Is Brandon Edwards the most improved player in the Sun Belt this season? The UT Arlington forward has seen a tremendous spike in his numbers this season, meaning his offseason training worked as hoped.
Edwards has already witnessed an increase in minutes due to the departure of three starters from the Mavericks' 2012-13 campaign. This season he is getting an extra 10 minutes per game, which naturally leads to a higher point total. Do the extra minutes account for his jump from 7.8 points per game to 19.3?
A little, but no, and here’s why.
One of the things Edwards worked hard on was his long-distance shot selection. Last season he shot 24 percent from behind the arc, but has converted 33.3 percent of his attempts during this season’s first 12 games. The fact that Edwards can be a reasonable threat from behind the arc, means that other things will open up for him inside.
UT Arlington head coach Scott Cross asks his players to shoot 10,000 shots per month during the summer offseason period, Edwards took that task a little farther.
"Instead of shooting 10,000 shots I tried to make 10,000 shots a month,” said Edwards. “So I've been at the gym a lot trying to get better."
Sure, his field goal percentage is down from 58.5 percent to 53.2, but don’t mistake that for a major drop off. He still ranks eighth in the conference shooting percentage, and as he takes more shots he'll make more. It's very easy for Edwards, and the Mavericks, to give up a small bit of accuracy for an outpouring of buckets.
Another big improvement Edwards has made is from the free throw line. He converted 68.5 percent of his attempts last season, but is ranked fourth in the conference this season with an 83.1 percent conversion rate. Making the most of free points is a good way to help your team and help your stats; something Edwards has done a lot this season.
Edwards’ giant leap forward this season isn’t relegated to just the offensive side of the floor, even though he spent countless hours working with past UT Arlington hoopsters to better his shot.
"I just wanted to improve my shot," said Edwards. "I got to work with some of the alumni. We were at the gym and they were trying to help me get a pro-style shot. That has really helped me get some easy shots and easy buckets.”
He’s making his presence felt on defense too.
He ranks second in the conference with 10 rebounds per game, up from 7.3 last season. Edwards is fourth in the nation with 4.7 offensive rebounds per game, which is great for a team that needs the all the second chances it can get.
His blocks have also increased from .9 per game to 1.7, which is third in the conference. Edwards is a force underneath the basket, not only on the glass but affecting shots as they’re attempted as well.
Edwards has improved his game dramatically from a year ago. With a 5-7 record UT Arlington still has a ways to go, but it has a solid player that can be a focal point in Edwards.
“I think it was motivation,” Edwards said as a reason behind all the hard work over the summer. “I want to leave a lasting memory with the organization and my teammates. So, yeah, motivation to leave something behind me here.”
The Mavericks have played one of the tougher non-conference schedules in the Sun Belt and with no clear No. 1 in the conference, this team and Edwards could have a chance at an NCAA tournament berth.