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Purdue Basketball: Guiding Light

Dakota Mathias and Carsen Edward’s games don’t have a lot in common, but they share a doctor.

Jimmy Lafakis

When Dakota shows up to the gym, Joey doesn’t even have time to say hello before the will-be senior is hoisting up shots.

When Carsen is there, every instruction is answered with, ‘Yes, sir.’

The silent star. The budding one.

One is the North, the other is the sun. One steady, one capable of burning the cosmos.

First thing he wanted me to know, he doesn’t get the credit. He only gets these players a fraction of time compared to the Purdue coaching staff and trainers. The kids put in the work. He’s only a small part of their success.

The man, Joey Burton, runs Champions Academy in Indianapolis. He talks like a story teller.

He hasn’t been in Indiana long, but has already built up something of a following. His nickname ‘Shot Doctor’ came after just one work out with former Indiana stand-out and now Dallas Maverick, Yogi Ferrell. He’s worked with multiple NBA talents: Rakeem Christmas, Georges Niang, and Glenn Robinson III. He’s worked with possible Olympian and one-year Boilermaker star, Jon Octeus, just last week.

He worked with Rapheal Davis. That’s where this story starts.

Rapheal heard of Joey through another former Boilermaker. Joey Burton is what you could call a skills coach. The Captain needed them. He started working with Burton going into his Junior year. To that point, Rapheal had mostly just been a slasher and had just 19 made three-pointers in his career. He would make 18 his junior year then another 33 his senior year while shooting a career-high 35% from deep.

Dakota Mathias and Carsen Edwards are both stars in college but they also want to be NBA guards. That’s where this story ends.

A jump like Rapheal’s doesn’t go unnoticed. Dakota wanted in. He started working with Joey last summer. Dakota’s goal was similar to Rapheal’s. He told Joey he wanted to take his game to the next level. That next level involved going from 19 minutes a game to 31, and making 45% of his 159 three-point attempts all while turning into the Big Ten’s best perimeter defender.

Carsen came to Joey for the first time just before he was to leave on his own for the U-19 USA team this summer. Joey told me about those workouts, “We worked on shooting, shooting, shooting.” Carsen’s shot was too flat. He shot it so fast that it was more of a fling than a push towards the rim. Joey was impressed with Carsen after the second workout, telling him, “What you and I worked on, you really worked on.” Carsen went on to Cairo and led team USA in minutes played and assists while shooting the ball extremely well. He was 12-29 from three.

You don’t just learn to shine in one workout, but what Joey is doing with these guys is special. Jimmy Lafakis, writer/photographer for the The Butler Collegian, has worked as Joey’s photographer/videographer for the last year. “Joey places trust in his clients and he earns it back. He incorporates film study during the workouts and shows how NBA players use the moves.”

For Dakota, the NBA comparison Joey used was J.J. Redick. A Duke guard who lacks great size or athleticism, but who excels by using screens, having great hands, and being smart. Oh, and also being able to make any shot from any distance. He is now making over 20 million dollars a year for the Philadelphia 76ers. That’s why Joey is working with Dakota to be more aggressive with the ball in his hands. They’ve worked on adding more moves to his game, taking advantage of his surprising quickness, and adding ‘more tools to his bag.’

For Carsen, Lafakis put it best after watching him all summer, “To say that Carsen is explosive is the understatement of the century. He has so many gears. It’s like he is driving the Batmobile. So many tools and weapons are in his arsenal. He has them all at his disposal. Joey is just helping him unlock them.” Joey watched the film of the NCAA tournament where Carsen was routinely ‘going so fast he missed opportunities.’ Joey wants Carsen to use pace to create openings for him and his teammates. In the tournament specifically, Carsen gave up the open floater to instead attack the occupied rim. For help in this, Joey had Carsen watch the Charlotte Hornet’s Kemba Walker. Particularly, he wanted the youngster to see how Kemba came off screens, and how he used change of pace to create that space necessary for a small guard to succeed.

There’s a dichotomy at play in Purdue’s backcourt. Dakota is the anti-highlight. There’s no Sportscenter glory in coming hard off a screen, shifting the defense, and making the quick pass to a 3 on 2 advantage. Even when you do it every time. His consistency might be his best quality, that and his picture-perfect release.

Carsen started making waves before the season ever started by dunking on 7’2” Isaac Haas in practice. He would blaze through minutes, scoring in bunches, shooting himself in and out of games. He was brilliant, at times, but inconsistent.

Two different stars, one horizon. The two will leave together to represent Purdue and the United States in the world game in just a few days. Beyond that, they will play together towards a second B10 championship, another NCAA tournament appearance, and down the road even further?

If you ask Joey, “They both could have really solid years.”

For Dakota, “He doesn’t have highlights, he’s just working in silence… those guys succeed.”

For Carsen, the highlights speak for themselves.

Two different stars, one horizon. They’ve already got one Big Ten championship in the trophy room, and a Sweet Sixteen appearance. This summer has been about what’s next.

World Championship? The Final Four? The NBA?

This season will be about shining brightest in March.