Rob Edwards has been at the forefront of some of the biggest plays during this year’s up and down ASU basketball season.
He sank two free throws to take down then No. 1 Kansas in December, and he has hit a variety of clutch shots. Against KU, 13 of his 15 points in that game occurred in the second half. Most recently, he put forth 19 points in a 95-88 overtime win over Arizona. When some of the biggest games have come down to the wire, Edwards seems to come to life.
But Edwards is different from his head coach or even some of his teammates. He doesn’t match the fiery intensity of head coach Bobby Hurley or his running mate in the backcourt in sophomore guard Remy Martin.
He has a stoic side to him. He’s not the one to pump up the crowd after a big three or flex after a big basket. Instead, Edwards has a calmness about him that sometimes differentiates him on the Sun Devil roster.
“Rob is tricky to read because he has a very blank expression and you don’t know what’s going on,” Hurley said. “I am always asking him, ‘Are you good. Are you alright? Are you in this with me?’, because he really controls his emotion. He’s got a fire about him. It’s just you can’t tell. That probably just contributes to how comfortable he is as an offensive player and getting in a good rhythm, because his demeanor helps him be pretty smooth out on the floor.”
Edwards expressed a similar sentiment to his head coach, acknowledging that Hurley often checks in with him. The two are polar opposite personalities, with Hurley constantly stomping the sidelines while fighting for his players, while Edwards goes about his business quietly and calmly.
“It’s totally different (Hurley and Edwards’ personalities). When he looks at me sometimes, he always asks me, ‘Am I with him or am I good?’, just because he’s always so pumped up and animated,” Edwards said. “I am just looking at him like, ‘Coach, calm down. We are good.’ He always gets super excited. I love it though - The way he battles for us and he fights for us during the game. I love to see his energy.”
A native of Detroit and a Cleveland State transfer, Edwards noted some of his favorite cold-blooded basketball icons growing up. They included Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Allen Iverson, and Richard Hamilton of Edwards’ hometown Detroit Pistons.
In high school, Edwards transferred from Detroit Jesuit to Cass Tech. He won a Class A District title as a junior and he put up 19 points in the championship. On a team that had many veterans, Edwards came off the bench on that team.
Then in college, the guard transferred from Cleveland State to a power-five school in Tempe. Again, he started off in a sixth man role coming off the bench with the Sun Devils. However, Edwards has now worked his way into the starting lineup.
All the stops from Detroit to Arizona mixed in with an early season back injury this year at ASU have helped in creating that quiet confidence and poise that sits inside of Edwards when he is on the floor. It’s not something he takes for granted.
“I just continued to work hard and continue to just keep my confidence every day and do what coach expects of me and continue to work hard when the lights are off when no one is watching, and then perform at my highest level when the lights are on,” said Edwards of his journey.
...It’s all just motivation, something that I keep in the back of my head and that’s why I try not to get too excited or too down because I know where I come from, where not a lot of people can do anything. I am always just blessed to be here and just try to keep my head up and stay as positive as possible.”
Ask teammates what they think of Edwards, and they will tell you he’s a sniper. Edwards is shooting at a clip of 42 percent from three-point range, and he is at an 85 percent mark from the free throw line. Additionally, he adds on-ball pressure and defense in the backcourt.
On a team that is full of varying personalities, Edwards provides a calmness that pieces things together when they get out of sorts. It’s important. Teams need energy guys to create a spark, similar to the likes of Martin or redshirt senior forward Zylan Cheatham.
However, when things run astray in a game, Edwards helps in dialing things back in.
ASU has been on the right and wrong side of many close contests. Just look at their last two games, losing at USC on a last second shot before upending Arizona in overtime. There will be more close games to come.
Last year, the Devils often fell on the wrong side of the eight-ball in close conference games. However, with a new mix of Edwards and company, those late game situations seem to be a little more favorable.
An 18-4 Washington team that is undefeated in conference play enters Arizona this weekend. They take on ASU this Saturday with big conference and postseason implications on the line. The game is shaping up to be one of the premiere Pac-12 showdowns that has occurred all season. Emotions will inevitably run high and things might escalate quickly, but it’s in those moments where Edwards disposition can run its full effect. Just revert back to Edwards’ favorite mantra: “Never too high, never too low.”