For Georgia’s ‘Ant Man,’ it’s not all about scoring

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VIDEO: Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards talks about his role on the Bulldogs. Video by Chip Towers.

Anthony Edwards could have scored 30 points against The Citadel on Tuesday night. Even more. But he passed up a couple of easy shots to feed his teammates late in the 95-86 win, then he missed a free throw in the closing seconds.

As it was, Edwards finished with 29 points.

“They asked me in the locker room why I missed the last free throw. I told them all that matters is that we got to win,” said Edwards, a freshman who signed with the Bulldogs as the nation’s No. 2-ranked recruit.

“I don’t care about having 29, 28, 30, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to miss free throws sometimes. That’s on my end. I’m gonna make sure I get in the gym and work on my free throws so I don’t miss them at clutch time.

“But all that’s OK. We got the win, and that’s all that matters.”

You won’t hear anybody in red and black complaining. The man they call “Ant Man” so far has lived up to his billing. In fact, you have to go back to the man they called “The Human Highlight Film” to find a similar freshman debut.

Edwards’ 53 points in his first two games not only leads the SEC in scoring, but is better even than the great Dominique Wilkins, who scored 47 against Troy and Whittier to start the 1979 season. For what’s it’s worth, Wilkins scored 23 against Eckerd to give him 70 in his first three college contests.

So that number will be on the minds of many as the Bulldogs (2-0) prepare to play host to Delaware State at Stegeman Coliseum on Friday (7 p.m., 95.5 FM). The game technically is the first of Georgia’s appearance in the Maui Invitational Tournament, which it will go to Hawaii to complete Nov. 25-27.

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Georgia freshman Anthony “Ant-Man: Edwards reacts to hitting back-to-back three-pointers during the second half in a 95-86 victory over the Citadel in a NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, November 12, 2019, in Athens. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Georgia freshman Anthony “Ant-Man: Edwards reacts to hitting back-to-back three-pointers during the second half in a 95-86 victory over the Citadel in a NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, November 12, 2019, in Athens.   Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
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Georgia freshman Anthony “Ant-Man: Edwards reacts to hitting back-to-back three-pointers during the second half in a 95-86 victory over the Citadel in a NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, November 12, 2019, in Athens. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

The Hornets are 0-2, but they represent a level up in competition over Western Carolina and The Citadel. And, as will increasingly be the case, all of Georgia's opponents are going to be focused on stopping the Ant Man.

The Citadel was and even employed the old “box-and-one” defense to do so. It didn’t work, but the efforts are going to get more sophisticated and intense going forward.

“I thought he did a lot of really good things,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said of Edwards’ response to what he was encountering Tuesday. “He’s got to understand that he needs to attack and cut and move without the ball. They went box-and-one on us, but he’s got that in his repertoire and I thought Anthony made adjustments really quick. … I thought he did a lot of good things for his second college game.”

Edwards' sharing attitude and resident skill set is what makes him special. The 6-foot-4 athlete can create his own shot off the dribble or from the 3-point line. But he’s equally adept at bringing the ball up and distributing it like a point guard.

His teammates are starting to recognize when Edwards goes from one mode to the other. Freshman Sahvir Wheeler and graduate transfer Donnell Gresham can play the traditional point role until defenses start to sag all over Edwards. When they do, he starts looking to dish and they start looking to score.

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VIDEO: Georgia coach Tom Crean talks about freshman Anthony Edwards. Video by Chip Towers.

Wheeler, Greshman and senior Tyree Crump are all capable of draining 3’s from the perimeter. Meanwhile, big men Rayshaun Hammonds and Amanze Ngumezi have work to do but must be ready to react to Edwards’ lethal pick-and-roll game.

The Bulldogs are learning. While they struggled with The Citadel’s 3-point barrage Tuesday, they did cut their turnovers from 15 to 8 and added 18 assists. The one glaring weakness remains rebounding.

As for scoring, Edwards is proving he can give provide that for the Bulldogs when needed. But whether it’s 13 or 30 points, he wants to get his teammates involved. And he wants to win.

“It’s about keeping my teammates in the game,” Edwards said with a grin. “I love my teammates, and I love seeing everybody happy.”

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