Healthy Edwards looks for NBA shot

Lake Clifton alum on mend in NBDL

December 18, 2006|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,Sun reporter

Healthy Edwards looks for NBA shot For Corsley Edwards, the blood clot in his lung a year ago was just another inconvenience.

Before becoming the National Basketball Development League's first pick in this year's draft, Edwards had grown up as an overlooked center in guard-obsessed Baltimore. Being a 300-pounder opened him to criticism about his conditioning. And his long list of outposts over the past four years - eight stops ranging from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Turkey - further suggested he was a long shot to make it in pro ball.

But the former Lake Clifton player had breezed past any doubts in the past - becoming Player of the Year in the Northeast Conference in 2002 while playing for Central Connecticut State, getting drafted by the Sacramento Kings that same year and getting a call-up to the New Orleans Hornets in 2005. While he was bedridden in a Spanish hospital for nine days last December - seven of them in intensive care - such fortitude had him convinced that he could return to his team in Granada, Spain.

"He was positive the whole time. `I'm going to get better,'" Edwards' wife, Gina, said. "I thought he was going to be upset, but he was positive. He didn't think he was going to be out for the season."

His numbers with the NBDL's Anaheim Arsenal this season wouldn't indicate a one-year absence from pro ball. Last week, he had 18 points and 14 rebounds in one game, and followed that with a 24-point, 13-rebound effort two nights later. Six or seven NBA scouts see him play every time out.

Overall, he's averaging 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Arsenal (4-7). That's about what was expected of Edwards, 27, when Anaheim selected him.

"I did a lot of background checks on him, and all the people I talked to had to say was positive things," said Arsenal coach Larry Smith, a 25-year veteran of the NBA as a player and coach. "They were telling us that this is a good guy - a guy who can give you double doubles, but also is a good guy off the court."

The Arsenal also was getting a player who had overcome a dangerous blood clot and a drastic weight increase. Edwards had received a daily regimen of Coumadin, a blood thinner, which limited his activity for six months. Barred from the court, the 6-foot-9 Edwards gained 75 pounds to 345.

Before Edwards ballooned - topping the 320 pounds he carried during his first year at Central Connecticut State - his body had never been in better shape than during the months before the 2005-06 season in Spain. Gaining momentum from his 10-day contract with the Hornets and Most Valuable Player honors in the Continental Basketball Association playoffs with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Edwards said he believed one more strong season in Spain could catapult him back into the NBA.

"I thought that was my opportunity," Edwards said. "I was in great shape. I'd done a lot of altitude training in Spain - running the hills and on the track."

But early last season with Granada, while recovering from a ruptured tendon in his left leg, he developed pain strong enough to cause a limp. Doctors later found the blood clot, which had gone from his leg to his lung.

Instead of furthering his career, Edwards was stuck in a hospital.

"It was a pain because I couldn't do anything for nine days," Edwards said. "Nothing was on TV. It was all Spanish. And in the ICU, there was no TV at all. We [he and his wife] had to watch Scarface on the computer."

He returned to Baltimore for Christmas, but short-term basketball plans were out of the question. Because he was taking a blood thinner, doctors were worried any sharp blow could cause serious internal bleeding.

In his hometown, he found comfort from family and friends like Arthur Lewis (Milford Mill) and former Harlem Globetrotter Charlie Smith.

But exiled from the court, Edwards continued to struggle with his weight. His medication caused headaches, and his eating increased.

"He was always eating because he had a headache or was dizzy," his wife said. "I would make salads and sandwiches. Sometimes, we'd go out. But by him not being able to work out, he wasn't able to work off those pounds he was putting on."

The turnaround came during a family outing at a local eatery, where Edwards met Theresa L'heureux, a restaurant employee who did physical training on the side.

"It was like destiny," he said. "She looked at me, and said, `He doesn't look like anyone's basketball player.'"

The first workout wasn't on par with other big days Edwards has had in 2006 - his marriage to Gina, the birth of his first child, Corsley III, or becoming the top pick in the NBDL - but the March 5 meeting was momentous nonetheless, starting a seven-month process.

"It was hard - every day, two times a day," he said of the workout regimen.

Edwards was cleared to play in June, and has been working since then to get back to the level of play that he enjoyed before being sidelined.

He has gotten his weight back under control, and is listed on the Arsenal's roster at 240 pounds.

With each game, Edwards seems to be getting closer to his goal.

"I'd been out for a year without playing a game with referees or officials," said Edwards, who has averaged about 27 minutes a game for the Arsenal. "I've got the confidence, but I just need to get the timing back."

christian.ewell@baltsun.com

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