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Friday, July 06, 2018 1:00 am

Purdue guard top returning player: Analyst

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Purdue guard Carsen Edwards continued his ascent into the upper echelon of college basketball talents Thursday when NCAA March Madness, a website affiliated with the NCAA, named him the top returning player in the country for the 2018-19 season.

Edwards beat out North Carolina's Luke Maye, Nevada's Caleb Martin, Wisconsin's Ethan Happ and 2016 Indiana Mr. Basketball Kyle Guy of Virginia, who finished Nos. 2-5, respectively.

College basketball analyst Andy Katz created the list.

“(Edwards) has a chance to be the National Player of the Year,” Katz said of his top choice. “It's going to be a younger (Purdue) team this season; they're losing a lot of seniors. He's going to be the guy that everything funnels through for the Purdue Boilermakers, but he can handle it. He loves being in that spot, he loves taking the big-time shot.”

Edwards is coming off a breakout sophomore season in which he earned the Jerry West Award as the nation's top shooting guard. He led the Boilermakers with 18.5 points per game and shot better than 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

The game that put him on the national map was arguably a 40-point performance in a road victory over Illinois in February. He became the first Purdue player to score 40 points since Glenn Robinson in 1994. The 6-foot-1 Edwards scored 30 in Purdue's season-ending loss to Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

Edwards declared for the NBA draft but did not hire an agent and eventually decided to return to the Boilermakers for another season the day before the deadline. He told Katz he wants to be better going to the basket this season.

“I just wanna have different ways of finishing around the rim,” Edwards said. “Whether that's outside the paint, outside the block, inside the paint, high finishes off the glass, soft touches with the left hand, right hand, those are things I really wanna work on and perfect my game in.”

Edwards scored 686 points last season, setting a Purdue record for a sophomore. He also became the first Boilermaker to have 650 points, 100 rebounds and 100 assists in the same season and already ranks 47th in program history in scoring despite just two seasons with Purdue.