This week, former UA basketball player Eugene Edgerson talks about life touring the country as a Harlem Globetrotter. Edgerson, one of the most memorable fan favorites in Wildcat history and the only UA player to play in two Final Fours, talked to the Wildcat from his Reno, Nev. hotel room following a game.
Wildcat: How'd you wind up with the Globetrotters?
Edgerson: What happened, I played in the USBL this summer and wound up losing in the playoffs. While I was on the way back to Arizona, I happened to be on the same flight as the (Globetrotters) scout. He was there scouting the playoffs, so he extended the offer to me again. He actually extended me the offer right after I got done with my eligibility there at the U of A, but, you know, it's every kid's dream that plays basketball to make it to the NBA, so I wanted to give the NBA a shot. I gave the NBA a shot by going and playing in the NBA developmental league for two years. Wound up having a good career. But after two good seasons in the league, nothing came out of it. I won a championship, played hard, put up good numbers, and I still never got a tryout or even a summer league spot. So after those two years of giving my all and not even getting a look, it was time to turn elsewhere.
Wildcat: How do you like being a Globetrotter? What's it like?
Edgerson: I love it. It's a lot of travel. It's actually hard work, it's not an easy job at all because of all the time you put into traveling, practicing, and things like Globetrotter University, taking pictures, autograph sessions. I mean, there's a lot of time that's put into it, but it's worthwhile because I get a chance to not only play the game of basketball, which I love dearly, but also to get paid a good amount of money to do so. I also love entertaining folks and putting smiles on kids' faces every day. You can't beat that. I have the best of both worlds, with basketball and kids and families mixed.
Wildcat: Speaking of pictures, can you explain the picture on the Web site (harlemglobetrotters.com) of you in front of the Taj Mahal? That thing's pretty sweet.
Edgerson: Well, we have a theme each year, and they happened to superimpose the Taj Majal behind me. (Laughs) I know in training camp when I took that picture, it was a blank background. (Laughs) I never would have expected them to superimpose the Taj Mahal behind me, but it's a pretty cool-looking picture.
Wildcat: It also says you have a new nickname. Where'd this "Killer" nickname come from?
Edgerson: It's funny the way it came up. Usually, Mannie Jackson, our owner, gives us the nicknames. I think he's going to wind up changing my name, because it doesn't really go well ...(laughs) I don't really want to scare kids away or anything like that. What happened, during the college tour I said, "Coach, you've got to let Killer out of the cage!" At the time, I sensed that we needed a change of pace in one of the games, and I told him that. I hadn't played yet in that game, and I'm the type of person where once you put me in the game, I'm ready. I don't need two, three minutes to warm up - I'm ready. That's kind of hard to find nowadays. That's how the name got started. All my teammates started calling me "Killer," and it just kind of stuck around.
Wildcat: Any idea what your new name might be?
Edgerson: I have no idea. I'd have to talk to Mr. Jackson. Hopefully he gives me a new nickname, something that fits me. Our referee said they should call me Eugene "The Enforcer" Edgerson. So that might be my new nickname, because when I'm out there on the court, I'm just making things happen, and I make the opposing team back down because I'm intimidating. Although it's a show and everything, I'm a competitor at heart. For example, today I was boxing this guy out real hard, and I threw in a couple elbows, too (laughs). You know, not on purpose or anything like that, it's just instinctive. Sometimes I've just got to remember, "Gene, you've got to relax." My coaches and teammates love it, because I give it my all.
Wildcat: That's what made you one of the biggest UA fan favorites in recent memory. Is it like that with the Globetrotters?
Edgerson: The people still love me, man. They love my character, the way I play, and just how approachable I am.
Wildcat: Do you ever talk to any of the guys you used to play with at UA?
Edgerson: No, actually I don't. Unfortunately, guys go their separate ways in life, and that's to be expected. But there are a couple guys who I thought I was pretty close with when I was there at the U of A, and they kind of act a little differently. But life goes on, man. You can't get upset about that. It is disappointing, though. You feel like you were close to a couple guys, and now you'd be lucky if they'd say "hi" and "bye."
Wildcat: Whenever you're around campus, it still seems like you're pretty popular with the fans.
Edgerson: I appreciate that, too. I always gave my all, you know what I'm saying? And I think people that understand the game and understand life can respect any person that's willing to give their all whether it's on the basketball court or off the court. I think I set that example by doing just that, giving my all on the court and off the court, doing things in the community and making sure I did my business in the classroom. I always knew that to be successful in life, you had to be more than just a basketball player, because there's only so much time you can run up and down the basketball court.
Wildcat: Speaking of which, you took a year off to finish your student teaching. Are you still planning on being a teacher when you're done playing?:
Edgerson: Yeah, once I'm done I believe that I will be teaching. My student teaching experience just goes to show me that there's something else besides basketball I could enjoy doing. I learned a lot about me as a person: that I was more patient than I thought, and I was a workaholic. Like I said, I did just as much off the basketball court as I did on the court. I took my student teaching just as seriously as practice.
Wildcat: Looking at your schedule, it seems like you guys are busy. You're flying around every day.
Edgerson: Yeah, this weekend was pretty rough. Double-headers back to back. Saturday, we played in San Francisco and Oakland, and then Sunday two games in Sacramento. Then (Monday) we had a game (in Reno) at 4 p.m. So that's a lot of games. We have to give 110 percent no matter if we just got off an airplane, or only got four or five hours of sleep, or if you played two games the day before. So the pressure's on us, but I love it because I live for pressure. To me, you have to be crazy to not want to do what we're doing. To me, it beats working in somebody's office or in somebody's classroom. I don't want to do that right now. What I want to do is play basketball, and there's no job on this earth that's ... I don't know how to put it, but what we do ... it beats pushing a pen and paper at a desk.
Wildcat: You had a unique style when you were here, with the hair and the shoes and socks. You still have the afro going and everything?
Edgerson: I still have the afro. I added a headband, got a neckband also - that's a tribute to Billy Ray Hobley, the "Supertrotter." He was the first Globetrotter I knew about, and my Mom took me to go see the Globetrotters when I was 3 years old. He was a friend of hers, and he also played college ball near New Orleans, where I grew up. She sent me pictures that were taken with me and Billy Ray. It's kind of crazy to see myself in pictures with a Globetrotter and now I'm a Globetrotter. It's funny how life works. Expect the unexpected.
Wildcat: Do you still live in Tucson?
Edgerson: I still stay in Tucson. I love to come back and work out in the (McKale Center) weight room. Those people in the weight room have been fantastic. Every time I'm in town, they help work me out and keep me in good shape. I can't say enough about them, they keep me going. I always like to surround myself with good people. People do like down-to-earth and humble people. If you're a good person, people will notice that and everything will be all good.