Pepperdine junior Kessler Edwards is enrolled in the 2021 NBA draft, but will retain his college eligibility and have the option to return to school, he told ESPN on Friday.
It’s every basketball player’s dream to play in the NBA, and it’s right in front of me, so I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. I’m feeling my way right now and I’m not hiring a cop, he said. Edwards, ranked 48th in the ESPN 100 NBA Draft, was selected to the All-WCC first team after a strong season in which he averaged 17.2 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 38% from 3-point range. In late March, Pepperdine defeated Coastal Carolina to win the College Basketball Invitational and Kessler was named MVP of the tournament.
It’s mainly a matter of trust. The skills and talent were there. I’ve been working on my posture lately. By the end of the season, I was feeling better. He says he believes in himself and his abilities.
Edwards, 20, intrigues NBA teams with his combination of size, defensive versatility and outside shot. He has converted 40% of his 3-point shots in his college career and is one of the best free throw shooters (88%) this season. He has excellent defensive skills and covers a lot of territory on the perimeter, with 1.7 blocks and 1.2 steals in 40 minutes of play at Pepperdine.
Edwards won’t turn 21 until August, making him younger than many of the current expected designers. Because of his youth, shooting percentage and blocking and closing numbers, he is valued by some NBA analysis models. He has improved year after year and seems to have reversed his form as a versatile wing attacker who can take up space on the floor and protect multiple positions.
Although Edwards remains eligible to attend college, it seems unlikely that he will return to Pepperdine.
I don’t think there’s a specific number I need to stay in the draft, he said. I hope many teams are interested in me and that I get a good contract and don’t become a free agent that nobody wants. I intend to become a professional in this field. I feel like most of those teams haven’t seen me in person and haven’t seen how much work I put into preparing for my body, my size and how I play on the field.
Edwards first appeared on the NBA’s radar after being invited to the 2019 U19 training camp following Pepperdine’s rookie season. He was one of many players who were selected or expected to play in the FIBA U19 World Cup, but didn’t make it. They are Oneka Okongwu, Zeke Nnaji, Jay Scrubb, Sharife Cooper, Jared Butler and Josh Christopher. Edwards says his week in Colorado Springs was an eye-opener and played an important role in his development.
It was my first real experience playing with the best players in the country, he said. Being from the Inland Empire and playing for Prodigy Elite, I did not play in AAU sneakers, which was an important lesson for me. Understanding what I need to do and having the confidence to follow everyone in the country. It was a fun experience. I’ve never had to deal with so many talented players.
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