LARAMIE -- Wyoming men’s basketball coach Allen Edwards had to smile.
As part of the typical preparation for a game, Edwards and the Cowboys’ staff were watching game films for South Carolina, which visits the Dome of Doom on Wednesday night.
“Just watching them on film, this is a Frank Martin basketball team,” Edwards said in reference to the Gamecocks’ veteran coach. “Some would say it’s a basketball team playing football. They want to be physical. They want to be aggressive. They take you out of what you’re comfortable doing.”
Edwards speaks from experience. He grew up on Frank Martin basketball down in the inner-city of Miami. In his pre-teens it was Martin who spent the time with Edwards and others, providing fundamentals to the game.
“He has known me since I was maybe eight, nine years old,” said Edwards. “He was passionate about coaching. “When you’ve had the opportunity to see the journey, it makes you appreciate being coached by him, and mention mentored by him as a basketball player, as a person, and even now, as a coach.
“Sometimes, looking back, it’s been remarkable to see what he has been able to accomplish, knowing where he’s come from and how he got there.”
The two know each other well. How well? Edwards’ oldest brother, Doug, who was the 15th player selected in the 1993 NBA draft, is a coach on Martin’s staff at South Carolina. Doug, middle brother Steve, and Allen all are products of Martin’s devotion to teaching the game of basketball.
“I was no older than 11 when he first coached me,” said Edwards. “I remember him coming up in the neighborhood, picking up six, seven, eight of us. He packed us all in his little old career. We’re sitting on laps, going to play basketball. He’d wait for you. He’d talk to your parents, making sure everything was okay.”
But Martin isn’t a softie now. And he wasn’t a softie back then, either.
“Allen and his family mean the world to me,” Martin said. “Allen played for me when I was like 23 years old. I had no idea what I was doing, other than I knew how to yell. He never ran for it. He competed and worked. He played for a national champion (at Kentucky) He never took a shortcut. I’m extremely proud of Allen for how he has done it.”
Give Martin more than a little credit for what Edwards has done.
“At the end of the day, my brother and I, and the guys from the community, we changed,” said Edwards. “It’s the discipline they tried to teach us at an early age, and they kept us away from what was going on within our community. Basketball was an outlet. Those guys in the Miami High School basketball family were teaching us basketball, and they were teaching us about the game of life. One of the things (Martin) doesn’t get enough credit for is how much he cares for the young men he coaches.”
One think Edwards can attest to is Martin never played favorites. He learned that the year he played on the Miami High junior varsity.
“When he coached me (at Miami High School), on the junior varsity team, that team was undefeated,”
What does Edwards remember most about that year?
“When he kicked me off the team in the middle of a game,” he said. “I ended up going into the locker room and taking off my uniform. He gave me a nice butt-chewing, but the next day was a new day.
“We met at school, sat down and had a talk. Everything was fine. That’s the type of coach (he is). It didn’t linger. We can laugh about it now.”
And Martin is still willing to reach out to Edwards. That’s why South Carolina is even in Laramie for a game, the second-part of what will be a three-game series (two of them played in South Carolina). This is the first time a Southeast Conference school has made the trip to 7220 in 16 years.
Shortly after being promoted to the head coach of the Cowboys, Edwards reached out to Martin, wanting to set up a series between the two teams.
“I asked him why he did call Kentucky, he won a national championship there,” Martin said, a moment of good-natured kidding.
There was no way Martin would say no, not to Edwards. He is, after all, one of Martin’s guys. And that really hit home last year and this year, when the Gamecocks began preparations for the game against Wyoming.
“Watching film, I caught myself watching him (instead of the players),” said Martin. “I met him. … Doug was 14 or 15 so Allen had to be eight, nine years old. It’s hard not to be mesmerized by someone who worked hard to reach this point, when you see a kid who was around your team when he was eight, who you coach in high school, and end up being a sounding board for him when he becomes a man.”
Edwards knows the feeling, not only with Martin but also older brother, Doug, who is Martin’s director of student-athlete development.
“He was a little bit rougher around the edge than I was, and definitely a better basketball player than I was,” said Edwards. “I always looked up to him as a mentor as well, watching his path in becoming who he was. He was the second best player in the county coming out of high school, which was unusual for anybody in my neighborhood at that time.
“A lot of us who were young then started thinking differently when he went to college and the played in the NBA. And what he was able to do for our gamily, in general, moving us out of the inner city my senior year in high school.”
On Wednesday night, in Laramie, however, those fond memories, and close relationships will push off to the side.
The competitor in the Edwards’ brother, instilled by Martin, won’t let emotions interfere with the goal – beating that other team on the floor.