ASU Basketball: Relentless – Rob Edwards’ back was no match for his grit

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - DECEMBRER 10: Rob Edwards #3 of the Cleveland State Vikings drives to the basket around Carsen Edwards #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena on December 10, 2016 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - DECEMBRER 10: Rob Edwards #3 of the Cleveland State Vikings drives to the basket around Carsen Edwards #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena on December 10, 2016 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Over the last nine games, redshirt junior guard Rob Edwards has averaged 12.2 points per game and become a staple in ASU basketball’s lineup.

Just over a month ago, Rob Edwards‘ spot in Arizona State’s lineup was questioned by many. As he returned from a back injury that kept him out for several games, the guard went scoreless in back-to-back outings.

In those contests, against Nevada and Georgia, Edwards shot 0-of-11 from the field and looked out of sorts on both ends. In particular, he lacked a quick first step and jump shot that helped him stand out at Cleveland State.

During one of the most frustrating periods of Edwards’ collegiate career, he sought motivation. That came in the form of literature.

Searching for inspiration, Edwards read Tim Grover’s “Relentless,” which educates readers on how some of basketball’s all-time greats handled adversity.

“(It was) about how Kobe (Bryant), Dwyane Wade and (Michael) Jordan were injured, and they just kept battling through no matter what,” Edwards said. “They didn’t think about it like that; they just used instincts.”

Whether it was reading or just more practice, something clicked. The book’s title personifies his recent performance – relentless.

Since then, Edwards is averaging 12.2 points per game, reaching double figures in seven of ASU’s nine games. Coming off the bench, he tallied and led the Sun Devils in scoring with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including game-clinching free throws, in their 80-76 win over then-No. 1 Kansas.

Edwards said his focus helped him return to form.

“I really locked in on what I needed to do,” Edwards said. “Just going off of instincts instead of trying to overcomplicate things.”

The 2018-19 season marks Edwards’ first year of eligibility in an Arizona State uniform. Before his arrival in the valley, Edwards played for a Horizon League team, Cleveland State.

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In two seasons with the Vikings, Edwards was excellent. He was named Horizon League All-Freshman in his first year and followed that up averaging 16.5 points per game as a sophomore.

Per NCAA transfer rules, Edwards was required to sit out the 2017-18 season. That long year was preparation for the next step of his career.

So far, most of his numbers are lower than they were at Cleveland State. The redshirt junior guard is averaging 10.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, both of which figures are career-lows.

Now almost 1,750 miles from his first university, Edwards admitted that the increased skill level of his teammates and opponents in the Pac-12 has factored into the decrease in his statistics.

“It’s being able to play with guys that are really good as well, instead of just playing with guys that aren’t as talented,” Edwards said. “Here, we got bigger guys that can shoot, down low guys, more athletic guys and point guards that are explosive, just stuff like that.”

While Edwards no longer has to carry as sizable of a load, his role remains the same.

“Overall, I would just say it didn’t really change much,” Edwards said. “I still look at myself as a scorer who shoots the ball well while being a good defender.”

Though his points and assists are down from what they were at Cleveland State, Edwards has actually improved at another area: 3-point shooting. His 42.4 percent clip from beyond the arc is a career-high as well as the highest on the team for players averaging more than 10 minutes per game.

During the offseason, Edwards keyed in on becoming a better shooter. It was actually at head coach Bobby Hurley‘s request, according to Edwards.

“I really take shooting serious because that’s what coach told me to look at over the summer,” Edwards said. “He wanted me to be a better knock-down shooter and help the team doing that.”

Opposed to some of the bigger, more physical players on the roster, Edwards is most effective from the perimeter. His teammates’ versatility in the paint and his precision from long range makes it hard to defend.

“We got the athletic guys who like to get to the rim in finish, so I just like to be different and have that perimeter effect on other teams so nobody can just pack us in,” Edwards said.

With two years of experience already under his belt entering the season, Edwards is among the team’s most tested players. Remy Martin, ASU’s typical starting point guard, said Edwards’ addition to the roster provides much-needed talent and leadership to the squad.

“He helps us in so many ways, and he’s just a great leader and person, on and off the court,” Martin said. “He stretches the floor out. Every time I need something, he’s always there, especially with a bucket.”

Over the past few weeks, one thing has become clear — Edwards will be a key contributor for the remainder of his days sporting the maroon and gold. He has started the last five games for ASU and been exceptional while doing so.

But there’s always room for improvement.

Going forward, Edwards said he hopes to become stronger, both mentally and physically, so he can become more of a force in the paint.

“(I’m) trying to disregard my back injury and not think about it as much, but I feel like I’m getting more comfortable,” Edwards said. “Just pushing through and being more comfortable.

“Trying to get to the hole, get a lot of contact; not just settle from the three-point line.”

Next. ASU Basketball: Looking back at the last two LA road trips. dark

One thing is certain. If Edwards thinks he can improve, his approach to do so will be relentless.

All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.