By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Antonio Blakeney’s decision to enter the NBA Draft leaves Will Wade in need of an SEC-ready shooter.
This weekend, he’ll host a player who fits that very mold.
Northwest Florida State College guard Daryl Edwards will be in Baton Rouge this weekend, taking in the sights of the campus and hearing Wade’s vision for the future of the program. Edwards was originally set to visit UNLV this weekend, but moved it back and instead will make the short drive from Niceville, Fla. to the Red Stick.
A 6-foot-4 combo guard with a sweet stroke, Edwards averaged 13.6 points per game for Steve DeMeo’s Raiders last year while knocking down 46.6 percent of his 3-point attempts in NWFSC’s 29-5 season, including a perfect 12-0 record in the Panhandle Conference, that finished with a Final Four appearance.
Edwards, DeMeo says, was key to everything the Raiders did. He posted a triple-double as a freshman in the conference title-clinching game and made a number of big buckets in his sophomore season.
“He’s good with the ball in the hands, creating for others and creating for himself,” DeMeo told Tiger Rag. “He’s a dynamic, clutch player. He makes a lot of shots, and he makes a lot of game winners.
“Anytime we had a crunch time play, we put the ball in his hands.”
He’s more than a shooter, DeMeo says, capable of playmaking at the one or getting his own shot off the ball. Edwards describes his game as “being able to provide whatever we need at the time.”
“If we need rebounds, I try to rebound,” Edwards told Tiger Rag. “If we need playmaking, I try to play-make. Outside shooting or get to the rim – whatever we need, that’s what I’ll do.”
Edwards, ranked the No. 23 JUCO player in the country, played his high school ball in Fresno but grew up in Houston, so he’s familiar with the school and the state he’ll see this weekend. A former quarterback on the football field, he played on the gridiron and the hardwood with guys who’d go on to attend LSU, like former Tiger fullback Tony Upchurch.
“I know a lot about LSU because I played football,” Edwards said. “I played quarterback and had some teammates that went to LSU. Then when Ben Simmons went there, I got a feel for the whole basketball thing because everyone in the world was paying attention to LSU.”
The more pertinent connection, now, is Wade, who offered Edwards before he left VCU for LSU and has been recruiting him since he was head coach at Chattanooga.
“He’s a real thorough guy,” Edwards said of Wade. “Playing for someone I can respect and trust, from our relationship over the years, it’s important. I feel like he’s someone I can build with.”
“Will Wade is a guy he knows well and respects,” added DeMeo. “LSU is a program anyone would be honored to visit and get offered a scholarship to.”
Another bonus in Edwards’ recruitment is the recent addition of Greg Heiar to LSU’s staff. Heiar coached for six seasons – five as head coach – at nearby Chipola College, also of the Panhandle Conference, amassing a 164-15 record there, and knows the area and its programs as well as anyone in college basketball.
“Greg Heiar is one of the best junior college recruiters-slash-recruiters in the country,” DeMeo said. “He’s tied into people at every level. He’s done a great job of recruiting Northwest Florida programs. (He) is one of the best developer of guards in the country. Daryl’s game is going grow and blossom if he gets to work with Greg.”
Edwards said he has no order to his finalists: Utah, Iowa State, LSU and UNLV. He’s already visited Iowa State, and he’ll visit LSU this weekend, Utah next week, and UNLV the following weekend. Only after he finishes all his visits will he decide on a school, he said.
“I’m just looking for the best fit for myself and the school,” he said, “how we can both present ourselves in a way we can be helpful each other.”