Aaron Edwards hasn’t started all season, but he certainly knows how to finish.
Columbia College has won two games at the buzzer this season, and Edwards made both winning shots.
The No. 6 Cougars (26-2, 7-1 American Midwest Conference) play Williams Baptist at 7 p.m. today at The Arena of Southwell Complex.
Edwards’ first buzzer-beating shot came against MidAmerica Nazarene on Nov. 29. With less than five seconds left and the score tied at 69, Andre Amos misfired on a deep 3-pointer that resulted in a long rebound. Edwards won a frantic race to the loose ball and desperately batted it into the basket from about 8 feet as time expired.
Two games later on Dec. 5, the Cougars trailed Bellevue (Neb.) 82-80 with 20 seconds left in the second overtime. Khamari Ballard, who had 34 points, drew Bellevue’s defense toward him with a faked shot and passed to a wide-open Edwards on the left wing. Edwards made the 3-pointer much to the delight of his teammates, who piled on top of the claustrophobic junior.
Edwards said winning shots are nothing new to him.
“There’s really not any pressure with a last-second shot,” he said. “If you make it, you make it, and if you don’t, you don’t. Just shoot it. No one will get mad at you if you miss it.”
The Columbia College community has been anything but angry with Edwards during his first year at the school. After transferring from Lewis and Clark (Ill.) Community College, Edwards has played great basketball and become a popular figure on campus. Edwards won the Mr. Cougar pageant on Feb. 9.
Anthony Claypool, a member of Columbia College’s event staff, said he thinks Edwards will run for president in the future based on his “electability,” intelligence and people skills.
Edwards, though, said he doesn’t see the Oval Office in his future.
“Actually I want to act,” he said. “My major is business marketing, so either way it goes I’ll be marketing myself.”
Although Edwards might be selling himself to film directors and corporate America soon, Bob Burchard, the Cougars’ coach, said he has been sold on Edwards since day one.
Burchard likes to leave one or two of his best players on the bench at the beginning of games. Last season, Ballard was Second-Team All-America as a reserve. Edwards’ numbers aren’t as gaudy as Ballard’s, but he and Malcolm Mahogany have given the Cougars two reliable point guards while many of their opponents pine for one.
Edwards has played point guard for his entire basketball life, but Burchard has played him at different positions when he and Mahogany are on the court simultaneously. Burchard said Edwards’ intelligence is one factor that makes the situation work.
“Aaron has got a sense about him, in terms of handling the basketball and moving the basketball, that most players don’t,” he said. “He is as unselfish a person as you can possibly be.”
Edwards was one of 40 Columbia College athletes that made the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for accumulating at least a 3.0 grade point average in the fall semester.
“You can be as smart as you want to be in the classroom, but when it comes to basketball, that is a totally different ballgame,” he said. “Court sense is something different than scholastics.”
Playing his role
Edwards is also smart enough to realize he doesn’t have to start to contribute. He is the AMC’s third-leading 3-point shooter at 45.6 percent, and his 84 percent free-throw shooting places him fifth in the conference. His 2.79 assist to turnover ratio is the 15th best mark nationally.
“He is highly skilled,” Burchard said. “He is very goal-oriented and very teachable. I think those two things carry over into how he plays the game.”
Despite his stellar shooting, Edwards averages 6.5 points. He said he expects his scoring to increase next year after Amos and Ballard graduate.
“I’m playing on a team with an All-American (Ballard) on one wing and another guy who I think is going to be a candidate for All-America (Amos) on the other side,” Edwards said. “It’s kind of tough to get as many shots as you’d like, but as long as we’re winning, and I’m doing things to help the team, I’m satisfied.”