Despite no on-campus visits being allowed due to the coronavirus pandemic, JMU men’s basketball head coach Mark Byington continues to form the roster that’ll help open the new Atlantic Union Bank Center in the fall.
Terrence Edwards Jr., a 6-foot-6-inch small forward from Tucker, Georgia, announced his verbal commitment to playing for the Dukes on Sunday. He’s the third commit coming from high school and is set to feature on a roster that’s going through major turnover.
His recruitment — like many current high school seniors — was different. No recruiting class has had to adjust to a pandemic, but with the coronavirus causing states to shut down, the NCAA had to make restrictions as well, including a recruiting dead period that’ll last to at least June 30.
“Before quarantining, I was getting a lot of high-major looks,” Edwards Jr. said. “I was going to go on an official visit to South Carolina and I went on a visit to Georgia, and also I had set a date for East Tennessee State [for an] official [visit], ECU also. But, when the quarantine started, all the schools kind of fell offboard.”
Along with the high-major and Power-5 interest, CAA rivals Drexel and Hofstra vied for Edwards Jr.’s commitment, as well as Byington’s former team Georgia Southern. However, Edwards Jr. said new JMU assistant coach Andrew Wilson stuck out to him and was instrumental in his recruiting process. Wilson coached alongside Byington at Georgia Southern, helping the Eagles to three consecutive 20-win seasons.
“Georgia Southern was one of the first schools that ever offered me in the summer,” Edwards Jr. said. “[Wilson] was at my school, I’ve seen coach Wilson’s face more than any other college coach. He called me out of nowhere and told me he was at JMU, so we picked back up where we left off.”
Edwars Jr. said Wilson presented JMU as a better opportunity both on and off the court, citing the school’s academic reputation. While he wasn’t able to physically visit Harrisonburg, Edwards Jr. took a virtual tour of campus and concluded it was the right fit for him.
While he’s excited to arrive in Harrisonburg and get to know the community, Edwards Jr. said he sees his style of play fitting in Byington’s brand of basketball, furthering his desire to bring a winning culture back to JMU men’s basketball.
The Georgia native’s long-term goals include making it to the NBA but he wants to win in college doing so. He said rising senior guard Matt Lewis declaring for the NBA Draft is encouraging to him, despite lackluster results in past seasons.
“I want to get to the NBA from a mid-major, from JMU,” Edwards Jr. said. “I wanna go to the league and let everybody know I grinded for it, it wasn’t handed to me. Or just go anywhere and play professionally.”
For the upcoming season, JMU will have opportunities to present itself on the national scene and get attention from professional scouts. The Dukes will host defending national champions Virginia on Nov. 19, a chance players will look at as program-defining. The Cavaliers and JMU met last season, with U. Va winning 65-34.
“We all get to prove ourselves,” Edwards Jr. said. “Pretty sure everybody wants to step up and try to win that game. [We want to] win all the games, but especially that game. It’s a higher school, same state, it’s kind of like you get bragging rights.”
While months away from the season tipping off, the coronavirus pandemic will determine how the season is played. In front of fans or not, it’s a waiting game that players and coaches are eager to find out so that a concrete plan can be laid out and the smallest bit of normalcy can return to college sports.
But, despite the uncertainty, Edwards Jr. is determined to arrive in Harrisonburg to rejuvenate a program that went 43-85 since 2016. His message for fans is clear, and the team is ready to help fulfill the goal.
“We’re not coming there to lose,” Edwards Jr. said. “We’re coming there to win.”
Contact Noah Ziegler at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.