Crean on Edwards: ‘He wants to be No. 1, and I want him to be No. 1’

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Crean on Edwards: ‘He wants to be No. 1, and I want him to be No. 1’

Anthony Edwards (5) - Georgia vs. Texas A&M - February 01, 2020 - Second Half
Anthony Edwards (5) – Georgia vs. Texas A&M – February 01, 2020 – Second Half

It’s almost time for former Georgia Bulldogs basketball player, Anthony Edwards, to find out where he will end up in the 2020 NBA Draft on Wednesday night, which kicks off at 8:30 p.m. EST.

The nineteen-year-old has been training since mid-March when Georgia’s 2019-20 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That night, Edwards only shot 2-of-13 for six points in Georgia’s 81-63 win over Ole Miss. He was hoping to bounce back against Florida in the next round of the conference tournament, although that was the night that the immediate lockdown canceled or postponed sports seasons all across the country.

That win over the Rebels notched Georgia’s overall record to 16-16. An NCAA tournament berth was a long shot, but the Bulldogs could have qualified for the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) with a few more wins in the conference tournament. Still, it probably wasn’t how Edwards wanted to end his short collegiate career as a Bulldog.

Edwards, who’s the projected No. 1 overall pick on many draft boards, has been training since that night his Georgia career has ended. He participated in his own televised pro day in Los Angeles in late October. Edwards has also been active on social media displaying his workouts via his Instagram account.

The Atlanta, Georgia native stayed in close contact with his former head coach, Tom Crean, as he prepared for his big moment on Wednesday night.

Crean met with reporters on Nov. 12 to discuss Georgia’s upcoming 2020-21 season, but a lot of the questions were directed at him about Edwards.

Georgia head coach Tom Crean and Anthony Edwards (5) - Georgia vs. Texas A&M - February 01, 2020 - Second Half
Georgia head coach Tom Crean and Anthony Edwards (5) – Georgia vs. Texas A&M – February 01, 2020 – Second Half

“As much as you miss him as a player, and obviously he’s a tremendous talent, I miss him as a person, I miss the personality, I miss his energy,” Crean said about his relationship with Edwards. “There’s an aura about him. I mean, he is a charismatic person and we saw it all at the age of 18.”

Edwards was seventeen years old when he arrived in Athens, which was approximately two months shy before he turned the legal age of eighteen. Last season, Crean referenced multiple times throughout the season that Edwards should have been a senior in high school while he was a freshman at Georgia. Regardless, Edwards played at a high level for an eighteen-year-old as he was the heart and soul of a young Bulldogs’ roster.

Last year, Edwards led the nation in scoring for freshmen averaging 19.1 points per game. He also managed to average 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 2.8 assists per game in 2019-20. Edwards had a team-high 37 points in Georgia’s loss to Michigan State at the Maui Invitational Tournament, which included 33 of them coming in the second half. In that game, he also shot 7-of-16 from beyond the arc, which was another team-high and personal best.

Despite those impressive performances, Edwards did have a few downsides.

He only shot 40.2 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from the three-point line last season. There were instances where his ball-handling looked sloppy as well as his defense, which was a major problem at times. Still, he was barely a legal adult and was competing in a Power Five conference against stout competition.

Crean said the best advice he could give Edwards is to not listen to any of the outside rumors and opinions that are swirling around in the media.

“He wants to be No. 1, and I want him to be No. 1,” Crean said. “But at the end of the day, the thing that keeps me awake at night when it comes to Anthony Edwards is being in the right environment where he’s going to have a head coach that’s going to invest in him in a big way and take that responsibility.”

The Minnesota Timberwolves have the top pick in this year’s draft. If they decide to take a chance on the 6-foot-5, 225-pound youngster, he could be playing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Deangelo Russell. Minnesota head coach Ryan Saunders could help Edwards improve on areas of his game where he could get better.

Crean said Edwards is a hard opportunity to pass up for any NBA team.

“I wouldn’t want to be the leadership group that didn’t pick him and answer to my fan base in two years,” Crean said. “I just wouldn’t want to be that group…I think that if he gets in the right environment, he is just going to flourish.” 

Edwards said recently,”I think I’m the best player in the draft.”

He’s been patiently waiting since walking off the court in Nashville, Tennessee in March to see where he will end up.

“If this process has taught me anything, it’s taught me to be patient,” Edwards said. “The draft was supposed to have been held in June, then July; I should have already played my first game. So, I’ve definitely learned to be patient overall.”

As the most coveted recruit to ever commit to Georgia, the world will soon find out.

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.