Top Recruit Joyce Edwards Looks Forward to Challenge of USA U16 Trials
The 15-year-old is expected to be one of the top players in the Class of 2024.
When you are 15 years old and already have the tag as the nation’s best girls basketball player in the Class of 2024, finding competition to match your skill level can be tough.
Sure, there might be another player in your region you go up against every so often, but when you are 6-foot-2 — head and shoulders above the others in size (literally) — those challenges are rare.
That is just one of the reasons Joyce Edwards was looking forward to her first USA Basketball experience as one of 34 invitees at the USA U16 National Team trials from June 13-16 at Indianapolis. From there, 12 players will be selected to play in the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship at Santiago, Chile, which is scheduled for Aug. 16-22.
“It’s a little of both (scary and exciting),” Edwards said of the trials. “There’s so much talent. To be part of it is nice, but everybody’s the best and will have a little bit of selfishness. Everybody is going to be good at everything. It’s going to be hard to showcase your talent, because everybody is so good.”
It isn’t hard to see why Edwards has ascended to the top of her class.
Even though she just wrapped up her freshman year, Edwards has three varsity seasons at Camden (South Carolina) High School under her belt. This past season, she averaged 26.0 points, 14.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 5.7 steals and 2.1 blocks per game to earn state 3A Co-Player of the Year honors with another U16 invitee, Milaysia Fulwiley of Keenan, who was named the state’s top player the previous season. Edwards earned all-state first team honors as an eighth grader, averaging 21.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 4.1 steals and 3.7 blocks per game. As a seventh grader, she averaged 13.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.4 blocks.
All of that early playing time and production made her the quickest player in school history to reach 1,000 career points, a mark she hit as part of a 44-point game in December.
Still, she knows her game has room to improve. And what was she emphasizing in preparation for the U16 trials?
“Mostly fundamentals,” Edwards said. “We’re working on jump shots, we’re working on drives, making my layups, finishing around the rim with contact, free throws, my 3-point shot and midrange.”
Developing an all-around game makes sense given that her favorite player is Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, who uses his lanky 6-foot-10 frame to make a difference.
“I love the way he plays,” Edwards said. “I like how at his size … he plays exactly like a guard. He has the best contested jump shot in the NBA.”
As one might expect, recruiters have been knocking on Edwards’ door the last couple years, and she already holds several big offers, including her home state program, the University of South Carolina, whose coach, Dawn Staley, will coach the Olympic team in Tokyo this summer.
“I’d say phone calls,” Edwards said of the craziest aspect of recruiting. “I do so much, so it’s hard to make the time and stay on top of everything and make sure I’m getting a relationship with everybody.”
While she knows she doesn’t have a spot locked up on the USA’s 12-player roster for the FIBA Americas U16 Championship, Edwards was confident going into the trials, yet also aware that she will be tested.
“Of course, most definitely,” Edwards said of knowing she has a target on her back. “Because I know if somebody was No. 1 above me, I would definitely try to go at them. But there’s nothing wrong with that. I just have to stand my ground and do what I do.”
One player who Edwards is looking forward to sharing the court with is Fulwiley, whom she shared the South Carolina 3A Player of the Year honor with this season. Keenan, where Fulwiley plays, is just down the road from Camden in Columbia. Fulwiley, a 5-foot-7 guard who is the No. 3 player nationally in the Class of 2023, averaged 25.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 5.2 steals in leading Keenan to the 3A state championship. Despite being so close, Camden and Keenan were on opposite sides of the state bracket, but Edwards is hoping the two teams will play or scrimmage next season.
“Only because we’re both from South Carolina,” Edwards said of why she wants to play with Fulwiley. “I’ve played with her a little bit. She’s a good player. She’s just a beast. Her mentality, she’s not selfish at all, and I just like the way she plays.”