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Bloodied Edgerson steps up

By Ryan Finley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 1, 1999
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Eugene Edgerson ran a finger over the gash above his right eye after the Arizona men's basketball team defeated California 91-74 Saturday afternoon.

"I knew I was gonna get hit at least once today," he said. "I'll probably go see the team doctor in a minute."

Although Edgerson's two points, four steals and four rebounds weren't exactly SportsCenter material, his gutsy role play during a half in which most players seemed to be padding their personal stats was a breath of fresh air and hardly went unnoticed.

The 6-foot-6 junior and outspoken team enforcer's timely floor play, which included taking two charges in back-to-back second-half possessions, brought a spark back to a team that had been sitting on their laurels for most of the second half.

"Eugene did a spectacular job," UA head coach Lute Olson said. "It seemed like every time someone attacked the basket, he was there taking the hit. I'll have to look at the tape, but to me, it was almost letter-perfect with what he's supposed to do."

The gash, which Edgerson anticipated would "probably need a few stitches," occurred in the first half as he was fouled by California's Francisco Elson, a 7-foot senior. Edgerson appeared to get crowned by a forearm as he attempted to follow-up a missed layup. He lay stunned on the court for a few seconds before fighting his way up.

Due to NCAA regulations, Edgerson was forced to take a seat while his cut was attended to. Freshman forward Richard Jefferson hit the two free throws in Edgerson's place.

"I just go out there and try to make the best of my abilities," Edgerson said. "I'm not well off on the offensive end, so I try to find ways to get ahead."

The flame he seemed to light beneath his teammates helped ice an already forgone conclusion of a win. The star of the second half had two points, four steals and the bloody gash above his eye.

"Gene does a great job off of the bench," Olson said. "That's what focus is all about."

"I have to go out there and work my ass off," Edgerson said. "I know I'm a role player."