Archive for Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Former McLouth star finds passion in hoops

November 14, 2007

The Benedictine women's basketball team has a chart that sits in the locker room after every game.

The chart's message is straightforward: Think about the team before thinking about yourself.

"Coach (Chad Folsom) puts up stars for all of the players for rebounds, assists and steals," senior forward Courtney Edmonds said. "We don't have points up there."

In a sense, the chart represents a new lifestyle on the basketball court for Edmonds, who graduated from McLouth High in 2003 as the Bulldogs all-time leading scorer with 1,133 career points.

At McLouth, she was virtually the sole outlet for generating scoring. At Benedictine, Edmonds can look to five other seniors to solve any scoring problems.

She's found a home. But it's been quite the journey.

'All the wrong reasons'

Edmonds had no plans to attend Benedictine. Colleges actually recruited Edmonds more for her track and field skills than her basketball prowess.

"I didn't want to go to a smaller school," Edmonds said. "I wanted to go D-1. It didn't matter where. It wasn't a very prudent decision. It was for all the wrong reasons. But I wanted to do the big thing."

Kansas University gave her that chance. Edmonds accepted a track scholarship at KU as a 400- and 800-meter sprinter.

Since track's a spring sport, Edmonds said KU coaches wanted to keep her in shape during the fall. As a result, Edmonds trained with the KU cross country team. "Simple" was temporarily eliminated from Edmonds' vocabulary.

"They gave me all summer to work my way up to six miles per day," Edmonds said. "I hadn't had a lot of distance experience. The most I had ever run before KU was five miles, and I can count on one hand how much I did that in high school."

Edmonds topped off at four-and-a-half miles per day. She said coaches still encouraged her. She was only running distance to get in shape for track, they told her. In reality, though, Edmonds was discouraged.

"I went from being the big dog around home to picking up dust from the other runners," Edmonds said.

She ran so much, she developed tendonitis. Eventually, she tore her left Achilles tendon. Edmonds was forced to take a redshirt and didn't compete in any outdoor meets. Then, it hit Edmonds: She wasn't doing what she wanted to do.

"I didn't really like running that much," Edmonds said. "It's just that I was good at it. I did it because I wanted to be part of the KU tradition."

Quoth the Raven: Forevermore

Edmonds admitted she had always had more passion for basketball than track. She hadn't picked up a basketball in more than a year, though.

Folsom actually recruited Edmonds when she was a senior at McLouth. A year later -- in the summer of 2004 -- he received a phone call. It was from Edmonds.

"She said she missed basketball," Folsom said. "She wanted to come back and try that out. We welcomed her with open arms."

Edmonds received an athletic scholarship at Benedictine. She still had four years of collegiate eligibility at Benedictine after she transferred from KU. She's playing in her final season with the Ravens this winter.

"Rebounding is key for us, and she has the ability to rebound at both ends," Folsom said of the 5-foot-10 Edmonds. "She also has the ability to score and shoot the three if they don't close out on her. If they do, she can drive by people and finish in traffic. Or she could stop and pull up."

Edmonds averaged 8.2 points per game her freshman year, 4.1 her sophomore year and 9.5 her junior year.

Folsom ignited a defensive spark in Edmonds that wasn't present before she played for him. Benedictine is off to a 4-0 start. Edmonds' most memorable play?

"At the very end of a play on defense, I got a five-second call on the girl I was guarding," Edmonds said. "That was by far the most gratifying thing. We've been trained to go crazy when that happens. We're the annoying ones. Other teams despise our vocal abilities."

Expectations are high for this year's Ravens. Two years ago, they went 30-5 and reached the Elite 8 of the NAIA Division II Tournament. Benedictine has six seniors, most of whom remember what the Elite 8 appearance felt like. Edmonds said this year's team was the most talented since she'd been there.

"I just love the game," Edmonds said. "You know I'm always giving 110 percent. It's my job -- and I love it."

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