WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue's Vincent Edwards never had a choice when it came to playing basketball.
It was in his blood.
His father, Bill, played professionally in Europe for more than a decade. His mother, Glennetta Patton, played the game in college and helped coach one of Edwards' youth teams. His older brothers, Bill Jr. and Darius, each played Division I ball and even today, family get-togethers sometimes consist of pick-up games at a gym in his hometown of Middletown, Ohio.All the competition, the jawing, the instruction and the good-natured ribbing from parents and siblings alike taught Edwards what he needed to do to become a success on the court.
"They bullied me, they roughed me up, they pushed me physically and mentally and my mom did it, too," he said. "But my parents taught me that if you could do a lot of things, it would be hard to keep you off the floor. I just always wanted to play."
Getting Edwards off the court seems be getting harder by the day.
He's a serious gym rat by nature and a fan of the game. He knows the history of the sport and his father's legacy as Wright State's career scoring and rebounding leader.
For now, the Boilermakers' senior forward owns family bragging rights.
He's appeared in and won more NCAA Tournament games than everyone else combined. He's the only one to reach the Sweet 16 — and he's heading back for the second straight year. He's the lone family member with a shiny conference championship ring from a power-five league, and he began this season as the only active college player in America with at least 1,000 career points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 3-pointers.
Ask anyone around West Lafayette and they'll explain this record-breaking season might not have been possible without him or his versatility.
And even his teammates know Vincent Edwards couldn't have made it with the support and the challenges he faced growing up in a basketball household.
"I know his family pretty well and they care for him and push him," point guard P.J. Thompson said. "They know his potential and how good he can be."
The pushing didn't just come from inside the Edwards household.
He also wanted to live up to the reputation of Middletown High School, which has produced former Hall of Fame basketball player Jerry Lucas, 1967 Masters champion Gay Brewer, NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter and Carter's older brother, Butch, who played and coached in the NBA after playing at Indiana and beating Purdue on a last-second shot in the 1979 NIT title game.
All the pressures — and the sibling rivalries — forced Edwards to view the game different from most.
"Knowing my dad and brother's, that's why I started on other things in my game, the little things," he said. "That's how my versatility came about."
Now even as his college career winds down and the possibility of a pro career beckons, Edwards is still focused on the tasks at hand.
After breaking the school's single-season record for wins last weekend, the second-seeded Boilermakers (30-6) can reach their first regional semifinal game since 2000 by beating third-seeded Texas Tech (26-9) in Boston. Two wins would send Purdue to its first Final Four since 1980, and three wins would allow Edwards' senior class to tie Purdue's record for most wins over a four-year period (107).
To accomplish any of it without 7-foot-2, 290-pound center Isaac Haas, who is likely to miss the rest of the season with a fractured right elbow, the Boilermakers may need Edwards to do even more than usual.
In Sunday's second-round 76-73 win over Butler, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Edwards scored a team high 20 points, grabbed four rebounds, had two assists, one block and went 6 of 8 from the field and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line despite picking up three fouls in the first half and playing 27 minutes.
"He can do everything," senior guard Dakota Mathias said. "When he had a smaller guy on him (Sunday), he posted up. Against a bigger guy, he spread them out. He just gives you so many options."
And Purdue has given him so many chances to demonstrate his sometimes overlooked value.
Yes, he's a product of a basketball family, an athletic school and has all the milestones a player could want. But when he returns home after this semester, Edwards will sit around the dinner table and talk about something he cherishes even more than basketball.
"Middletown is a place where not a lot of people make it," he said. "So to leave here with a college degree and four years of playing basketball is something a lot of people in town can't say and is something I'm really proud of."