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Gold and Black Illustrated Volume 28, Digital 5

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Page 41 of 60

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 5 42 Maybe. All-American Carsen Edwards has his name in the NBA draft. He's not hired an agent, preserving his re- maining two seasons of eligibility should he elect to return. He'll have until May 30 to decide. So will Nojel Eastern, the sopho- more-to-be who made a bit of a sur- prising move by himself declaring for the draft without an agent. While there's no downside for players to go through the process, there is an NBA rule that bars players from withdraw- ing from the draft more than twice, so for Eastern to use one of those oppor- tunities now, after a season in which he averaged about 12-and-a-half min- utes and less than three points, was a bit of an eye-opener. But if both players return — and neither were general- ly projected to be first-round picks as of mid-April – then they'll join budding-standout center Matt Haarms as part of a collection of key returnees that'll make up Purdue's best hope to keep its run of winning seasons going. Purdue will be a very different team next season. "Four important guys will be gone," Haarms said after the season ended in a loss to Texas Tech in Boston, "and we'll have a whole new team." Thus, the hard reset. "Any time you lose a lot of people and you're bringing in a lot of people, you don't go into it always with a set thought," Coach Matt Painter said, "because you have so many pieces you haven't seen play with the guys who are returning." Purdue will be a very different team next season, and for the first time in a few years, it will be a very new team, with Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert due to be its only two re- turning seniors, those two joining only Carsen Edwards as returning upperclassmen among rotation players. They'll be surrounded by new — or at least relatively new — faces. Freshmen Eric Hunter, Emmanuel Dowuona and Trev- ion Williams will arrive in June. So will graduate transfer Evan Boudreaux, who starred for two seasons at Dartmouth, before laying out this season in order to graduate and maintain two years of eligibility for his next stop, which became Purdue after he decommitted this spring from Xavier following its coaching change. It's hoped he'll fill Purdue's Vincent Ed- wards-created void at power forward, the Boilermakers' most urgent personnel need. And forward Aaron Wheeler and Sasha Stefanovic will debut officially next season after redshirting this sea- son. They've played in the World University Games and Purdue's preseason exhibitions last fall, but not yet in a game that's counted. As of mid-April, Purdue had just five players on campus who have played meaningful minutes in their careers. With at least six newcomers or quasi-newcomers dot- ting his projected roster, it's a situation Painter's been through before, as recently as 2014 when today's outgo- ing seniors were freshmen and contributed profoundly to 21 wins after Purdue's back-to-back losing seasons. Or 2007, when Purdue's roster turned over consider- ably, then won 25 games. But it's gone both ways. The Boilermakers were newcomer-heavy in 2012, too, and that season begun the program's two-year downturn. Newcomer-laden or not, the 2018-19 version of the Boilermakers should have much going for it, barring any seemingly unlikely NBA defections. Carsen Edwards is a star, a consensus All-American as Charles Jischke/Purdue Athletics Matt Haarms will pick up next season where he left off this, as a critical piece of Purdue's interior, probably its starting center.

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