BOGACZYK: Edmonds, Herd Bounce Back Together
The Word on the Herd-March 4, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Even before Marshall men's basketball went through a two-month skid prior to finding success, Thundering Herd guard Justin Edmonds knew about dealing with that roller coaster feeling.
The Herd's experience wasn't unlike his own.
The 6-foot-4 junior college transfer came to Marshall following a torn right ACL that curbed his sophomore season at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio. Then before he could get onto the floor in 2013-14 for Marshall, Edmonds needed to undergo more surgery due to a bone fracture in the same knee that wasn't repaired in the first surgery.
And just like his team that has won seven of 10 after losing 15 of 16 - with the one win against Division II King University - Edmonds has rebounded not only to start for Marshall, but become a significant contributor for a resurgent team.
As the Herd (11-18, 7-9) heads to Old Dominion (22-6, 11-5) for Thursday's 8 p.m. Conference USA tipoff , Edmonds is coming off his career-high game of 27 points on 9-of-11 marksmanship in Saturday's home triumph over Florida Atlantic.
His scoring numbers also foretell Herd fortunes.
In seven C-USA victories - all at home -- by Coach Dan D'Antoni's club, Edmonds is averaging a team-leading 15.4 points on .485 shooting, including .455 behind the 3-point arc (20-of-44). In the nine league losses (3-6 at home), Edmonds is averaging only 9.8 points and has struggled to a .319 shooting percentage.
However, it is as much the 22-year-old Edmonds' toughness and resilience that have helped the Herd back from its doldrums - just as it did when the Albion, Mich., native was trying to cope with multiple surgeries and what followed.
"With my knee, the two surgeries I had, and when I came back from my first surgery I was good for the most part," Edmonds said after the Herd's Tuesday workout at the Henderson Center. "And then later I found out I need a second surgery and it was up and down, up and down moods for me. I really wondered when I'd get back.
"And with this season, we started out well with three wins, and then we went on that losing streak and then we came back and started winning all these games at home lately. I feel like we had tough times and we didn't know how to handle those tough times early.
"But here toward end of the season, we've learned how to cope with it and understand what we need to do to win. I feel like it's been a good turnaround for us and for me."
Edmonds, averaging one basket shy of double figures for the season (9.9 on 288 points in 29 games), has started the last 22 games for the Herd. In Marshall's first six games, he played only 39 minutes, then scored nine points in 17 relief minutes against South Carolina on Dec. 1.
He made his first start on Dec. 6 against Penn State, and in the next outing he was voted the Herd's Eddie Barrett MVP Award in a loss to West Virginia in the Capital Classic. All of that came after he hadn't played in a game between Dec. 22, 2012 and Nov. 14, 2014.
"I had to sit out four months after my second surgery, slowly work my way back," Edmonds said. "It took a lot out of me. I'd get depressed at times. I was worried, concerned. It would affect me during my day, but I always had to try to keep a positive attitude.
"There was a point where I'd just sit holed up here in my apartment seeing nobody, talking to nobody and thinking, `What if this doesn't get better? What do I do then?' I learned a lot about patience. I decided to be more patient than I was.
"And going through the training, the rehabbing, it helped me more in my head. It helped me push forward and do what I had to do to get back. With the season, when we were going through that bad stretch we still came into practice with an attitude to get better, work harder, focus more and we'd eventually turn it around. For the most part, everybody stuck with it. Of course, we had our ups-and-downs. In practice, we'd get frustrated, but every team gets frustrated at times in practice. They all go through that."
Edmonds said that while during his personal travails he could feel his game coming back into form despite significant rust, the Herd found a lifeline as the defeats mounted in December and January.
"We had some close games and it sent us a message," Edmonds said. "When we'd lose in the last two or three minutes, it told us, `We're not a bad team. We've got to learn how to finish.'
"And when we watched film, it opened our eyes just how close we were. We focused on cutting down on turnovers, on making our free throws, trying to capitalize on every possession we could, so we didn't put ourselves in the situation where we needed to make a bunch of plays at the end of the game.
"The lowest part was losing those close ones. When we'd lose those, we could tell our fans were into it, we were into it, our coaches were into it. We knew we should have been on top, because we were that close, but we wondered if we'd get over the top. That was the toughest part for us.
"Those two games in Florida (when the Herd led for more than 35 minutes at both FIU and FAU), they killed us. In road games, you can't get comfortable. You can't settle. You've got to keep your foot on the pedal. We've learned that."
Edmonds also has a new learning curve on his own talents, too. If the rangy, 200-pound guard is not the same player he was as an Owens CC freshman who averaged 18.8 points as an All-Region XII selection, maybe that's not such a bad thing, either.
"With the injury, it's helped me mature in my playing style," Edmonds said. "At first I was just an I'll-punch-it-in guy. If I saw a lane, I was going for it, trying to finish above the other players. The injury, after that, it helped me play a lot smarter.
"Now, I look at the angles that are there before I'm attacking and the timing I need to have when I'm trying to set one of my teammates up. I kind of feel like being hurt and then coming back like this, it's helped my all-around game."
As the Herd heads to ODU and then finishes the regular season at Charlotte (13-16, 6-10) on Saturday before next week's C-USA Tournament in Birmingham, Ala., D'Antoni needs the kind of production provided recently by Edmonds, who is averaging 14.2 points in his last 10 games.
"He gives you another guy that can attack and get to the rim and do some things," D'Antoni said after Edmonds' career-high night against FAU. "He is one that can rip and he's getting stronger so he is getting to the rim and his shooting is getting better.
"He doesn't have the same `pop' that he used to have but he is getting to the rim. He is adjusting his game and he is a much better 3-point shooter. He is a strong and a tough-minded kid, and you've got to like players like that."