GODFREY — Darrius Edwards was a dynamic scorer for the Alton Redbird boys' basketball team. Now he looks to do the same for the Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm.
Edwards inked a deal to play for the Blue Storm and head coach Jay Harrington on Wednesday morning at AHS.
Harrington, who already has Alton grad Detae McMurray in his back court, is stoked to add another talented Redbird hoopster.
“Him and Detae together, I'm going to have the Alton back court and I'm just as excited as I can be,” Harrington said.
Edwards is excited, too. Playing college basketball is a dream come true for him and SWIC looks to be a nice starting point to his collegiate career.
“It's very exciting to play at the next level,” Edwards said. “I know I'm going to miss high school, but everybody grows up. (At SWIC) it's the coaches, the players, the facilities, everything. They have a great style of coaching. I've been to plenty of games (to watch them).”
Harrington has used the Redbirds as a feeder program in recent history and he's had great success doing it. McMurray was all conference and all region as a freshman with the Blue Storm this season. Former AHS standouts JaQuail Townser and Tony Bradley have also played for Harrington.
Townser is now at Jacksonville State University in the Ohio Valley Conference and Bradley was a senior this season at the University of Cumberlands, a NAIA program.
Alton head coach Eric Smith thinks its a notch in the belt for the caliber of athletes Alton is producing.
“Good players are good players and there wouldn't be as much of a connection if (SWIC) didn't have any interest in coming down and finding kids that can play,” Smith said. “That's been the nice thing over the last few years, even the couple years before I got here, is some of those kids. There are kids here that are athletic and can play and have the right attitude and they go up there and have success. A lot of that is credit to coach Harrington and the way he runs his program and what he gets out of his kids and the expectations he has for them. For Darrius and any other kid that goes up there, that's good. They will know what they've got to do to be successful. That structure is good for any kid.”
Edwards said he chats with McMurray and Townser on a regular basis and Bradley on occasion about what being a part of the Blue Storm is all about.
“Me and Detae talk everyday,” Edwards said. “I talk to JaQuail Townser almost everyday and Tony sometimes. We're very good friends. They've told me it's a good experience and he's going to be hard on me, which I already know that.”
Edwards was a juggernaut for the Alton offense this season, leading the charge by averaging 13.1 points per game. He shot 55 percent from 2-point range and 44 percent from 3-point land.
His explosiveness to the basket may be his biggest asset, but Smith believes he will be able to do a lot of things on the offensive end at SWIC.
“He has an opportunity to do a lot of good things,” Smith said. “He's extremely athletic, he shoots the ball better than people give him credit for. There were some stretches this season where he torched the rim. We're excited to watch him grow and they are going to do some things to help get better offensively.
“Then defensively when he puts his mind to it he's one of the better defenders we've had the short time I've been here. He has the ability to do some really good things defensively.”
To get better at the next level Edwards thinks the structure of college will be a huge help.
“I need to play smarter and play at a higher level,” Edwards said. “A structured offense (will help), because in high school we're just out there having fun. We have some offense but it will be more of a structured offense.”
Harrington is just stoked to be adding Edwards' athleticism and explosiveness. Last season SWIC was 17-14 overall and fell in the Region 24 Tournament to Wabash Valley 63-62. Edwards offensive prowess will be a welcomed addition.
“Two things, he's so quick and he's such an athletic presence,” Harrington said. “I felt like he was such a good team leader and I just loved what I saw out of him and I thought Darrius got better at shooting the three all year.”
Edwards' ultimate goal is to have his time with the Blue Storm catapult him to a four-year university, just like it did Townser and Bradley and will likely do for McMurray. He's confident that can happen.
“This is a dream of mine and when I go to a four-year school it will be an even bigger dream,” Edwards said. “He's definitely the coach that's going to take me there.”
As for his time as a Redbird, he'll miss it immensely. He helped lead the Birds into the Class 4A sectional finals this past season and post a solid 27-5 mark, tying a school record for win.
“The fans, everything,” Edwards said. “There is nothing I'm not going to miss. I'm going to miss everything, the coaches, the players I played with. Everything is going to be new going into SWIC. I'll miss the excitement every game (at Alton). I love our Redbirds nest and I love all the people that came and supported us. It was just fun.”
As good as Edwards was on the court, Smith said admitted his lively and gregarious personality may be the hardest thing to replace and the biggest aspect he will miss.
“Basketball is fine, but we've talked about it with some of the other kids, he's got a great personality and he's fun to be around,” Smith said. “Every time I turn around there he is, he's always around. He came to the majority of the stuff we do during the year. It's been three years of being around each other all the time. Basketball, like I said is fine, but it's just more about the relationships with the kids.”