Late-bloomer Edwards is a force for GW

Dayton had possession in the final seconds of Saturday’s game, just two points behind, charging down the court with potential to tie – or win – the game with its next basket. GW senior center Jabari Edwards wasn’t worried. He knew what the Flyers were going to do next.

“I knew what was going to happen, I knew the guy was going to drive to the basket,” Edwards said. “The point guard for Dayton, his game is really attacking the basket. And once we saw him come off the screen, I knew he was… I knew somebody was going to try to go up and get a foul. I just stood straight up, I jumped and got the block.”

Edwards slammed down the shot attempt, his fifth block of the night, sending the ball careening to the court. His play cemented GW’s victory and was a perfect way to cap off Senior Day for Edwards and his teammate, center Joseph Katuka. Prior to the game, Edwards was honored on the court as part of the Senior Day festivities, joined by his mother, sister and aunt, as well as three friends: former men’s basketball guard Travis King, former GW basketball manager Darcy Jones and frequent Colonials ball boy Jeremy Wayne.

The game-ending block, Edwards’ fifth of the game, was a fitting end to a late-season resurgence for the senior after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and missing the bulk of the team’s games early in the season. Since making his return, Edwards has been a dominant force underneath the basket on defense for the Colonials.

When he is on the floor, Edwards blocks 21.2 percent of opponents’ two-point attempts, a full three percentage points better than the national leader in the category, but because Edwards has not played in more than 40 percent of the team’s minutes this season, he is not eligible to rank amongst the national leaders in any statistical category. Among players who have played in at least 15 games, Edwards is fourth in the country in blocks per 40 minutes with 6.2.

“I think it starts in practice, what coach tells us always helps, and I just use my athleticism to get over and block shots,” Edwards said, adding, “That’s what I do best.”

This season, Edwards leads the team in blocked shots with 35 rejections. He’s put up at least four blocks in five out of the last six games, including a career-high six against La Salle. It was the most blocks by a Colonial in a single game since November 8, 2008, when former Colonial Damian Hollis recorded five against Binghamton.

His increased defensive presence has been invaluable for GW, contributing both to creating more offensive opportunities for the Colonials and shutting down their opponents in the paint. It’s a role Edwards’ teammates and coaches appreciate, earning him a standing ovation from head coach Karl Hobbs, junior guard Tony Taylor and junior forward Aaron Ware as Edwards arrived late to the press conference Saturday after GW’s 60-58 win.

“We’re pressing more, we’re putting more pressure on the ball, we’re almost forcing teams to drive the ball to the basket. And as you can see, the guys have so much confidence, they know that when a guy goes by them, they know that [senior center] Joe [Katuka] [and] Jabari are going to be there,” Hobbs said. “It’s really allowing us to pressure teams more.”

As the Colonials head into Atlantic 10 championship play, they’ll continue to lean on Edwards defensively. It’s a challenge he welcomes, a chance to finish his senior season in a commanding role, the same way he finished his regular season play Saturday.

“It felt great, I really felt like I was a part of college basketball,” Edwards said. “I’ve made a lot of good friends since I’ve been here, met a lot of people at the University, and it was good to really go out the right way.”

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