Arizona Daily Wildcat November 24, 1997
Eu'Geeeeeeene' - Edgerson confident about expanded role this season
It's arguably the most memorable moment of the 1997 NCAA Tournament.
UA's Eugene Edgerson, a freshman, going back door and taking a no-look pass from Mike Bibby, another freshman, and throwing down a thunderous, two-handed dunk on Kansas junior All-American Raef LaFrentz.
"It was with authority," Arizona assistant coach Phil Johnson said. "It was a pretty big-time play. If a basket ever counted for more than two points, it should have been that one."
Edgerson's family and friends back home in Louisiana couldn't believe it.
"I went home and they were like, 'Damn Gene, you dunked on Raef LaFrentz,'" Edgerson said. "I was like, 'What, you don't expect that?' I'm capable of anything at anytime."
Confidence is not something Eugene Edgerson has a problem with. If anything, he's got plenty to go around.
"Gene's never really had a lack of confidence," Johnson said.
Put that in the "understatement of the year" file.
"If you play with no confidence, you've lost," Edgerson said. "If you think that the other player is better than you, you've lost."
And Edgerson does not take losing lightly. He even grew an out-of-control afro just to win a bet. He shaved his head bald during his freshman year, but for a time this fall, he sported an afro that would have made Linc on "The Mod Squad" proud.
"It all started with a bet (UA guard Jason Terry) and I made in Australia," Edgerson said. "I knew he'd shave his head first. I don't mind looking bad, but JT is a pretty boy. He still hasn't paid me, though."
Whether or not Terry ever pays him is a moot point now. The afro is gone. But Arizona fans will probably continue to cheer Edgerson on with the fevor they did last season.
The McKale Center fans appreciate scrappy play and Edgerson is a fall-on-the-floor, grab-the-ball-at-all-costs type of player. And the crowd loves him for it.
"It's good when you're doing the little things and people appreciate it," Edgerson said. "Defense wins championships. Look at Kentucky, when they were champions they did it with defense. You can score 80 points a game, but if you can't stop a team, they'l l beat you 81 to 80."
Speaking of scoring, Gene, how's the offense?
"The offense will take care of itself. I've been hitting the weights real hard and (UA guard) Josh Pastner has been helping me with my shooting," Edgerson said. "If I get my offense together, I think I'll be a complete player."
There's that confidence thing again.
Fans of the Kentucky Wildcats probably don't want to hear what he has to say about the tournament championship game.
"People thought we won by luck. We destroyed Kentucky," Edgerson said. "We outlasted them and there's no reason for us not to be able to win it again this year unless we give it away."
That may seem like a bad attitude waiting to happen, but Johnson said Edgerson is nothing but positives.
"When he was a freshman, he came in as an aggressive guy," Johnson said. "That's something we can't teach."
Edgerson is also always ready to offer his thoughts on the perceived lack of respect given the Wildcats in many polls. Even Sports Illustrated ranked Duke No. 1 over Arizona.
"That's ridiculous," Edgerson said. "If they were better than us they'd be wearing the ring I'm wearing right now. "And I'm looking forward to have my hands filled with rings."
He may also be looking forward to another chance at bringing the noise on LaFrentz, which he will get on Dec. 2 at the Great Eight Tournament in Chicago. If he does get the opening, one things for sure about Edgerson, Johnson said.
"He won't back down," he said. "And that's a trait we love."