All-Area: Air Darius: Southern Nash's Edmundson was team's secret weapon

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Sports Writer

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The red curtains that hung behind Darius Edmundson were symbolic. He was about to put on a show.

The Southern Nash basketball player hopped onto the stage in the school’s gymnasium, grabbed a basketball, then leapt off the platform. A camera caught it all, and he would climb up again and again for this photoshoot, creating different poses on the way down.

Earlier, Edmundson reenacted a few dunks which brought back memories of the thunderous slam he unleashed on Wilson Hunt in the second round of the Class 3-A playoffs this season.

“That was probably my best moment ever,” Edmundson said this past week.

Edmundson, the Telegram’s boys’ basketball player of the year, guided the Firebirds to a 16-10 record and into the third round of the playoffs. The senior posted team highs in points (15.9), rebounds (8.7) and steals (2.1) per game, and was often able to provide much-needed athleticism on the defensive end.

In the final game of the season, a loss to Durham Hillside, Edmundson looked like one of the few players that could run the floor with the up-tempo and athletic 28-2 Hornets. Yet while the outgoing senior could often play above the rim and slash to the basket at will, he had to be a more rounded player for it to mean anything.

“When I first started playing my freshman year I relied on my athleticism to do everything,” Edmundson said. “I focused on becoming a better shooter my sophomore year because I knew that I needed to add that to my game.

“But my junior year I got hurt and missed some time and I lost my shot. I knew my senior year I needed to bring it back. I had to learn how to shoot again.”

Across 24 games this season, Edmundson was held to scoring in single digits four times. He scored at least 20 points in seven games, and added a 33-point output in a game against Wilson Beddingfield.

His noticeable leap in both ability and responsibility was felt around the Big East Conference, and was named the conference’s player of the year.

“Just having a bigger role and being a senior really changes everything,” he said. “It’s different from the past years because you have a lot more on your shoulders, and you know that you have to give 110 percent. You start to realize that every game can be your last game.”

In a recent interview, Edmundson talked about choosing to play football over basketball in college, his memories of the rivalry with Northern Nash, and his favorite basketball player as part of the Telegram’s All-Area series.

You recently committed to play football at Louisburg College. How did you decide to pick football over basketball?

It was tough, man. Basketball was my first love. It always has been and still will be, but I know that in my head if I want to get a Division I scholarship I knew that football was the choice.

Ultimately you thought you were a better fit for football at the next level?

Yeah. It’s best for my athleticism like guarding wide receivers or reacting to something. It’s a better fit for me because I know in basketball I’m undersized. (He is 6-foot-1). I got to the realization that there’s a million kids with the same height and athleticism as me in basketball. In football, my size isn’t a disadvantage.

What is it about basketball that made it your first love?

Just the competition. You’re always going against someone. You think back on guys you played against, and it’s a mindset that you have to love. And it’s really, really fun.

Speaking of competition, what was it like playing Northern Nash when a team like that doesn’t lose in conference?

Well, you’re going to have to fight for your points. Especially against Northern. I took those games personally because I never beat them my four years. And we knew that we could hang with Northern, it was just the fourth quarter when talent comes to play. We had plenty of talent, but we just didn’t have the height to get them.

What’s your favorite basketball memory?

That Hunt game. Everyone balled out. My best moment was probably that Hunt game, over all my four years, especially the last seconds when I got that dunk and the gym went crazy. That dunk, it really set the tone and said that nobody can mess around with us.

Is there a basketball player you model your game after?

Russell Westbrook. He has that mentality t go at everyone. For me, I knew I had this mentality that I can go at anybody. I don’t care who it is. That’s why my favorite player is Russ. I try to play like that. But he is 6-4, you know.

First team

Darius Edmundson, Southern Nash

Joseph Cherry-Blue, Northern Nash

Darquez Flowers, Northern nash

Samuel Benton, Rocky Mount Prep

Keishon Porter, SouthWest Edgecombe

Second team

Sam Page, Northern Nash

Davontae Wiggins, Northern Nash

Chris High, Nash Central

Javon Brinkley, Nash Central

Victor Ward, Jr., Rocky Mount High

Honorable mention

Artavius Allen, Southern Nash

Chris Allen, Southern Nash

Chason Royal, Southern Nash

Tarod Brown, Northern Nash

Avante Simmons, Nash Central

Trevor Batchelor, Rocky Mount Prep

Keeshawn Silver, Rocky Mount High

Jayden Lewis, SouthWest Edgecombe

Zay Mayo, SouthWest Edgecombe

Ke’Nazius Black, Tarboro

Caleb Whitley, Tarboro

Marvin Tucker, North Edgecombe

D’Shun Edwards, North Edgecombe

I’Jheaur Sharpe, North Edgecombe

Zach Warrick, Faith Christian