Middletown family proud to watch Vince Edwards play in NCAA Tournament

Vince Edwards, a former Middletown High School standout, is a junior at Purdue and one reason the Boilermakers have advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Edwards is the second leading scorer in Middie history. FILE PHOTO

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Vince Edwards, a former Middletown High School standout, is a junior at Purdue and one reason the Boilermakers have advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Edwards is the second leading scorer in Middie history. FILE PHOTO

Bill Edwards Sr. is a father first, a basketball fan second.

So there is nothing he enjoys more than watching his sons play basketball and right now, his youngest son, Vince Edwards, is playing the best basketball of his life.

Edwards, a 6-foot-8 junior forward from Middletown, is a major reason the Purdue Boilermakers have advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time since 2010.

The fourth-seeded Boilermakers face No. 1 seeded Kansas tonight in the regional semifinal.

Explore RELATED: 5 things to know about Vincent Edwards

The Edwards family is synonymous with Middletown, and after playing basketball professionally overseas, Bill Edwards Sr. moved his family back home. He wanted his boys to be Middies.

“You may have to be a Middletonian to know what that means,” Edwards Sr. said. “It makes me proud to be from Middletown, just like the other people from Middletown.”

He loves hearing the announcer say: "Now starting for the Boilermakers, Vince Edwards from Middletown, Ohio."

“That would make any dad proud,” he said.

Explore MORE: Edwards follows successful path from Middletown to Purdue

Vince Edwards has accomplished something not even his father, arguably the greatest player in Wright State University history, or his older brother, Bill Edwards Jr., a standout at Penn State and Miami University, ever achieved. Purdue advanced out of the first round of the tournament, albeit after two first-round losses his freshman and sophomore seasons to Cincinnati and Arkansas-Little Rock, respectively.

Bill Sr., a Wright State Hall of Famer, made one trip to the NCAA tournament as a No. 16 seed and lost 97-54 to No. 1 Indiana in 1993. Bill Jr.’s teams at Penn State and Miami never qualified for the tournament.

“I’m happy for my younger brother,” said Bill Jr., 25. “He has worked hard. He’s a very humble kid.”

His father added: “He has stepped it up in the tournament. There is something about March that he likes.”

In Purdue’s two wins against Vermont and Iowa State, Edwards led the team with 21 points both games, marking the first time in 102 games he has scored at least 20 in back-to-back contests.

After coming off the bench earlier in the season, Edwards now is being talked about again as an NBA prospect. He attended a NBA Draft Combine after his sophomore season, but never hired an agent, maintaining his eligibility in intercollegiate athletics. He then decided to return to Purdue for at least one more season.

Edwards Sr., 46, said his son experienced some “adversity” earlier in the season when he came off the bench, and the family will sit down when the season ends and decide whether Vince goes pro or returns for his senior season.

“I want my son to be happy,” his father said. “College is supposed to be the best time. It’s a chance to mature, but you have to be happy. I want what’s best for Vince.”

Among the family members who will be in Kansas City tonight are his father, mother Glennetta Patton and Bill Jr.

Around Middletown, there is a certain buzz surrounding Boilermaker basketball. Having a Middie on the team gives basketball fans that hometown connection.

Woody Withrow, who has watched Middie basketball his entire life, certainly isn’t surprised by Edwards’ success. He always saw his potential because of his size and athleticism.

“He’s good, real good,” Withrow said. “He has the length and he can jump.”

Gary Lebo, former MHS athletic director, called Edwards the best high school rebounder he ever saw. He’s impressed by Edwards’ athletic ability and the way he can play a number of positions.

It’s “kind of special,” Lebo said, when he hears that another Middie is playing major college basketball.

Lebo, a Purdue fan, wonders if Edwards can have the same impact for the Boilermakers that another Middie, Kyle Schwarber, had in bringing a World Series to the Chicago Cubs.

“Now that would be neat,” he said.

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