After Journey From the Alabama Projects to Seton Hall, Fuquan Edwin’s Career Comes to a Close
NEW YORK — The first time I covered Fuquan Edwin, he was a long, athletic freak of a freshman forward at Paterson (N.J.) Catholic.
He couldn’t really dribble, shoot or create his own shot.
But he was a 6-foot-6 rebounding machine who scored a lot on layups and putbacks for a team loaded with Division 1 prospects.
He came out of the tough Alabama projects in Paterson, where the police once roared into his home in full armor looking for someone — and ended up making everyone get on the ground because they thought the TV remote his uncle was holding was a gun.
“I was more of a garbage player back then, just staying on the baseline and I think I developed myself into a good player and I’m still developing,” Edwin recalled late Friday night. “I don’t think I accomplished where I want to be at, and every day I’m just going to work hard to get there.”
Wearing a T-shirt and sweatpants, Edwin was sitting on a folding chair inside the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden after he had likely played the last game of his college career, furiously going for 20 points in an 80-74 loss to Providence in the Big East semifinals despite a sore thumb.
“I’m very sad,” said Edwin, recently honored as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. “I wish we could have pulled through with the win. It would have been good playing in the championship game. I just want to give credit to our effort.”
There will be no magical run to the NCAA Tournament for Edwin in his senior year, and likely no spot in the NIT, either. Head coach Kevin Willard said his team wouldn’t play in any other postseason tournaments because he wants to focus on getting his guys healthy for the next stage of their lives.
“They’re good tournaments,” Willard said. “They’re well run, but right now with my seniors where they are, getting him healthy is my No. 1 [priority].”
Edwin, the last remaining tie to former coach Bobby Gonzalez, understands that his college career is now over.
“It definitely did hit me,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotions running through my body right now.”
Still, his legacy and imprint on the program remain with the younger players.
“Fuquan’s big,” redshirt sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs said. “I think without Fuquan we don’t get the recruits that we do, we’re not where we are today. The fact that we beat Villanova, the fact that the program is starting to become a household name, he’s the main contributor to that.”
Gibbs said Edwin’s evolution as a player impacted recruits from himself to the incoming five-man class highlighted by McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Whitehead.
“I think the way that he’s grown overall from coming out of Paterson Catholic and only being able to drive to the basket,” Gibbs said. “He’s developed his game to where he can shoot, he’s a great defensive presence and he’s an NBA type of guy. The fact that he’s succeeded like that, I think recruits are looking at him.”
Edwin said he’s tried to talk to recruits whenever they are on campus, letting them know it’s a family environment under Willard.
“When I saw them around campus or just around the games, I would talk to them as far as how Willard was developing guys,” he said. “Coach is like a father figure, he takes care of all us well.”
Edwin is projected as late second-round pick in the NBA Draft. DraftExpress.com has him going No. 58 overall.
“It means a lot to me just knowing that all my hard work is paying off,” Edwin said. “Everyone is starting to see my potential and everything like that.
“I’m going to just let this [loss] fall off for two or three days, rest my body and just focus on what’s next for me.”
For a kid from a real tough spot in Paterson, the road ahead is now wide open for Fuquan Edwin.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.