NBA draft: No. 1 pick Edwards’ motto in life is to keep smiling
On Wednesday, Edwards, who turned 19 in August, came close to achieving his objective as he was selected by Minnesota Timberwolves as the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft 2020, chosen ahead of James Wiseman of Memphis and LaMelo Ball, the pre-draft No. 1.Updated: Nov 20, 2020, 15:58 IST
When Anthony Edwards was in eighth grade in 2015, he lost his mother and grandmother to cancer in a span of eight months. Raised by his sister and brother, Edwards always wears the No. 5 jersey in the memory of his mother and grandmother, who died on the fifth day of the month.
Coming through a difficult childhood, Edwards, however, remained focused on his goal of becoming a top basketball player, working as an instructor at a number of youth camps in Atlanta and gaining vital insight into the sport.
On Wednesday, Edwards, who turned 19 in August, came close to achieving his objective as he was selected by Minnesota Timberwolves as the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft 2020, chosen ahead of James Wiseman of Memphis and LaMelo Ball, the pre-draft No. 1.
In their 30-plus years of existence in NBA, the Timberwolves have had the right to make the first pick in the annual draft only twice. In 2015, they picked Karl-Anthony Towns (KAT) and on Wednesday, they chose Edwards, a standout shooting guard from University of Georgia, steering the Atlanta-born youngster into NBA limelight.
Since being given the honour in 2015, Karl-Anthony Towns has established himself as a top player at the Wolves, featuring in the All Star lineup twice and helping them make it to the playoffs in 2017-18 season, ending a 13-season streak without a playoff appearance --- the longest in their history.
The Timberwolves hope Edwards will develop into a similar player, helping them qualify for the post-season consistently.
Before the draft, Gersson Rosas, president, basketball operations, Timberwolves had said they were looking for talented players who will complement the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, whom they acquired from the Golden State Warriors in February this year.
Edwards said he was ready for the challenge. “I’m feeling very excited just because of the fact I had my mother and my grandmother next to me. I feel like I’m going to fit perfect with those guys because Russell likes to play off the ball sometimes, and I can play on the ball. When he wants to play on the rock, I can play off the ball. And KAT is the best three-point shooting big man in the league. So, I feel we can’t go wrong with that,” Edwards said during a virtual press meet from Bristol, Connecticut.
The Timberwolves were looking for a steady, hardworking offensive player who is mentally strong and works as an understudy to two big stars, but still hold his own place on the court.
The biggest star to come out of Georgia in the last few years, Edwards at 6’ 5” is a powerful guard with elite length and explosiveness. He is tough to contain, especially in transition, thanks to a strong first step. He is a three-level scorer who can function on or off the ball. A capable shooter with his feet set, he also made 42 pull-up jumpers in 32 games, regularly elevating over the top of defenders with ease. Edwards can splash a pull-up 3 if the defense goes under, rise up in midrange spots or use his strength and explosiveness to get all the way to the rim in a straight line. He has shown the potential as a facilitator, particularly in open court.
For all his success in basketball, American football was his first choice.
Nicknamed ‘Ant Man’ by his father when he was three, young Edwards was quite good in running back, quarterback and cornerback positions. When he was 10, Edwards was selected as the best running back in his age group in the country. However, later he fell in love with basketball because he “thought it looked more fun”.
While he has picked his fighting spirit from basketball, Edwards says he got his “motto in life to keep smiling” from his grandmother, who “was a pillar of the family in tough times”. “The biggest life lesson I’ve ever learned (from her) was just smile no matter what. Never get too high, never get too low. Stay here, stay the course, and just smile no matter what’s going on.”
As a young player in the mid-level team, Edwards will have to bank on his mental strength in order to cement his place in a team with two established guards. Edwards says he is up to the challenge. “It doesn’t really matter to me because a lot of people don’t know, I’m 6’5”. I’m 230lb. So, I feel like I can guard one through three. It doesn’t really matter. I’m strong enough to not be pushed around. So, I feel like I’m okay.”
Many No. 1 picks in NBA drafts, such as Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Yao Ming and Dwight Howard, among others, have had made it big in NBA. It’s Edwards’ turn.