Former Texas A&M guard David Edwards developed a court toughness playing pickup games while growing up in New York City, but he also had a warm personality the size of Texas.
Edwards, who was a three-year starter for the A&M men’s basketball team from 1991-94, died from the coronavirus Monday in his home town of New York.
The 5-foot-9 Edwards was remembered by former teammates for the big things he did on and off the court.
“Dave was a person you respected because he earned it,” former teammate Joe Wilbert said. “Dave was very close to me. He’d go with me to Bryan all the time. He had an open-door policy at my parents’ house and trust me, he took advantage of it all the time.”
After their playing days, Edwards would always ask Wilbert about his parents and family when they talked.
“He’d always say, ‘Man, thanks to your parents for taking me in,’” Wilbert said. “He was awesome.”
Edwards played at Georgetown for a season before transferring to A&M to play for Tony Barone. Edwards earned second-team All-Southwest Conference honors his first two seasons and was a first-teamer his last season. He made the league’s all-defensive team all three seasons. In 85 games with the Aggies, Edwards averaged 13.5 points, 7.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game.
“He was a great guy,” Wilbert said. “He was a great guy to me personally, and he was a great guy to my family, my mom, my father and my brothers and my sisters.”
Wilbert, who was an all-state player for Bryan, played two years at Tyler before transferring back home to play for the Aggies. Wilbert and Edwards played together during the 1993-94 season with Wilbert averaging a team-best 14.5 points per game followed by Edwards at 13.5. The team went 19-11, including 10-4 in the Southwest Conference to tie Texas Tech for second behind Texas (26-8, 12-2). After losing to Texas in the finals of the SWC tournament, the Aggies played in the National Invitation Tournament, losing in the first round at New Orleans 79-73 in overtime.
“David was an outstanding player who could do some incredible things with a basketball, but what I remember most is how he could light up a room with his smile and personality,” said Colin Killian, former A&M men’s basketball communications director.
During the 1993-1994 season, Edwards led the SWC with 265 assists (8.8 per game), which is still a school record. That also ranked third in the nation behind Marquette’s Tony Miller and California’s Jason Kidd. Edwards’ 602 career assists also is a school record.
“Dave and I used to compete for who would have the most assists each game between him and I,” said former A&M women’s guard Lisa Branch, who like Edwards was relatively short at 5-4. “He taught me how to compete in everything, not just in basketball. He called me ‘Half Pint’ because of my height, and I called him ‘Half Pint’ because he wasn’t much taller than me. He will be missed.”
Edwards had 15 assists against TCU on Jan. 25, 1994, which tied the school record set by Tony Milton against Marshall on Dec. 7, 1989. That record was matched by Kyle Kessel against TCU on Feb. 26, 1996, and again by Acie Law IV against Texas on Feb. 5, 2007. Edwards twice had 14 assists, which is tied for fifth most in a game in school history. He did it against TCU on Feb. 20, 1993, and against SMU on March 10, 1994.
Edwards also had nine steals against Prairie View A&M on Nov. 25, 1991, to tie the school record set by Darryl McDonald against Lehigh on Dec. 29, 1986. That’s still a school record.
“He was a great guy off the court,” Wilbert said. “He was one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met in my life. He had that New York mentality, a toughness. Then on the court, his stats speak for themselves. He’d always have so many points, so many rebounds, so many assists and so many steals. His stats spoke to his on-court play, but off the court he was awesome. He was a guy you could depend on. He was a guy that you knew at the end of the day he had your best interest at heart.”
Edwards seemingly had helped Barone turn the corner in his third season at A&M with the NIT appearance, but that was Barone’s only winning season in seven.
Former teammates took to Twitter late Monday to pay their respects to Edwards, who had been in intensive care.
“Never in a million years would I have even imagined my backcourt teammate would go before his time,” said former teammate and four-year letterman Charles Henderson (1991-94) on Facebook. “I just got the news that Dave Edwards passed away. For those that have been praying for him, he is now in a better place.
“This coronavirus has hit me in the heart. We need to find a vaccine. Dave was one of the fiercest competitors and best point guards that I’ve ever met. Nearly unstoppable. [I] learned how to become tough as nails competing against him every day and shaking off adversity. Will also remember the 4 years we were together after you transferred from Georgetown to Texas A&M. RIP Dave Boogie!!!! #NYNY #JamaicaQueens #RuckerPark”
A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said in a press release that anytime the Aggies lose a family member it hurts, but “hearing from his friends this was coronavirus related really hits close to home.”
Edwards played through pain at A&M.
“Dave was such a competitor,” former A&M men’s basketball trainer Mike “Radar” Ricke said. “We beat VCU at their place in triple OT and Dave took an elbow to his head late in the game. He would not come out and after the game we ended up having to suture him. He was such an awesome passer. If you were on the floor you better be ready, because he would fire a pass to you and it had some mustard on it.”
John Thornton, who played and coached at A&M, said he would have loved to play with or coach Edwards.
“Those that were in the stands will remember Dave as a fierce competitor with over the top confidence that was contagious,” Thornton said. “Quite a personality that took stuffing a stat sheet to another level. He loved basketball and was one of the best point guards we have had. More importantly, he was a person you loved to see coming, because he was special and fun to be around.”