Brave New World Arizona's Eugene Edgerson is sitting out the season for a good reason

February 28, 2000

On Jan. 29, Arizona played at LSU in a game that the Wildcats
had scheduled as a homecoming for senior forward Eugene
Edgerson, a native of New Orleans. Edgerson, however, was back
in Tucson that day, taking the state certification exam for
teachers. At one point during the test Edgerson checked the
sports-update feature on his pager, only to discover that his
teammates were losing by 20 points. "I didn't believe it," he
says. "I figured the satellite people must be sending the wrong
signals." As it turned out, the only thing gone awry that day
was Arizona, which suffered its worst defeat in coach Lute
Olson's 17-year tenure, 86-60. "It was disturbing," Edgerson
says. "All my family and friends were there, and I wasn't. But I
was doing something I felt was more important."

This should have been Edgerson's senior season at Arizona, but
when he realized last spring that it was going to be impossible
for him to play basketball and complete the requirements of his
elementary education degree by graduation day, he decided to
redshirt and finish his playing career as a graduate student next
year. When informed of Edgerson's decision, Olson offered to
adjust the Wildcats' practice times, but Edgerson believed his
schedule would still be too cumbersome and held his ground. "When
Coach came to my home to recruit me, I told him I was going to
graduate in four years," he says. "I said it was going to happen,
and it's going to happen."

Everything about Edgerson is old school. A 6'6", 230-pound
scrapper who averaged 5.2 points and 4.8 rebounds as a junior,
Edgerson likes his sneakers old--he wore circa-1989 Nikes last
season--and his Afro high, and once he starts driving toward a
goal, he's awfully hard to stop.

He spent two days a week last fall observing at Elizabeth Borton
Primary Magnet School in Tucson, and this semester he's a
full-time student teacher for a kindergarten class there.
"They're like sponges," he says of his students. "You teach them
a song, they're singing it the whole day. You teach them how to
read, they want to pick up a book. They just really want to
learn."

Edgerson, who practices with the Wildcats a couple of days a
week, says there are times when he misses playing in games.
Arizona misses him, too. He would have been the only senior on
scholarship on a team that starts two freshmen and two
sophomores, and though the Wildcats were 23-4 through Sunday and
ranked No. 4 in the nation, Olson has had just seven scholarship
players at his disposal since 6'7" sophomore Richard Jefferson
broke a bone in his right foot on Jan. 8.

Still, Edgerson says he has never had a second thought about his
decision. He intends to pursue pro basketball, but even if his
on-court career takes off, it appears he'll have little trouble
staying grounded. "I've come across a lot of people who think
they're the greatest gift to the game of basketball, but they're
living in a fantasy world," he says. "I've always been told I
have to work for everything I get. This is the first year I
haven't been playing basketball competitively since I was eight
years old. It's weird in a sense, but I know I'm doing the right
thing."

--S.D.

COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT TROYANOS

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