No surprise! Anthony Edwards declares for NBA draft

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards declared for the NBA draft on Friday.

The Atlanta native known as “Ant Man” has long carried a projection as the potential No. 1 selection for the 2020 NBA draft.

“Georgia will always be my home, but I am ready to take my game to the next level and have decided to declare for the NBA Draft,” Edwards said in his announcement via Twitter.

Bulldogs coach Tom Crean, who recruited Edwards out of Atlanta’s Holy Spirit, said he only regrets he will no longer get to coach the 6-foot-5 guard.

“Obviously we’re very proud of him,” Crean said in a teleconference call with reporters about an hour after Edwards’ announcement. “This is no surprise but, at the same time, this is bittersweet. You knew it was coming; you expected it to come, but it also puts into perspective that we’re not going to get to coach him anymore.”

Edwards led the nation’s Division I freshmen in scoring with 19.1 points a game. He also averaged 5.2 rebounds and led the team in steals and deflections. He was named SEC Freshman of the Year by league coaches and SEC Newcomer of the Year by the Associated Press.

Edwards was one of nine freshmen and 10 newcomers on Georgia’s team, which finished 16-16 after the cancellation of the SEC Tournament on March 12.

“We tried to coach him and lead him to get better every day,” Crean said. “I think every recruiting situation is a case-study to its own. We’ve got to try to continue to build skill and toughness and get better shooting the ball. … Do we want to be that young again? Not preferably. But at the end of the day with the way college basketball is going, you’ve got to be able to adjust on the fly.”

Edwards is the fifth player Georgia will have to replace off last year’s team. He joins graduating seniors Tyree Crump, Donnell Greshman and Jordan Harris and freshman Rodney Howard, who also announced Friday that he is entering the transfer portal.

Meanwhile, Edwards signed with Octagon to represent him, according to tweet from the agency on Friday. Octagon also represents Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young.

Edwards is the consensus No. 1 choice of the many mock drafts that populate the Internet. But his place won’t be known until he works out and meets with NBA teams. The league, like all other professional U.S. sports, is currently shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Whenever the draft comes, there’s probably going to only be a couple of teams he works out for anyway,” Crean said. “I mean, this is different if you’re talking about a fringe-lottery guy or a fringe-first-round guy. In all likelihood, you’re talking about if not the first pick in the draft, which I think he should be, he’s going to be one of the first picks in the draft.” 

The NBA Ddraft currently is still scheduled to be held June 25 in New York.

Zion Williamson, last year’s No. 1 draft selection, signed a four-year contract worth $40 million, $20 million of which was guaranteed.

The question now is what did Edwards and the Bulldogs gain from their roughly seven-months-long association?

“I think there’s pluses, I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Crean said. “There was intrigue; there was an excitement. It was brought to likfe with the attendance we had. At the end of the day, he was such a great teammate and there was such an infectious personality about him. That has a lot to do with his success and the success he’s going to have down the line. It’s important that you get guys like him that don’t see themselves as independent contractors, who see themselves as a part of the team, wanting to be a part of Georgia and a part of this league and want to help your team win.”

Edwards shocked the college basketball world when he committed to Georgia over Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Duke and host of other “elite program” offers in March of 2019. Edwards did not enroll at UGA until July last summer. He scored only six points in his last game with the Bulldogs, an 81-63 win over Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament on March 11.

In all, Edwards spent a little bit over seven months in Athens. According to the thoughts he shared Friday, Edwards very much enjoyed his UGA experience. 

“As I reflect on my college basketball career, both on and off the court, I realize how blessed I am to have an extended family in the basketball community,” Edwards said in his Twitter post. “To my coaches and trainers on the UGA staff, I’m thankful for all that you’ve done for me. To my teammates, thank you for showing me I’ll have brothers in you for life. To the fans who showed up and brought energy to Stegeman Coliseum every single night, just know we couldn’t have done it without you.” 

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