Edwards and his South Plains College teammates were preparing for the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament. But before Edwards left Levelland, Texas for Hutchinson, Kan., the former Dunbar star had what proved to be the first of many chats with Cherry.
“The first thing he said was, ‘Derrell Edwards, please tell me you’re not signed with [anybody].’’”
Edwards was able to provide Cherry with the answer he was looking for. The sophomore combo guard was still on the market, but he was focused – at that point in time – on bringing a national championship back to South Plains. After the Texans finished their 36-0 season by winning the NJCAA title, Edwards allowed himself to concentrate on recruiting.
On Monday, Edwards told Cherry something else that the Panthers coach wanted to hear: the 6-foot-2, 195-pound prospect was committing to High Point.
“It feels good, man,” Edwards said. “It’s a stress reliever, I know that. Coming into a JUCO situation, the first thing you dream about is finding a home after that.”
Edwards was a prolific scorer coming out of Dunbar two years ago. A Baltimore Sun second-team All-Metro selection in 2010, Edwards originally signed with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but ended up at South Plains to improve his academics.
Edwards joined former Edmondson star Stanton Kidd (North Carolina Central) at South Plains and averaged more than 12 points in his freshman season. As a sophomore, the Texans added former Utah guard Marshall Henderson (an Ole Miss signee) to their roster, and Edwards suddenly went from one of the team’s top scorers to a supporting player.
“Coach Cherry said, ‘Derrell Edwards, how do you feel about going from [an] All-Conference [player] to having to [be] a role [player]?’ I told him I’m a winner [and] I’m going to do what it takes to win. At the end of the day … South Plains won a national championship. I’m a part of it. Coach Cherry was like, ‘That was the most mature answer I’ve ever heard.’ He didn’t expect that.”
Edwards said he was immediately impressed with Cherry, who played on North Carolina’s 1992-93 national championship team. For a little more inside info on the Panthers’ program, Edwards turned to a familiar face in Devante Wallace – a member of the Poets’ 2010 Class A state championship team and a freshman on High Point’s roster.
“That’s like my little brother,” Edwards said of his former and future teammate. “I know his work ethic and he knows mine. We’re just going to feed off each other through the year and work hard, lift weights, run and do whatever we’ve got to do.”
Edwards, who picked the Panthers over Bethune-Cookman, said he was blown away by High Point’s campus. The Big South school, located about 25 minutes southwest of Greensboro, N.C., has a picturesque campus that Edwards said he fell in love with right away.
“It’s a wonderful, beautiful place,” he said. “It’s like a dream. It looks like how you pictured college when you’re small. That’s the thing I got from it. And just the people, they showed me love. The team showed me love, they respected my game. It was like a family environment. You know me coming from Dunbar, that’s what I’m all about – family-oriented programs and getting it done and winning.”
Edwards said he expects to fill a role vacated by senior guards Shay Shine and Nick Barbour, who combined for 35 points per game during the 2011-12 season. Edwards said he’s looking forward to getting back to being a go-to scorer. And most importantly, the former Poets star is excited about being a leader and showing another program how to win.
“Man, I’m really excited,” he said. “I’m going to make sure that the team is important. We’ve got to get ready for the NCAA tournament. That’s the main goal for me. We gave South Plains a name this year, and I want to do the same thing for High Point. It’s happened at each level I played at. In high school, we won a state championship. Then we were junior college champions. Now it’s [all about] doing the same at High Point.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun