ATLANTA — Family means everything to Anthony Edwards. To know his backstory is to understand that. And understanding his backstory helps make sense of Edwards’ method of revealing his choice of a college basketball program on Monday morning.
There was no “hat dance” as folks like to call the traditional choose-your-team-cap routine played out regularly in recruiting circles. No, Edwards’ prop of choice as he made his announcement at a commitment ceremony at Holy Spirit Prep was his little, bitty nephew, Jace, son of his sister Antoinette. When it came time for the big announcement, Edwards simply unzipped the 4-month-old’s tiny hoodie to reveal a Georgia Bulldogs’ T-shirt underneath.
And with that, something was done that has never been done before. The University of Georgia — not Kentucky or Kansas or Duke or North Carolina — received a commitment from the No. 1-ranked basketball prospect in the country.
Known in AAU basketball circuits as “Ant Man,” Edwards actually chose the Bulldogs over Kentucky and Florida State. Those were the other two finalists in a recruitment that literally could have landed the Ant Man anywhere in the country (including Duke, Kansas or North Carolina). But Edwards chose UGA, the state school just 65 miles up the road known better for what it does with an oblong ball than one that is orange and round.
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If he follows through as expected and signs with the Bulldogs during the spring period that begins on April 17, Edwards is believed to be the highest-ranked basketball prospect ever to sign with Georgia’s men’s basketball program — or at least in the modern era. Dominique Wilkins signed with the Bulldogs and coach Hugh Durham in 1979, but recruiting rankings were not as clear-cut or sophisticated as they are today.
As it is, Edwards, a 6-foot-5 combo guard, is a consensus 5-star prospect and a McDonald’s All-American. He is ranked the No. 1 overall player in America by 247Sports.com, but he is No. 2 prospect in 247Sports’ widely recognized composite ratings, which take into account all recognized player rankings. ESPN.com has Edwards ranked No. 5 while and Rivals.com has Edwards ranked No. 2.
Dan McDonald, a regional basketball analyst for that recruiting site, believes unequivocally that Edwards is the top prospect in the country in 2019.
“I’ve been saying that since last summer,” said McDonald, who attended Monday’s ceremony at Holy Spirit Prep in Buckhead. “He’s a great athlete, really strong and powerful, and he’s become very skilled. He has NBA level moves already with room still to grow. He’s very unselfish and a great a decision-maker for most part. Along with all that, he’s just a great kid that others gravitate to.”
There’s this, too: Edwards, who will still be 18 in June and therefore ineligible for the NBA draft, already projects as the No. 1 player in the 2020 draft, according to NBAdraft.net.
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The hope for Georgia and its first-year coach Tom Crean is that Edwards’ decision represents a signal-fire of change on the landscape of college basketball recruiting. For years, the Bulldogs have watched helplessly as countless top-rated prospects left the state to play for the game’s traditional powerhouse programs with the intention of playing college ball only long enough to meet NBA draft criteria. Kentucky’s John Calipari has been particularly successful recruiting “one-and-done” players.
Crean has responded to that by telling NBA hopefuls that he can prepare them just as well for the league at Georgia, plus they get to stay close to home and gain all the academic and social benefits of one of the top-rated state university’s in the U.S.
“We have everything they need right here,” he has said.
The Bulldogs are hopeful the 2019 recruiting haul doesn’t end with Edwards. Georgia already secured commitments from two other 247Sports Top 100 players in Jaykwon Walton (ranked 68th) of Montgomery, Ala., and forward Toumani Camara of Hollywood, Fla. Both are 6-foot-6 swingmen.
Edwards’ addition leaves UGA with room for at least one more signee in the 2019 class, and possibly more if there is additional attrition. Four scholarship seniors will graduate after this season in Mike Edwards, Turtle Jackson, Derek Ogbeide and E’Torrion Wilridge.
The Bulldogs are reported to have made significant in-roads with Lester Quinones, a 6-4 guard at IMG Academy ranked 64th in 247’s composite, and No. 80-ranked Harlon Beverly, a 6-4 guard from Montverde, Fla.
Georgia desperately needs a talent infusion as the school is in the midst of one of its worst basketball seasons in a decade. The Bulldogs (10-13, 1-9 SEC) just dropped their eighth consecutive conference game and are threatening to match the program’s worst league record since 2009 when they went 3-15. Georgia plays Texas A&M (9-13, 2-8) Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in College Station.
As for little Jace, Edwards lost both his mother, Yvette Edwards, and his grandmother, Shirley Edwards, to cancer four years ago. His sister Antoinette and brother Antoine have since shared legal custody of Anthony and raised him. They remain a tight-knit family.
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