Player of the Year: Edwards did it all for OHS
By J. Daniel Pearson
For the News-Gazette
Osceola Kowboys Coach Nate Alexander calls Cortez Edwards his most versatile and consistent player.
When you add that to the fact that Osceola won 19 games, captured the district title and made it to the regional playoffs, it was enough of a reason to select Edwards as the Osceola News-Gazette’s Male Basketball Player of the Year, an honor he shares with Gateway star Felix Gonzalez.
“He is without question one of the hardest-working players I have ever been around,” Alexander said. “Starting from the end of last season he was always in the gym, working on his shooting and conditioning even before the school day started. A lot of coaches use the term ‘gym rat’ and a lot of guys say they love to play basketball, but Cortez is a different breed. He says it and he lives it.”
Playing on a team featuring a balanced offensive attack, Edwards averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 assists per game. He also grabbed 8.4 rebounds, averaged 3.2 steals and had an impressive 3.7 blocks per game despite his modest 6-1 stature. In fact, Alexander had no qualms about using him at all five positions, including center.
“I actually like it when they let me play in the post,” Edwards said. “I feel I am quick enough and athletic enough to compete with taller players. It seems I have a knack of being able to get a steal or block down low.”
Although Osceola had a solid season, Edwards said he was far from pleased with his own game or the how the season ended – an 86-85 first-round playoff loss to Haines City.
“Overall, I would give us a ‘B,’” Edwards said. “It was a good season for the team. But at the same time, you never want the season to end and you don’t want it to end against a team you feel you should have beaten. Our biggest problem this year was we never seemed able to step up and compete with the better teams, even though a lot of times I felt we have every bit as much talent on the floor as they did.”
Still, the Kowboys and Edwards have a lot to be proud of. Osceola finished with a 19-8 record, went 11-1 in 7A District 5 and won the Great Florida Shootout. Edwards’ offense and defense played a key role in a 74-62 win over arch-rival Gateway in Shootout championship game, and that led to him earning MVP honors for the prestigious tournament.
“That was probably my favorite moment of the season,” Edwards said. “Winning the Shootout and then being fortunate enough to earn MVP honors really meant a lot to me.”
Coach Alexander said that when things got tough, Edwards responded to the challenge.
“Without question he was a game changer for us,” Alexander said. “When we needed a basket, a rebound, a steal or a blocked shot, Cortez was there for us.”
The good news for the Kowboys is that Edwards is only a junior and he has big plans for his senior season.
Currently playing AAU ball for the Showtown Ballers, Edwards said he is working on “getting stronger” on defense and being “more aggressive” on both ends of the court.
It is something he feels he needs to do to become a better player.
“For as good as he played this year, he is going to be even better next year. I believe he is just beginning to scratch the surface of his talent. He needs to put on some muscle and work on his ball handling skills, but he definitely has the ability to play at the next level. I really believe the sky is the limit for him,” Alexander said.
Cortez Edwards was effective at all positions for the Kowboys.