A Fresh Starter : Edney Will Get a Big Promotion for Tournament

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It won't happen today, when senior Darrick Martin is given an honorary start against Arizona State in his final game at Pauley Pavilion, but a freshman will take the reins of the UCLA offense during the NCAA tournament.

Tyus Edney will replace sophomore Shon Tarver in the Bruins' starting lineup, with senior Gerald Madkins switching to off-guard and Edney moving in at the point, Coach Jim Harrick said Friday.

"He has just stepped up," Harrick said of Edney. "And he's done it in big games. He stepped up in the Duke game and he stepped up in the Arizona game."

The littlest Bruin--generously listed at 5 feet 10 but thought to be two or three inches shorter--Edney is also the quickest and one of the most composed, belying his youth and inexperience.

He was outstanding in UCLA's 89-81 victory over Arizona Thursday night, scoring 12 points, making five of six shots and adding five assists, four rebounds and a steal without making a turnover in 26 minutes.

Edney's play against Duke two weeks ago probably would have earned him a starting position earlier, but he suffered a bruised tailbone during the 75-65 loss.

The Bruins said that if Edney hadn't been injured early in the second half, they might have overtaken the Blue Devils.

Still bothered by the injury, Edney played only four minutes in an 89-85 victory over Washington State and not at all in an 80-79 victory over Washington.

Now that he is virtually pain-free again, he is a starter.

Six months ago, nobody at UCLA would have predicted it.

When Edney was still at Long Beach Poly High, Harrick had to be convinced by assistant coaches Tony Fuller and Brad Holland that Edney was worth pursuing.

"I always have reservations about 5-7 guys," Harrick said. "There's a great concern among college coaches about kids that are under 6 feet because, if you're 6 feet or under, you don't have to be good, you have to be very good to play Division I basketball."

Holland and Fuller saw that kind of potential in Edney.

"He's so quick and so smart with the basketball that we really thought he had a chance to be a good player, probably by the time he was a junior," Holland said. "We did not anticipate him being so mature and so effective in his freshman year.

"I don't think anybody anticipated that, except maybe (Tyus). He has a lot of confidence in himself. You've seen his poise. He possesses so much savvy and poise out there on the court. You don't think that he's an 18-year-old kid."

Edney opened some learned eyes during the first week of practice last fall, when John Wooden took one look and told Harrick that Edney saw the floor better than anybody else on the team.

He has made the most of his 16 minutes a game, averaging 5.6 points, 2.5 assists and 1.9 rebounds while making 51.5% of his shots and 80.4% of his free throws.

After Edney scored seven points in 14 minutes against Duke, making three of four shots and adding two assists, a steal and tough defense against standout point guard Bobby Hurley, Harrick saw that he was ready to start.

Harrick was hesitant to make the move because of its possible effect on Martin, a former starter, but Harrick said Friday: "There comes a time when, for the good of the club, you've got to do some different things."

Edney can't wait.

"I'm more excited than nervous," he said. "It puts pressure on me, but not a whole lot."

It's not anything he won't be able to handle, Harrick said.

"I've got no reservations about him at all," Harrick said.

Not anymore.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
61°