Edwards looks to make a big impact after year off the court

Junior guard Justin Edwards makes a dunk on Nov. 14, 2014 at Bramlage Coliseum. Edwards made a total of 11 points during the game against S. Utah. (Rodney Dimick | The Collegian)

K-State fans were first introduced to Justin Edwards at Madness in Manhattan before the 2013-14 season on Oct. 25.

There was buzz amongst followers of the program but little was known about the 6-foot-4-inch guard from Whitby, Ontario, Canada.

Needless to say, it didn’t take long for Edwards to capture the imagination of K-State fans. During the dunk contest, fans were mesmerized by the high-flying guard. He ended up losing, but won the heart of every Wildcat fan in Bramlage Coliseum that night.

He sat out for a year due to NCAA transfer rules and watched as freshman Marcus Foster stole headlines and helped K-State reach its sixth NCAA tournament appearance in the last seven years.

“I’m extremely anxious,” Edwards said before the season started. “Having to wait a whole year, it sucks to sit out and just having to practice and not play. So this year I’m extremely anxious to get out and play in front of everybody and have fun with my teammates.”

Edwards came to Manhattan by way of Orono, Maine where he averaged 15.3 points playing for the University of Maine.

After two years with the Black Bears, Edwards came to the realization that his talent could be better served at a bigger university.

“There’s not remorse,” Edwards said. “I do feel kind of bad leaving, but still I gave them two years of my time and at the end of the day you’re supposed to do what’s best for you.”

After that, the hunt was on for Edwards to find a school that would elevate him to the next level.

“I was just looking for another school that had bigger exposure, good competition and a good coach,” Edwards said. “Once I put in my release to leave Maine, that’s when K-State started recruiting me. They were the first school so they showed a lot of interest in me. So knowing Coach (Bruce) Weber’s resume and knowing he’s a great coach, I just wanted to play for a great coach.”

So Edwards came to Manhattan and started to make impressions on his teammates and his coaches.

“He’s the most athletic player I’ve ever played with besides Wally (Judge),” senior forwards Nino Williams said. “It’s different because he’s a guard so he’s probably the most athletic guard I’ve played with.”

When Williams looks around the Big 12 in the past and present, there is another face that came to mind when he thinks of who Edwards plays like.

“He reminds me a little bit of Markel,” Williams said. “Markel Brown from Oklahoma State. (Edwards) can get to the rim a lot more and (Edwards) can pass better. I would say athletically and just shooting it’s a good comparison. “

The athletic play is what Edwards lives for. He strives to make that jaw-dropping play that makes the inhabitants of the Octagon of Doom lose their mind.

“You’ll see lots of dunks, lots of exciting plays, blocks, 3-pointers – stuff like that,” Edwards said of what he plans to bring to the Wildcats. “I just think I’m going to be a very exciting player for us and bring a lot of energy to Bramlage.”

While sitting out a year, Edwards realized the teams in the Big 12 were a much different animal than the teams he was used to from the America East.

“I learned the level of competition is just way higher than where I’m coming from,” Edwards said. “You always have to be aware on defense because if you’re not, you’ll be exposed a lot. Basically just always competing, you can’t take plays off you always have to compete. Everyone is good.”

Once the 2013-14 campaign was over, the buzz was on for what the Canadian guard could bring to this K-State team.

That buzz was fueled in part to comments Foster had about his transfer teammate about how he thought Edwards would lead the team in scoring in the 2014 season.

“I love the high expectations,” Edwards said. “It just pushes me and motivates me to work harder. Hopefully I prove them all right and prove the haters wrong.”

Senior forward Thomas Gipson said he has also observed how Edwards has progressed.

“He’s gotten stronger, he’s more athletic and overall he knows what to do on defense and on offense,” said Gipson. “He’s bought into the system and he’s becoming a good player, he’s going to become a star player.”

A star player on a team that already has it’s resident superstar in Foster? Sophomore point guard Jevon Thomas said that the competition between the two is great for the team.

“ We have a competitive team … it’s just that competitive nature,” Thomas said. “They’re pushing each other. Justin can score the ball. They’re just helping each other. Them playing together is real scary, you know. Either wing, either way you want. They’re both athletic, they both can pass. Pushing each other is really going to help.”

After only two games in the season, Edwards has already had some eye-popping plays inside Bramlage. However, just as Madness in Manhattan was sort of a appetizer, K-State fans are only being treated to course one of Edwards electrifying play in the Little Apple.

“I’m super excited, I can’t wait,” Edwards said of what’s to come for him and his team. “I’ve been waiting for a year and more now and words can’t describe how excited I am to get out there and play.”

Tim Everson was born in Wichita, KS in 1994. Before fifth grade he moved up to Manhattan for one year before settling in Riley, KS where he graduated from Riley County High School in 2012. Tim has worked for the Collegian since spring of 2014 and took over as Sports Editor during the summer of 2015. Tim loves sports, music, movies and good food when he can get it.