screens and isolation. I’m learning how to create space and draw defenses and find mismatches and make the right decisions.

How comfortable are you from the three-point line from the NBA distance as opposed to the NCAA? 

CE: I think it is a big focus for me. I don’t want to be streaky, making shots in stretches. I want to be able to be consistent and be an elite shooter. So that is something I’m always working on, even when I tested the waters last year. It was my main focus for me. I want to be able to continue to knock down shots whether it’s stand still, coming off screens, off the dribble.

What were some of the best pieces of feedback you got last summer that helped you evolve your game? 

CE: It helped me get a different approach and preparation for the combine and individual team workouts that I will be going to this summer. I learned ways to translate to the league, like how to make reads off the pick-and-roll and stuff like that. Especially at my position, making plays around me better is huge. Obviously, at the next level, everyone can play. I want to make the best impact on both sides of the ball.

What are some of your goals and intentions for the upcoming NBA Combine after participating last year? 

CE: During the interview process, I want to help the teams really understand who I am as a person and hope they see good qualities in me so that they feel I am a good fit for their organization. I want to be an understanding person who can see both sides of everything. I also want to be seen as a hard worker that is low maintenance and easy to work with and is a good fit who can gel with all types of people. I want to be someone who can be the most helpful piece. I’m going to put my head down and work every day.

Are there any players in the league who remind you of yourself when you watch them play?

CE: Obviously, going into the league, whatever role my team wants me to play is what I will do. I like to watch the way players that are similar to my size and playing style perform. That may not be the superstar on the team but players that perfectly fill a roll. I like Patty Mills a lot. I like Fred VanVleet and the way he impacts the game. It is great to watch them come in day in and day out and help their team win. I’ve heard those a lot, especially from last year, and I want to expand on it. Even though I was high usage in college, it won’t be the same in the NBA. So I will understand my role, that is so important to me.

What are some things you are doing to become a better defender to fit into a rotation?

CE: I’m focusing a lot on watching the defensive film. I want to get under and defend guards who are bigger. I want to look at all the details and listen to people who are helping me. I’m getting as many reps as I can and seeing and watching the game to work on my feel for it all.

How do you find ways to inspire yourself to keep getting better? 

CE: My work ethic sets me apart and my love for the game helps that a lot. But having those times that you feel like you have to prove people wrong has kept me motivated, too, and that really helps me push. I enjoy competing and I find that fun.

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