Holy Spirit's Anthony Edwards (6) dunks during a game. (Stanley Johnson/special)

Life ordinary for nation’s top basketball prospect Edwards

In a lot of ways, Anthony Edwards, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior guard for Holy Spirit in Atlanta, is like most high school kids his age. He hangs out with friends, listens to rap music and plays Fortnite.

In other ways, he’s nothing alike. Rated a five-star recruit and ranked as the nation’s top shooting guard for the 2019 class by recruiting services, he has been projected by some experts as an early favorite to be the No. 1 pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, which would make him the first metro Atlanta player since Dwight Howard of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy in 2004 to be selected at No. 1.

Despite all the national attention, Edwards said life is pretty ordinary for him.

“I just take it day-by-day,” he said. “I don’t treat my friends differently, and there’s no cloud hanging over my head. I just go out and play the game.”

Edwards is part of the first graduating high school class that will have the option of choosing the NBA’s G-League, which debuts its “Select Contracts” for the 2019-20 season to some players not yet eligible to enter the NBA draft. Current eligibility requirements include being 19 years of age, which forces high school graduates to choose between playing college for at least one year — known as “one-and-done” — or playing overseas.

Despite the new G-League option and a Select Contract worth as much as $125,000 a season, Edwards intends to take the traditional college route.

“It’s not hard (to turn down the G-League money),” Edwards said. “You can only struggle for so long.”

In late December, he announced his college finalists — Florida State, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina. He has two official visits this week to Kentucky and Kansas and intends to visit the remaining finalists during the next month. Two weeks after his final visit, his plans to announce his verbal commitment.

Although all signs point to him being a one-and-done, he wouldn’t say as much.

“I’m not really thinking about that,” he said.

Edwards originally was a class of 2019 student at Therrell High, but dropped back to the class of 2020 before transferring to Holy Spirit for the 2017-18 school year to concentrate on academics. Holy Spirit competes the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA), the private league. After improving his GPA and test scores, Edwards reclassified to the 2019 class in December, sending college recruiters scurrying to his door.

The main reason he’s so highly regarded by scouts and considered a next-level star is his scoring ability. He’s averaging 25.2 points for Holy Spirit, with 9.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals. The Cougars have played GHSA powerhouses McEachern, Pebblebrook, Wheeler and Westlake, which are four teams ranked in the highest classification. They beat Westlake 72-61 and lost 76-68 to Wheeler in overtime.

Holy Spirit first-year coach Tysor Anderson, grandson of Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lefty Dreisell, said scoring comes naturally to Edwards. Anderson ranks him with some of the best high school basketball players he has ever seen, including former South Gwinnett standout Lou Williams, now in his 14th NBA season.

“He’s definitely the best player I’ve coached,” said Anderson, who coached two seasons at South Gwinnett before going to Holy Spirit. “When you watch him, the first thing you notice is how easy it is for him to score. He’s as explosive as anyone in the country. One of the things you can notice off the bat with big-time talents is how softly they finish around the rim with touch, which always gives it a chance to go in. He’s a great finisher with is right or left hand, off his left or right or both feet. That’s how easy it is for him to score.”

Anderson, who was as a walk-on for Georgia Tech during the Paul Hewitt era, played with two "one-in-dones," Javaris Crittenton and Derrick Favors, and believes Edwards possesses the same drive that got those players to the NBA.

“As far as work ethic and approach to the game, he shares those qualities with some of the best players at that age that I’ve seen,” Anderson said.

Before college or the NBA, Edwards is trying to guide the Cougars to a third consecutive GISA Class AAA championship.

“I’m trying to win a state title,” he said. “That’s first. Then, from there, I want to make a great decision on college and work hard.”

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