Freshman Bulldogs’ standout Anthony Edwards is projected to be a top pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and there’s a lot of pressure for him to perform, especially for a young man who turned 18 on August 5th, 2019.
Those expectations can be a lot to handle, but it seems like Edwards is handling it well.
Edwards enters Wednesday night’s game against Tennessee (10-5, 2-1 SEC) leading all Division I freshman in scoring averaging 18.7 points per game, but some of his past few games he has struggled when the team hasn’t been performing well.
In Saturday’s loss to No. 5 Auburn, Edwards started 1-for-7 from the field and had a bad showing from the free-throw line. The Tigers’ faithful let him have him as they shouted “overrated” time and time again whenever he stepped up to shoot free throws.
“That really didn’t bother me. I was just frustrated with myself,” said Edwards this past Saturday in the post-game interviews. “I just couldn’t make my free throws. But that other stuff, no, I don’t care or worry about that.”
Edwards shot 36 percent (4-of-11) from the line Saturday. Going into that game, he was normally a 70 percent free-throw shooter. Now, Edwards leads the team in free throws attempts and is currently shooting 69.2 percent (54-of-78).
Georgia head coach Tom Crean has been very complementary of Edwards this season but has not shied away from being critical saying that Edwards’ game could always use improvement. One of the things Crean said that Edwards can enhance is his ability to drive the ball to the basket inside the paint.
“He’s got to get better with that, but the problem and the big growth step for him right now is the predetermination and we just can’t have that,” Crean said Tuesday. “The tough news the other day is he didn’t make the free throws. The great news is he got 11 attempts. That’s when you look at the glass half full instead of half-empty, and we’ve got to continue to build on that.”
Crean also believes that Edwards can evolve his on the defensive end of the floor. Edwards is 6-foot-5 and can be a problem down low with the right adjustments.
“Not a lot of things affect him, so he’s got to make sure when we get down on that other end that his defense is high level,” Crean said. “He’s got a chance to be a tremendous defensive player so his defense has got to be at a high level. We need him because he’s capable with that body, his strength, and that length so those are the kind of things that are most important. It’s growing pains, on everybody, it really is. It just is, and that’s why we need these home crowds to be so great for us and why we need to learn and get better.”
Edwards is second on the team averaging 4.8 defensive rebounds per game, and 1.4 steals per game.
Crean said Tuesday that it’s not Edwards that has room for improvement, but the entire team. Especially the eight other freshmen need work in all aspects of the game.
“I’ve said this for the past year, this team has to be built on moving and cutting, him included,” Crean said. “There’s got to be that moving and cutting. We offensive rebound better when we do, the ball touches different hands, it gets reversed, our rate of scoring goes up; so, I think it’s that. But when you start to dribble the ball, teams settle in.“
“I tell these guys all time, every time you dribble the ball, you’re bringing the defense to you. Every time you drive the ball the defense reacts to you.”
Georgia faces Tennessee on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. EST on ESPNU.