3/23/19 NCAA Tournament, Villanova, Carsen Edwards

Junior guard Carsen Edwards smiles during the first half of Purdue’s 87-61 win against defending national champion Villanova on March 23. Edwards scored a career-best 42 points in the blowout victory.

On the eve of the national championship, a game that Purdue could have played in, Carsen Edwards announced via social media he is entering the 2019 NBA Draft with an agent.

And that was the best decision for everyone — Edwards, Purdue, head coach Matt Painter and the rest of the team.

His draft stock has never been higher than after the outstanding performance he put on during the NCAA tournament this March. On college basketball’s biggest stage, he played the best version of his game possible.

The two-time All-American averaged 42 minutes over four games. In that time, he averaged 34.8 points on 45% shooting from the floor and 44.5% shooting from deep.

Edwards needs not look far to find a player who has been through similar circumstances.

Former Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo, who Purdue almost played twice, had a comparable March experience. In the Wildcats’ national championship run, he averaged 15 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists over six games to win the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. That performance alone arguably boosted his draft stock from a late first-round or early second-round to a mid-first round pick.

Edwards would be praised by fans if he stayed, but he’d also be making the wrong decision.

The monetary difference between the first and second rounds are what can drive borderline first round projected players to throw their name in the draft early without the promise that they will get paid.

According to Larry Coon’s collective bargaining agreement website, the NBA Rookie pay ranges from $6,804,300 for the first pick in the draft to $1,350,400 for the 30th pick in the draft, the last of the first round. The players can make as much as 120% of that to as little as 80% of their assigned draft pick value.

Edwards is making a smart decision for his future. He’s also making the smart decision for his now-former teammates to finally grow into their own roles.

Freshman guard Eric Hunter Jr., who made his first start as a Boilermaker in the team’s Round of 64 game against Old Dominion, played his best basketball to date in the tournament. He will be able to step into Edwards’ role and help lead the team.

Sophomore guard Nojel Eastern now has the potential for a breakout junior year with the departure of Edwards, as he can lock down defenders but also dominate in the lane. If he can develop a consistent jump shot, he could be the team’s next star.

However, let’s pump the brakes for a hot minute, as Edwards technically might not be gone.

He can still return, thanks to new NCAA rules. A college men’s basketball player can now be represented by an agent in the pre-draft process, but must end the relationship if he decides to return to college before a set date in late May.

But Edwards will very likely not return, not with the potential to earn millions of dollars in just a few months.

That’s a good thing for him and for Painter.

Undoubtedly, Painter wants what is best for his players at the end of the day. It’s a fair assumption to also say he’d want his best player to stay for one final season. After this overachieving season though, Painter has shown that he can win despite losing his best talent. There’s a reason why his peers voted him the NABC National Coach of the Year.

After four seniors graduated last year, Painter made his first Elite Eight. What will happen after he loses two seniors and a two-time All-American? That is harder to predict, but there’s hope after the team’s performance this season.

With the way the underclassmen played during what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the future looks good for Purdue basketball.

The future also looks good for Carsen Edwards, who made the best decision for himself and his family. Even after a 80-75 overtime loss to Virginia, the coach knew Edwards’ future would be the same no matter which path he ultimately chose.

“It’s bright,” said Painter.

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