There apparently are no shortcuts in the basketball world of Sadie Edwards, or at least none one of UConn’s Class of 2014 cares to take.
From the day she offered the Huskies her verbal commitment in March, Edwards says she’s made a conscious decision to just work harder.
“Lots of times when you make a commitment to a high-level school, people think you can just relax,” Edwards said. “But if anything, I am working even harder now. I understand there are very high expectations about going to UConn. That’s fine. But I also have very high expectations of myself. You have to work extra hard once you decide to play at UConn and it is giving me the incentive to do so.”
Edwards, a native of Meriden, Conn., is completing her junior year at New Jersey’s Blair Academy. This summer, the big guard [5-11] will take her talents to the Philly Belles, one of the nation’s top AAU teams. In the past she’s played for Exodus and Epiphanny Prince Elite teams in New York
In preparation, Edwards says she’s increasing court and strength and conditioning workouts to get into even better shape.
“Trying just to become more focused when I play,” she said. “I’m trying to pay attention to more detail in everything that I am doing.”
Like guards Gabby Williams and Courtney Ekmark, the other two current members of UConn’s promising 2014 class, Edwards feels somewhat relieved to have her college choice made.
“It can make for an incredibly difficult summer if you don’t know where you are going [to school], especially if you do not have the offers who may have been expecting,” Edwards said. “That creates a lot of pressure to perform a certain way and it tends to become your life.
“The pressure is off in one way, but not entirely. Every time you step onto the court there is always someone looking at you and saying, ‘Ok, this is the kid that is going to Connecticut.’ Everyone is going to give you their best game and you need to be ready for it. You have to understand that every opponent is going to want to say, ‘I outplayed the kid that’s going to UConn or I am better than her.’
“But I enjoy the challenge of rising to the competition. If someone doesn’t give me their best, I consider it kind of disrespectful.”
Having been raised in Meriden, Edwards is clued into every aspect of UConn’s eight-time national champion. She will eventually join a line of in-state players like Jen Rizzotti, Nykesha Sales, Maria Conlon and Heather Buck who have played for Geno Auriemma.
“It’s an incredible feeling, almost surreal. It hits me some times, but I don’t think the full impact of what’s coming has at this point,” Edwards said. “You remember working so hard to make it happen when you are younger. But it’s very real now, kind of crazy. But it’s also what inspires me to work and be better prepared. And being able to play in front of my family is very big for me.
“When I chose UConn, I thanked all of the other schools that were recruiting me and wished them the best. They were very nice about it. There wasn’t really a second-place school. I had a list, but once UConn came into the picture it was like, ‘Ok, this is as far as we go.’”
Edwards made her choice after watching UConn play two NCAA games at Gampel Pavilion in March.
“A lot of time when you play for a team at that level, your teammates can become your competition,” she said. “You are competing for the same minutes. But it was not like that at all at UConn. Everyone got along, everyone pushed each other at practice and they seemed to be close friends off the court. You don’t often see that, especially in a place with a high-competitive level. It’s been known to impact relationships. That didn’t show at all. It’s very special to me to have a chance to play for that family.”
And if UConn can close out the recruiting class with a player like 6-5 center A’ja Wilson – now trying out for USA Basketball’s U-19 team with UConn’s Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson – it appears Auriemma will have another dynamic run to look forward to.
“If we get A’ja Wilson [the South Carolina post] its going to be one incredible recruiting class. It’s going to be ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous,” Edwards said.