UTEP Grad Transfer Daryl Edwards Has Eyes Set on Final Games as a Miner
As UTEP graduate transfer Daryl Edwards fixates on his final games wearing a UTEP uniform, he feels a sense of urgency to try and help the team salvage what has been a roller coaster of a season. It's how he was brought up in the sport.
Edwards received the Conference USA Player of the Week honor following his career-best 34 point performance, where his eight 3-pointers finished tied for third on UTEP's all-time list (Randy Culpepper had nine 3-pointers on Jan. 1, 2010). He's scored over double-figures in five straight games. His 64 3-pointers this year are tied for 10th most in a single season through program history. And, he helped UTEP get out of a five-game losing rut with a bounce-back win against Rice (68-62) in the first C-USA Bonus Play matchup.
Still, if the Miners (14-14, 5-10 C-USA) manage to play themselves in the league tournament after missing it last year, how significant would that be for a team that started 8-1 and was supposed to compete for the conference title?
This was a team that came out with firey potential and underperformed. Edwards is determined to help restore what's left of the season.
"It's heartbreaking but it's not over," said the Fresno, Calif. native. "We just need to win a few more games and we get to the conference tournament. Nobody really wants to play us. We just got to get there first. I feel like the spark isn't there as it once was. Slowly but surely it's coming back but I feel having a young group of guys and understanding that it's a long season. The first 10 games is nothing."
"We're starting to understand it more as a group now. But it's one thing to understand and another to do it. We've had great practices, but now we just have to do it. So it's just a matter of doing it this point." - Daryl Edwards
If this team needed a basketball savant, they need to look no further than the 6-foot-3 guard from LSU. Edwards' basketball roots run deep, but before he fell in love with the sport, football was his first passion.
"I didn't want to play basketball actually. I was a football player for most of my life," Edwards explained. "My seventh-grade football coach promised the basketball coach all the best athletes on the team. My football coach told me if I don't play basketball, I can't play football. I fell in love with the game there. I didn't have a helmet on so everyone knew who I was. You feel the game—you feel the crowd and the energy."
It was at the high school level where Edwards started to raise eyebrows of scouts and coaches across the country. He put up insane stats—29 points, 13 boards and 11 assists—at Fresno High where, according to him, he "could've [averaged] more."
At Fresno High, Edwards had heated basketball battled with the west coast's finest teams. He even squared off against Bryson Williams' Roosevelt squad, to which Edwards' team won the Valley Championships in 2014 by a point.
"[Williams] always tells me that if his guy didn't miss a layup, they would've won," Edwards chuckled.
He immediately sat out a season out of high school and then enrolled at North West Florida State Junior College for two seasons. His team reached the quarterfinals in back-to-back seasons while Edwards shot an exceptional 47 percent clip from 3-point range.
Teams all across the country wanted him.
LSU became the next home for Edwards and through his first year, he showed a ton of potential. Edwards averaged 6.8 points while starting 16 of his 32 games played in 2017-18.
"I figured out the way to get on the court, which was defense," he said. "We had some NBA talents on the floor so I knew I wasn't just going to hunt down shots, so I became a floor spacer. I decided to guard the best player on the other team so my team respected me for it. It got to be where they couldn't take me off the floor."
What was his best offseason yet turned into an injury-riddled senior year for Edwards in 2018-19. He appeared in just nine games, averaging only 4.4 points, and after the season, he applied for a medical hardship. Next, Edwards needed to find a home for his graduate season.
Nevada was his first decision, which he committed to and signed. Head coach Eric Mussleman took the Arkansas job and subsequently, there wasn't room for Edwards on the Wolfpack's roster. And when things didn't work out at Fresno State, Edwards landed with Rodney Terry and UTEP over the summer.
"It was rough," he said. "The schools, going between and missing rehab—that was the biggest part, missing rehab deciding where I was gonna go. After each school, I'm having to process because they're calling and I'm deciding. I learned a lot about myself this summer, about myself, about coaching staffs and the sport. It was one of the most important things that I've been through in my lifetime. I think it molded me more as a man. I wouldn't take it back if I could."
Fans saw the emergence of Edwards against Texas Tech, pouring 24 points against the Red Raiders and showcasing his abilities to hit the 3-pointer.
"Basketball is basketball," he explained. "I knew we had a good team, a great team. I've been with a lot of good teams. It might not be as flashy as some of my other teams but when it comes to execution and the will to win, I knew we had a special group."
Aside from being a knock-down 3-point shooter and a high-level defender, Edwards is known for being a leader on and off the court. The secret, he believes, for this team getting back to form is having the passion on the court like they once had.
"The biggest thing is the love," Edwards said. "One of our goals is to come and be super excited and have the swag we had. Figure out how to win, learn how to win, learn how to do the small things."
As for the future, he believes that Terry will instill his system with the players he believes best fit his mold in order to find success at UTEP.
"Coach Terry wants a group of hard-playing guys that do what he asks right on the spot, that buys into everything he's coaching," Edwards said. "I feel like that's the bottom line. He's going to find out a way to fix who he thinks fits in that role and to bring more people he feels fit in that role."
Edwards, 23 about to turn 24, is undergoing the leadership studies through his graduate program and eventually wants to get into non-profit work when his basketball career is over. He has pro-ball aspirations upon the conclusion of the season too.
For now, all he's focused on is getting his team back on track.
"I think it's understanding that we have something special here. We're talented to beat any team in our conference. The only thing we need is one click and we can get going."
Edwards will be honored with the senior class this Sunday when the Miners face Southern Miss at 2 p.m.