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Playing for keeps

By Brian Barker
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 23, 1999
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Eugene Edgerson is the man.

Not because his face and sculpted hair adorn major sports magazines on a monthly basis.

Not because his playing style demonstrates more heart then the entire New York Knicks team.

And not because he plays basketball for the University of Arizona.

He has knowledge and wisdom that is rarely seen anymore in the inflated world of college basketball.

How refreshing.

Edgerson said yesterday he may sit out next season to finish his education degree because teaching may be the best option for his future.

The UA men's basketball team will be hurt if Edgerson sits out the season to graduate. Yet the message this gesture resonates is far more important than his spot on the McKale Center floor.

It says that there are basketball players who are not blinded by the stars in their eyes for the NBA.

It says that sometimes, even today, players come to universities to learn.

For many fans and players alike, sitting out a season to concentrate on a degree is unthinkable. The big money is in basketball, no doubt, but Edgerson knows his money could be in the NBA - or the CBA - or in Europe.

Or not at all.

And that is why this move is so impressive. Edgerson is an endangered species.

The last thing many college players will utter is that there might be a chance they won't make it to the big show. Edgerson is a fine college basketball player. He certainly has the heart to make it to the NBA.

But what if the scouts don't notice what the fans already know?

Then, sadly, they'll be another UA alum whose next opponent is the Washington Generals.

Edgerson does not belong on that floor. I'll take him in a classroom.

Just the fact that he is a teaching major should be enough for UA fans to squeeze out a tear of pride. This is not a do-it-yourself degree, this is a major many bypass because of the amount of work involved.

The team and its fans may miss the all-out play of Edgerson. Journalists will miss his interviews after games. But if that's what he thinks is the best decision, applaud it - he'll be back in a year.

UA head coach Lute Olson and his assistants may now be retreating to the war room to brainstorm ways of convincing Edgerson to reconsider his decision. That would be a mistake.

In some arenas, coaches are still considered more than just educators of a game. One of their players has made a sensible, realistic life decision about his future.

Don't discourage that.

Brian Barker is a senior majoring in journalism and can be reached at