SALT LAKE CITY — The transition from high school standout to college freshman on a Pac-12 team was difficult for Dre’Una Edwards.
“In the summer, I had a hard time finding myself,” she said. “I’ve never had low self-esteem. But I came from being the best player on my high school team, my AAU team, to coming here and not being one of the (worst) persons, but not being one of the best players. It was difficult. I had to work hard, be really focused and be really dialed in.”
That approach apparently worked because Edwards has won back-to-back Pac-12 Freshman of the Week awards that she said have helped her feel comfortable on the court, while her coaches and teammates have made her feel at home off the court.
“I am a lot more confident,” she said. “It was really fun, and knowing I can be that person and help my team in any kind of way makes me want to keep going. If I can get two, maybe I can get three or four. I just want to keep going higher.”
Edwards said she found out about both awards from her teammates. She walked into the locker room for practice after earning her first Freshman of the Week award following a 16-point, 15-rebound performance against Nevada the first week of November.
“They said, ‘Hey, it’s the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week,'” Edwards said. “I was like, ‘Who? Dru? Jordan? Andrea?”
Earning it the second straight week of the season, after averaging 11.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals to lead Utah's wins over Alabama and Long Beach State, was equally shocking. And while it’s given her confidence, it’s also helped her teammates and made her a target for opponents.
“I think it’s given her confidence,” said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts. “I think it’s given her teammates confidence in her. …Now she’s getting attention on scouting reports, which is good because that opens things up a little bit more for Huffy (Megan Huff).”
Roberts met Edwards when her club coach brought her and a couple of other players from their Las Vegas club team to Utah for an elite camp. Roberts was impressed with her skills but unsure how they would translate to the collegiate game.
“I thought, ‘Is she a tweener?’” Roberts recalled. “I wasn’t sure what position she could play. Is she a post? Is she a perimeter player? That was my question.”
Her staff watched Edwards more than Roberts did and when she asked associate head coach Gavin Petersen if she was the dreaded “tweener”, he had an answer.
“He said, ‘It doesn’t matter. She can make plays’,” Roberts said. “The kid just has a feel for the game.”
Edwards is the third youngest of 10 kids, most of whom play basketball.
“We’re all super close,” she said, noting that the blended family has five children that have a part of their father Andre’s name as part of their name.
“It’s kind of hard when we’re all together because everyone’s nickname is Dre,” Edwards laughed. “So my mom is like, ‘Dre!’ and everyone is looking. …He just wanted everybody to be like him.”
She laughs at the confusion that sometimes results, but then adds her name gives her a “piece” of her dad, and she is proud to share that show of affection with her siblings.
In addition to sharing their dad’s nickname, they all love basketball.
“All of my family has been good at basketball, and I’m just carrying on the tradition,” she said, admitting she does get a lot of coaching from just about everyone but her mom. “I’m the third youngest child, so everyone is excited for me to play. They’re loving the way I play right now. It’s so fun.”
She said the coaching from her siblings and her dad has helped her become the player she is today.
“My brothers and sisters call me, they like to talk to me, the way to play me in one-on-one and teach me things,” she said. “They’re always saying, ‘Let’s get in the gym.’ It’s actually a good thing. It helped me a lot growing up.”
Edwards said her father set the highest bar, and while she has felt pressure to measure up to his expectations, she said he’s also her biggest fan.
Roberts said Edwards is a hard worker who brings an unmovable presence to the floor.2 comments on this story
“She is powerful,” Roberts said. “You can’t move her. She’s powerful, explosive and just has a feel for the game.”
Edwards said everything about transitioning to college has been a learning experience. She’s embraced it, and she’s looking forward to her next big challenge – taking on BYU at the Huntsman Center on Saturday night. Utah is hoping to keep their unbeaten record, now 7-0, intact.
“I just know we hate them,” Edwards said of the rivalry. “So we’re going to do everything we can to win and keep it going.”
The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. and any fan that wears red gets in for free.