2015 Purdue Basketball Preview: Vince Edwards
[Click here to see the rest of the 2015 player preview posts.] 2014-2015 Season Reflection
Vince Edwards was born in a manger, as a 30 person choir was singing and the stars were shining bright to celebrate his emergence in this world. Many people travelled far and wide to offer any gifts they could afford, as they had heard of the coming of a special child. This child would be blessed with the ability to leap tall buildings in one bound, would moonlight as a crime fighting superhero, would throw a killer pass from the high-post, and would one day emerge as the savior this world needed when crisis struck most deeply.
Here we go.
Vince Edwards has seemingly been a Purdue kid forever, long before his September 2013 verbal commitment to Matt Painter and his Boilermakers. Painter and then-assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry (now an assistant for Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics) started officially recruiting Edwards in 2011, and Vince’s near-commitment in 2012 caused Twitter to damn near melt down for an afternoon. Purdue had long been the favorite to earn the royal presence of Vince, and after a brief moment of stress (that involved a much-too-close John Beilein and Michigan recruitment) The Chosen One decided to take his talents to West Lafayette.
Completely seriously, for a change…Vince and Matt Painter were perfect fits for each other. Painter has many faults as a coach (stubbornness, clashing with point guards, uneven rotations, brutally honest recruiting), but one of his undoubted strengths is utilizing a combo forward to facilitate an offense. Carl Landry and Robbie Hummel both flourished in this role, and Vince is cut from exactly the same mold.
(As a warning: I’m organizing this way-too-comprehensive player review in sections, with the titles in bold. Every hyperlink will be a GIF, because why read when you can watch.)
Coming out of high school, Vince had the ability to overpower forwards/centers in the post, get by smaller wings using very polished footwork, and somehow sniff out rebounds that shouldn’t be available. He was beyond-passable on the defensive end, and had a workable shooting motion, but his shot needed more consistency (he was more of an attack-the-basket player) and his decision-making under pressure was a legitimate weakness. But overall, his skillset (and high basketball IQ, a product of being raised in a basketball household) was perfect for the role of succeeding Hummel as the stretch-4 star at Purdue.
And, well…let’s just say he didn’t disappoint. I can’t remember being more excited for a freshman season, and Vince delivered. 8.8 points per game on 48% shooting, 79% from the line, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game is pretty much the definition of a Swiss Army Knife player. Vince was especially lethal from inside the arc, converting 58% of his two-point field goals.
Attacking the rim in half-court sets
Let’s start with his lethality when given a little bit of space:
Vince shot a passable 33% from beyond the arc, but was still enough of a danger that opposing wings had to close out strong, which made them vulnerable to Vince attacking a 5-on-4 mismatch. His dribbling skills were a pleasant surprise, because even though we had seen some high school highlights of Vince attacking in both full- and half-court sets, often the collegiate transition can be rough for bigger players to minimize unforced ball-handling errors. Edwards held his own, running the offense while committing 1.5 turnovers per game (which, given his high usage rate, was fairly acceptable).
Look at that highlight above. Slight hesitation, draws two defenders in, and then takes them straight to the rack and finishes with contact. Two more GIFs, for your viewing pleasure:
- Vince grabbing the rebound on one end, and slo-mo driving to the hoop with total control
- One of my favorites: Vince getting the ball in the mid-post, pump faking and slamming home a dunk in traffic.
Running the break
Where he really stood out, though, was with his court vision after grabbing a rebound. He was comfortable enough with his ball-handling that his head was always up, taking a snapshot of the court while knowing exactly where every chess piece would move. This was particularly true in fast-break situations, where Vince knew precisely where to drive to a) free up a passing lane, or b) force help from defenders who anticipate the pass, leaving a wide-open lane to the basket.
Seriously, he’s incredible. Here’s an example:
Having Vince crash the glass is smart, because he’s a great rebounder that can start the break right away. Once Vince crosses mid-court, he’s instantly doubled, with additional weakside help shading his way. That doesn’t matter, though…he crosses over one defender, and threads a picture-perfect bounce pass between the other two to an open Rapheal Davis, who finishes with contact and draws the foul.
I could watch that for freaking days. Vince poses an unfair advantage in situations like this, given his rebounding, dribbling, and playmaking skills. Here’s a few more, just to keep you awake:
- A full-court drive for an easy layup against IUPUI.
- Beautiful bounce pass between two defenders to Haas for an open dunk.
Halfcourt passing savant
Like fellow Ohioan Dakota Mathias, Vince’s skillset is best used within halfcourt sets and in the flow of Painter’s motion offense. He can see cuts before they happen, and seems to know exactly where defenders will make mistakes and how he can exploit them. I was looking through my Vines from last year, and it really took me a while to find any of Vince just attacking on his own…most were spectacular passes that set his teammates up for success.
This really might be my favorite pass of his from the year:
Out of a typical Painter motion-offense set, Vince gets a screen from Davis, draws the attention of the help defender for a split second, and threads an absolutely impossible pass to a cutting Jon Octeus for his easiest dunk of the year.
Here are some more. This set of GIFs are my favorite, because it highlights Vince’s unselfishness. The dude wants to make the winning play every time, and knows he’ll get credit after Purdue seals the victory.
- While posting up a bigger forward, Vince uses his x-ray vision to hit a cutting Jon Octeus in stride for an open layup.
- Again, while posting up against IU, Vince sees a wide-open Dakota Mathias cutting towards the hoop and hits him in stride for an easy layup.
- Vince hits a beautiful cutting Ray Davis…from the corner, which is usually where defenses trap to minimize court vision.
Here’s a sub-section of GIFs for you: Edwards-Hammons chemistry
- Another alley-oop against Illinois, with AJ getting free with a nice Mathias screen.
Vince is a beautiful angel.
The Dark Side
Ok, maybe he’s not absolutely perfect. Like any freshman, Vince had his struggling moments. I won’t embed every GIF, because this page will already take eons to load, but click on the link if you want to see the plays I’m talking about.
In his haste to make a play, Vince would often try to make passes that weren’t there…mostly when the initial option is denied. He’s really got to learn to be patient, especially when he’s working with a 30 second shot clock. Slowly going through options, constantly probing the defense for weaknesses, and capitalizing when openings pop up is something Vince really needed to work on last year. But that can easily be chalked up to youthful mistakes, and we should expect a more mature Vince to minimize turnovers like this.
Another issue is blatant laziness. There were several instances where this would rear its head…like when IUPUI was clinging way too closely to Purdue late in the game and Vince basically threw away the inbounds pass. That set up for an easy layup, a free throw, and an 11 point lead reduced to 8 with six minutes to play…disaster against a more talented opponent.
Defensively, there were lapses when it seemed like Vince was saving his breath for the opposite end of the court. Against Minnesota, the problem was in the post…I vividly remember this play, when Vince barely contested an easy drive-and-dish opportunity with Minny threatening to pull away with the game. Infuriating moments like this cannot happen, and with the arrival of Biggie Swanigan, the breakout potential of Kendall Stephens, and the emergence of perimeter options like Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline, Coach Painter will have plenty of options if these lapses continue.
And finally…consistency. Vince had his moments of brilliance (as widely chronicled above), but too often they were isolated to a single half. In fact, there were 17 games when Vince scored 70% of his points in one half, over half of the season. Vince would make complete disappearing acts from the second halves of critical games, like the ones against NC State, Notre Dame, Gardner-Webb, at Wisconsin, and at Minnesota.
As you can tell, Vince is my favorite player on this team, and the guy who is apparently poised for the biggest leap (according to most offseason reports). And, while I’m convinced he has the talent to be the best player on a roster that could include 8 other professional players (definition: collecting a paycheck to play basketball at any level), Vince has to cut down on these errors to make sure the talented players behind him don’t eat into his minutes.
Undisputed Strength: Being perfect in every single way. Also, dynamite commitment to the faux-hawk.
Biggest Weakness: Defensive attentiveness, and consistency. See the above halftime splits…for Vince to take the leap everyone is hoping for, he’s got to be more reliable.
GIF/Vine/moving picture of the year:
Vince blocks the shot (ok, after playing a bit of lazy defense, whatever), runs the floor and creates an open passing lane, swings the ball to an open Davis in the corner, crashes the offensive glass and hits the put back.
2 points, 1 offensive rebound, 1 block, 1 really really good pass that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet…all after playing a bit of lazy defense. Pretty much a microcosm of Vince’s season last year.
Nickname: The Savior, The One Who Guides Us, The One We Need, The One, Neo, The Chosen One, Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, Luke Skywalker, Aslan, Jon Snow, Sir Lancelot, Katniss Everdeen, and any other hero you can think of. If all else fails, VINCE will do just fine.
CLICK HERE to see projections for everyone on the team.
Methods: Projected each player’s stats per 40 minutes (loosely based on increases/decreases from last year), scaled to my projected minutes per game.
Assumptions: Nobody (read: Cline and Smotherman) redshirts, and the team totals are as stated. Parenthetical numbers are where those team totals would have ranked in 2014-2015. Remember, last year’s team was 10 players deep, this year’s team could be 13 players deep.
I think I’ve gone in-depth enough, so let’s keep it quick: I think Vince becomes the best all-around player on this team. Last year he was a stat-stuffer that was to inconsistent with his play from half to half…this year, I think he becomes an aggressive force that touches the ball on every possession.
That might be weird to say for a player averaging 12 points in 28 minutes per game, but between increased assist numbers and increased (and uncounted) hockey assists I think he has a part to play in many of Purdue’s buckets. Rebounding numbers should go up a smidge, mostly due to Hammons and Swanigan boxing out poor scrubs inside. He’ll also see a significant uptick in turnovers, purely because of this increased usage rate.
Defensively, the presence of AJ at the rim will allow him to play the passing lanes a bit more, and I think he’ll gamble a bit too often just to keep himself zoned-in. It results in a few more steals, but also a few more drives allowed. Good thing Purdue might have the best shot-blocker in the country waiting at the rim.
Unsolicited BS Advice for 2015-2016:
Be. Aggressive. In every sense of the phrase. Everyone (including me) is expecting you to become Purdue’s breakout star, and most draft boards already have their “watch out for Vince Edwards” posts written. But none of that can come to fruition unless you stay engaged throughout the game. Defensively…just stay focused. You are smart enough to know your fundamentals, and mistakes can be covered by AJ just as long as you’re in the right spots. As a leader of this team, your intensity can’t waiver.
Offensively, don’t worry about being a distributor. The playmaking will come naturally, as you’ve always prioritized the “right pass” at every level. This year, though, Purdue needs you to score when you have the chance. You would often pass up a wide open shot to set up your teammates…I think they’ll understand when you take the wide open shot after working as hard as you did during the summer. AJ Hammons needs some help carrying the scoring load of this team, and there should be plenty of distributors (between Biggie, Mathias, and the point guards). I don’t advocate this often, but focus on getting buckets, because this team could be dangerous if you’re pushing close to 15 points per game.
BEST/WORST: Remember, this is the top and bottom of the spectrum. The most likely scenario is somewhere in the middle. (Worst case scenarios come with a complimentary side of ACL tears.)
Best case: He leads Purdue to three straight National Championships, gets drafted by the Pacers, thrives in the NBA while winning a handful of rings and two MVPs, and plays like the lovechild of LeBron James and James Harden.
Worst case: He leads Purdue to three straight National Championships, gets drafted by the Pacers, thrives in the NBA while winning a handful of rings and two MVPs, and plays like the lovechild of LeBron James and James Harden.