Last but not least, Edwards on NBA mission

Last but not least, Edwards aims to show NBA mettle

July 12, 2002|By MIKE PRESTON

FORMER Lake Clifton High standout Corsley Edwards likes his new title. Big Dog is now Underdog.

"There is still a little bit of my name in there," said Edwards, laughing.

But there is really no dog in Edwards. For the past three years, he labored in obscurity at Central Connecticut State until NBA scouts started working.

They liked his game, but not enough to take him early in the June 26 draft. Or in the middle, either. Edwards was the last pick. No. 58, to be exact. By the time Sacramento selected Edwards, the late news was on.

"It was 11:08 p.m when I got called," Edwards said. "I was starting to feel a lot of pressure. My friends and family were telling me they were going to hang with me, stay up and keep watching TV. I was glad it ended, but I wasn't surprised I got drafted. All my workouts had gone well.

"Now, I have a new challenge," said Edwards, 6 feet 9, 275 pounds and a projected NBA power forward. "The interviewing is over. There is no guaranteed contract. I've got to find a job. But it's no different than playing for a small school. It's all a matter of proving yourself again."

There is a lot to like about Edwards other than basketball. He earned a degree in sociology in four years. He is soft-spoken and well-mannered, with a good sense of humor. His mother is a teacher at Woodlawn Middle School, his father a private contractor and painter.

The work ethic is strong. While walking through the Ravens' training complex recently, Edwards pointed to stadium pictures along the wall and boasted about the concrete walls he helped build. He sometimes would work with his father from 8 in the morning until midnight.

The work ethic is Edwards' ticket to the NBA. When he first came to Central Connecticut State, Big Dog was the Big Pup. A Saint Bernard. His weight was 320.

"Corsley was a little bit of a baby," said Central Connecticut coach Howie Dickenman. "He drank sodas not by the cup, but by the gallons. But he cut that out after his first year. He worked harder and harder, and he became increasingly conscious about what he ate. His body fat dropped from 14 to 10 percent.

"Now he sees the opportunity and the money dangling out there, and he is really determined. The Kings might have themselves a sleeper."

Sleeper, underdog, whatever. ... Edwards understands what's ahead of him. He wasn't a high school phenom, a high-profile college player or a European star. He is just Corsley Edwards, the most dominant player in the Northeast Conference last season, averaging 15.4 points and 8.7 rebounds while doubling as a center and a forward.

The scouting report on Edwards, a left-hander, says he is effective in the low post, with decent footwork and good hands. Edwards has an explosive first step, a 34-inch vertical leap and can match former Maryland forward Chris Wilcox in rim-shaking dunks.

But can he play with the Tim Duncans and Karl Malones on a regular basis?

Edwards has a plan. Mix the tenacity of Charles Barkley with the competitiveness of Dennis Rodman, the hard-nosed approach of Anthony Mason and the nastiness of Charles Oakley, and he'll make the team.

"Physically, I don't back down from anyone. Never have, never will," Edwards said. "I'm going out there to do whatever they want me to do. I've never had to be the man on a team, and it's not going to start now. If they want me to bang, I'll bang. If they need me to score, I'll score. If they ask me to rebound, I'll rebound.

"One day after the draft, I asked them my role, and they said they needed a bruiser, a banger."

He smiles. That's his role. He did it at Central Connecticut and at several pre-draft camps that included some of the nation's top big men. Eleven NBA teams were impressed enough to invite him for individual workouts.

Edwards likes his chances of making the Kings. He points out that Sacramento traded its first-round pick, Gonzaga guard Dan Dickau, to Atlanta. Right now, Edwards is the only Kings draft choice standing.

But he's taking nothing for granted. His daily workouts begin at 9 a.m. and end at noon. One of his workout partners is Tommy Polley, the Dunbar High alum and St. Louis Rams linebacker.

One of his closest friends is former Maryland guard Juan Dixon, who sat with him until the draft ended and Edwards was selected. They played together in the recreation leagues, and against each other in high school when Dixon was at Calvert Hall and Edwards was a junior at Mount St. Joseph.

They have a mutual respect and a similar work ethic.

"He could have left, but he was with me," Edwards said of Dixon, who was drafted No. 17 overall. "We're close like that, and we stay in touch. I understand what I have to prove. In college, I had to go out and dominate, but I was always criticized because I went to a small school. Then when I went to some of these camps, the scouts say, `Wow, he can play with the best.'

"I'll never quit. I'll make it. When you're the last pick in the draft, and you work as hard as I do, only good things will happen. If I can't make it here, I can make it in Europe. I've already had offers. I'm going to be playing somewhere."

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