The Boilermakers became a consistent powerhouse in the Big Ten early on throughout Matt Painter's tenure at Purdue, but that went to the wayside after the graduation of the teams last Baby Boiler Robbie Hummel. The last two seasons have seen Purdue fail to reach the NCAA Tournament and one of the key reasons as to why has always been obvious to anyone who's tracked the team. That reason? Well you can't win enough games to reach the postseason if you can't score. And for the last two seasons Purdue simply hasn't been able to shoot the ball.
So that's what made things interesting heading into this season. The loss of Terone and Ronnie Johnson meant Purdue lost their two leading scorers and the two players responsible for taking a third of their shots. That being said, though, both of the brothers weren't efficient shooters and their numbers aren't exactly impossible to replicate (or improve on). The biggest question then simply became who was going to take these shots, especially with a set of returning guys that weren't very big on putting the ball up at times last year (Rapheal Davis, Basil Smotherman).
From the very beginning the expectations for true freshman Vince Edwards were sky high for the Boilers if they wanted to improve this season. Edwards had been Painter's guy from day one and went relatively under the radar throughout his recruitment. Under the radar may be a bit of an understatement, honestly, with the Ohio Division I player of the year and #2 Ohio recruit (per ESPN) only being listed as a three star prospect not even ranked in the top 100 prospects. Regardless, both the team and fans had high expectations for the Middletown native and the hope was Edwards could emerge as that consistent offensive threat Purdue has been lacking the last several seasons.
It's only two games into the season but so far so good for Edwards on filling that void.
In his debut versus Samford the freshman added 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting in a limited 17 minutes throughout a 80-40 route of the Bulldogs. Even better was Edwards performance versus IUPUI, scoring 19 points in the first half and eventually adding 26 points and 8 rebounds in his 31 minutes. The best thing about Edwards 39 points so far this season? Unlike some other Boilermakers of the past, Edwards has been relatively efficient, hitting 16 of his 23 shots and even stepping out and converting on 4 of his 8 three point attempts.
The offensive ability of Edwards is definitely promising, leading Purdue in scoring in both games this weekend, but what's best about the first year player is he could finally be the guy in West Lafayette capable of spreading the court. The Boilers last season were led by the Johnson brothers, a set of guards that could get to the rim at will, but were also both poor three point shooters. The best perimeter weapon last year, Kendall Stephens, was a competent option outside but didn't take many looks inside. Edwards, however, can get inside and score down low with ease as the athletic wing has shown so far this season. While he can score around the rim, Edwards ability to hit from outside is going to be critical for Purdue moving forward.
Unlike most of Purdue's scorers the last two seasons, all of which were relatively one dimensional, Edwards brings a well rounded game to the table and can do a little bit of everything. He can score inside when need be, but he's also a perimeter threat. He's big enough to clean up on the glass and pick up blocks but athletic enough to help keep the offense moving and make defensive plays away from the basket. Measuring in at 6'7" he's big enough to run the four while athletic and skilled enough to play the two or three. Edwards is essentially a versatile, well rounded athlete that Painter can more or less squeeze in wherever he's needed and he's likely to excel.
For a team that has been inconsistent, ineffective and overwhelmingly one dimensional across the board, it's nice to finally have someone who brings balance to the court. Edwards adds an offensive threat to the table while also showing that he could join Kendall Stephens as the two guys to help develop a competent perimeter attack. The scary thing is, while coming versus suspect competition, Edwards has hit the ground running in West Lafayette. For a team plagued with youth and inexperience he already looks like he's been here before and if he can keep it up he's going to be making some considerable noise this year in the Big Ten.