Fizer looms, but Edwards has no fear

Lake Clifton alum is used to others starring

Blake's non-flying dad to miss debut

Midwest Regional notebook

NCAA Tournament

March 16, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS -- Always a center, rarely the center of attention.

But yesterday, Corsley Edwards sat in the corner of the Central Connecticut State locker room with 10 cameras in front of him and reporters crammed beside him.

Only one problem: Nobody wanted to talk about him. The media only wanted to ask the Lake Clifton High graduate about his assignment today, Iowa State first-team All-American Marcus Fizer.

Just listen to the round of questions that Edwards heard: What are your thoughts about Fizer? How can you stop Fizer? Are you scared about facing Fizer? Have you seen Fizer on the cover of Sports Illustrated?

The sophomore center just took a breath and smiled.

"I'm not going to be overwhelmed," said Edwards, the Blue Devils' third-leading scorer (12.2). "I know what's coming."

Edwards grew up on the talent-filled Baltimore playgrounds and has played in summer leagues against the likes of Temple's Kevin Lyde and Maryland's Terence Morris.

Still, he has become accustomed to the lack of respect.

In high school, Edwards started in a lineup with the star backcourt of Kevin Braswell (Georgetown) and Mike King (George Washington). His priority was to rebound.

"Everybody else was run-and-gun," he said. "Every game, I was the overlooked guy."

When he arrived at Central Connecticut, Edwards started making fans take notice. In his 10th game, he powered in a two-handed slam that shattered the backboard. Later that season, he shook the basket so hard on a dunk that the shot clock on the backboard went out.

Edwards then created some double takes from coaches when he shaved off nearly 40 pounds over the summer and came in at 275 pounds this season.

Fizer, too, slimmed down for the season, and a reporter asked Edwards if Fizer was a role model for him.

Said Edwards: "To tell you the truth, I've only known about him recently."

Point of omission

Maryland point guard Steve Blake will not have his usual fan base tonight.

His father, Richard, has watched at least 75 percent of Maryland's games, but couldn't shift gears fast enough to see Steve's first NCAA tournament game. Due to a bad experience flying two decades ago, Richard drives to all the games, and the road trip from his South Florida home proved to be too imposing.

Steve acknowledged being upset over his father's absence but said he understands.

"I knew this was going to happen at some point this year," Steve said. "He found out about the draw when he was driving back from [the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in] Charlotte. Once he got home, he realized he just couldn't do this."

Does this give Steve any extra motivation to help Maryland advance to next week's regional semifinals in Auburn Hills, Mich.?

"You always want to keep winning so your family members can see it," he said.

Ruland rant

Not surprisingly, Iona coach Jeff Ruland had the most laid-back news conference of the day, throwing out one-liners as frequently as he threw elbows in his NBA career.

When asked about the key for the Gaels' game against Maryland, he said, "We need to start off with a good prayer."

Ruland, who is 6 feet 10 and 275 pounds, then closed by talking about the the possibility of taking on Minnesota governor and former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura.

"I'm willing to go one-on-one with the governor here for charity," Ruland said. "I'd probably come out the worse for it, but what's one more injury?"

Familiar face

Iowa State only needs to chat with its second-leading scorer, Michael Nurse, for a scouting report on Central Connecticut. Nurse, who averages 12.1 points, had narrowed his college choices last year to the Cyclones and the Blue Devils.

Although Nurse visited Central Connecticut and played some pickup games with players, he eventually opted for Iowa State. Walking in the hallway yesterday, Nurse bumped into Central Connecticut coach Howie Dickenman and they exchanged handshakes.

"It was small, but I liked the players," Nurse said. "I liked what they were trying to accomplish. They told me all they needed was a point guard and they wanted me to come in and fill the spot."

Fast breaks

It's the first appearance for Maryland in a dome since 1995, when the Terps beat Cincinnati, 74-72, in San Antonio's Alamodome. The Metrodome is the site for next year's Final Four. UCLA, which has only a 58.6 free-throw percentage, did not shoot any from the foul line in yesterday's workout. Maryland is averaging 19.5 assists, second only to Nevada-Las Vegas' 20.3 in the NCAA tournament field. Maryland and Iona have never met, but the ACC is 45-3 all-time vs. the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. UCLA center Dan Gadzuric, the team's second-leading rebounder (7.0), injured his left thumb during yesterday's practice. He put a bag of ice on his hand and did not return. When asked if agents have contacted him, Fizer said, "They try, but I tell them to call my father."

Sun staff writer Paul McMullen contributed to this article.

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