Redshirt sophomore Lorenzo Edwards has been around basketball his whole life. It makes sense, considering his father, Kevin Edwards, spent 11 seasons in the NBA.
The younger Edwards, a 6-foot-7 forward from Lake Forest, Illinois, first fell in love with baseball. Kevin always wanted his son to play basketball, though Lorenzo never felt forced into the sport. As he got older, Lorenzo’s interest in baseball dwindled, and he turned his attention to basketball.
Of course, the elder Edwards played a huge role in his son’s development as a player, training Lorenzo early in the mornings and after school. Coaches slotted Lorenzo in forward positions from an early age, but Kevin, a former shooting guard, helped his son develop guard skills, too.
“[My dad] was always like, ‘You never know how tall you’ll be. You could stop growing right now. You need to have guard skills as well,’” the younger Edwards said. “He really helped me out with that, too. I feel like I dedicate my whole shooting form and everything like that to him… He knows what’s a good shot, the best ways to get your shot off and things like that, so he really sculpted my shot to where it is now, because it wasn’t like that before.”
Training wasn’t finished after Lorenzo committed to Saint Joseph’s. The father and son continued to work on Lorenzo’s development while he was home during breaks. This summer, something clicked like it hadn’t before.
Lorenzo credits the time he and his father spent in numerous gyms in Chicago. The younger Edwards had opportunities to guard smaller, faster guys, players he wouldn’t typically guard in college games.
Head coach Phil Martelli attributes Edwards’ improvement to something else.
“I think it sounds crazy, but it’s fact: he fell in love with basketball,” Martelli said. “I think for most of his life, he was comfortable, and it was, ‘Eh, I kind of like it. I’m good at it.’ Something happened when he went home this summer where he fell in love with the game.”
When Martelli was recruiting Edwards, he saw an untapped potential. Martelli thinks that while Edwards’ family saw his potential, Edwards didn’t recognize it until this summer.
Edwards’ first year on Hawk Hill wasn’t easy. He had dealt with some instability in his left shoulder in high school, but nothing too troublesome. The transition to college basketball exacerbated the problem, and Edwards played in just one game before having surgery and redshirting the season.
“I think that year hardened him a little bit. Not enough for him to play a lot sophomore year. It certainly hardened him that this game can go away like that,” Martelli said, snapping his fingers.
The recovery took about six to seven months, longer than Edwards expected, but he didn’t want to rush the process, especially since the surgery was on his dominant arm. Edwards was mainly focused on losing weight and improving his conditioning and stamina after being cleared to play, though the mental aspect of coming back after injury was also challenging.
Redshirting the season meant Edwards wasn’t traveling with the team, so he was often on his own, whether that be in rehab or working with Brian Bingaman, director of strength and conditioning.
“I just believe everything happens for a reason, and I took all the positive things I could out of it and tried to make myself a better person on and off the court,” Edwards said. “It definitely was a roadblock, but it for sure helped me.”
In his first game back from injury, Edwards played 11 minutes at Illinois-Chicago, hitting a three-pointer on his first collegiate shot. His family, friends, and high school coach were in the stands, so Edwards felt right at home.
Although he didn’t see much playing time throughout the season, Edwards tried to maximize his time on the court however he could.
“My dad always tells me, ‘If you do a few things great, they might have no choice but to keep you on the floor,’” Edwards said. “Whether that was rebounding, bringing energy, guarding a bigger player, guarding a guard, just finding something that could keep me on the floor as long as I can be.”
Martelli didn’t have a specific role in mind for Edwards last season. Instead, he was looking for improvement, growth, better conditioning, and an ability to play multiple positions. Martelli saw some of that last season, though the pieces weren’t quite fitting together.
Edwards focused on those aspects this summer, particularly playing multiple positions.
“Now, I feel like I can play the ‘3’ as well as the ‘4’ in the forward position, so it’s just like being more comfortable playing and getting the experience down,” Edwards said. “I just feel like being more versatile will definitely help my minutes and help me as a player.”
While Edwards’ physical improvements are noticeable on the court, a new mentality has improved his game, too. Spending the summer working out and refining his skills boosted his confidence.
Martelli sees the mental improvements, too. He’s noticed Edwards become more visible in practices, taking on challenges he would have previously shied away from.
“He has a fire in his belly that would go on and off, and now I’ve seen it since the summer where it’s been on,” Martelli said. “I think that he carries himself like a basketball player now and not just like a guy on the team… I think that he’s embraced the idea that here, skills are rewarded, and he worked on his skills. It’s clear he worked on it.”
Although he played limited minutes last season, Edwards finished with 10 blocks, the fourth-most on the team. Combine that with an improved shot, the ability to play multiple positions, and more confidence, and Edwards is ready to have a great season.
“I wasn’t as comfortable [last year] out on the floor as I am now,” Edwards said. “Now, I feel more comfortable and confident in myself and my abilities, and that can help me on offense and defense… Everyone just stay tuned.”