IU target Edwards scores 33 and Indiana Elite claims 16U title

INDIANAPOLIS — Hyron Edwards took a knee to the right thigh in a game Saturday night that gave him a bruise so deep that he needed two teammates to lift him up and carry him from the training room to the Indiana Elite bench in the North Central High School auxiliary gym.

The East Chicago High School point guard took an ice bath after Indiana Elite’s quarterfinal game in the Adidas Invitational and still woke up Sunday morning in considerable pain and his semifinal game was less than spectacular.

But then Edwards got a text message from his father, who was still home in East Chicago.

“He said, ‘Play hard through your pains,’” said Edwards, who has had offers from Indiana and Purdue for more than a year. “Through your knee pains, your leg pains, don’t worry about it.”

He played through the pain and reminded everyone why he was considered one of the top point guards in the 2015 class as of last spring. Edwards scored 33 points, leading Indiana Elite to a 97-76 win over the Ohio Basketball Club in the 16 and under championship game of the Adidas Invitational, giving that loaded squad a victory in one of the few in-state tournaments they failed to win as a 15 and under team a year ago.

Despite the leg pain, the 5-foot-10, 160-pounder was the fastest player on the court, and his Indiana Elite teammates caused enough turnovers to turn the game into the sort of track meet he wins every time. Even when there was a defender standing in between him and a breakaway layup, he managed to contort his slippery frame for acrobatic buckets and finish against contact.

“He was unbelievable,” Indiana Elite coach Mark Adams said. “This is the way he played all April and May last year when he was unbelievable. But he turned his ankle and June and really never came back in July like he played April and May. But this is the way he played all of April and May. He was more in command of the ball. He got to the rim, and then he still set everybody up too.”

He was actually even more than that because he also showed off a jumper that hasn’t been as much of a strength of his. He hit a number of pull-ups in transition and also banked in a 3-pointer from a nearly un-navigable angle in the deep left corner. When he hit that one, he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, having no other explanation than that it was his afternoon.

“I was just hitting shots,” Edwards said. “When that ball dropped I was like, ‘Oh my God, thank God I hit that.’”

Said Indiana Elite coach Bil Duany: “It means it’s one of those games where everything’s going in. He’s got it going right now. Confidence is rolling. He’s feeling so good that something happens for him like that.”

The performance should help to re-ignite some interest in Edwards that was starting to fade. After that dominant spring that Adams referenced, Edwards hasn’t played quite at that level since and concerns about his slight build gave major powers reason to back off. He’s still rated the No. 91 player in the Class of 2015, but that makes him the second-highest rated point guard Indiana Elite behind No. 30 Jalen Coleman.

“At times when a guy has that kind of success so early in the 15s in the spring, you kind of fall asleep (on a guy) and get used to it and then move on to the next flavor of the month,” said Bil Duany, also an Indiana Elite coach. “Everyone kind of forgot and really got a glimpse of ,’Hey, we forgot how good he was.’”

The win is also a reminder of how good this Indiana Elite squad is. As 15-year-olds last year, they won every tournament they played in the spring period, and were ranked as the top 15U summer travel team in the country by the Five-Star Power Rankings. They went 1-2 in pool play in this tournament, but dominated bracket play and got contributions throughout the roster the rest of the week.

Coleman scored 21 points to lead Elite to a win in Sunday’s semifinal and also hit a buzzer-beating floater for a 52-50 win over the Eric Gordon All-Stars in a quarterfinal game on Saturday night. In Sunday’s final, Columbus North big man Josh Spiedel had 18 points and Fort Wayne Carroll guard Chandler White had 14. Evansville Harrison sharpshooter Everett Duncan had 14 points, including three 3-pointers.

“In pool play, we just weren’t really locked in,” White said. “We just thought we could go out there and beat everybody because we’ve already done it. But they had a target on us and we didn’t have a target on anybody. … We finally noticed that we can’t do that. We got mad. Came in third or fourth in our pool, and we hadn’t done that in how long. We just realized, let’s turn it up.”