Arthur Edwards, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard/small forward from Northwest Florida State College, on Monday gave first-year New Mexico men’s basketball head coach Craig Neal a verbal commitment to play for the Lobos next season.
Edwards, who made an official recruiting visit to Albuquerque this past weekend, plans to sign his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, the first day of the spring signing period. He will join Eldorado High senior Cullen Neal, who on Saturday was granted a release from his Letter of Intent to play at St. Mary’s College in California so he could stay home and play for his dad at UNM.
“Arthur and his mother and father were just blown away with everything New Mexico has to offer,” said Steve Forbes, Edwards’ junior college coach at NW Florida State. “The facilities, the coaching staff, the academic center — they were just really happy with everything they saw.”
Edwards and Cullen Neal will fill two of the three remaining open scholarship voids the Lobos have for the Class of 2013, which already includes early signees Tim Myles, a 6-7 high school power forward from Etiwanda, Calif., and Obij Aget, a 7-foot center from the Sudan by way of an Indiana prep school. Aget was originally a part of the Lobos 2012 signing class, but sat out this past season after tearing the ACL in his knee and never enrolling at UNM.
The third remaining open scholarship could be open awhile while the team evaluates transfer players from other programs around the country who may have to sit out a season after their transfer and become eligible for the 2014-15 season.
UNM head coach Craig Neal can not comment on any unsigned recruits per NCAA rules.
Edwards, who is from Maryland and will have three years of playing eligibility remaining at UNM, started 26 games this past season for a NW Florida State team that went 30-4 and played in its second consecutive National Junior College Division I championship game. He averaged 6.4 points and 3.2 rebounds for the Raiders on a team that starred highly-recruited stars like Louisville commit Chris Jones and Oregon commit Elgin Cook, among several other Division I prospects.
“He’s a really good catch and shoot 3-point shooter right now and still getting better and better at his all-around game,” Forbes said. “He’s definitely one of those players whose best basketball is still in front of him. Sometimes with junior college players, they may have plateaued a little bit when they transfer to a Division I program. That’s not the case with Arthur. He’s still developing, but they recruited him to play. He’s ready.”
Forbes said Edwards, who hit 40 percent of his 3-point shots this season, “fills a need” the Lobos have since the recent departure of 6-7 swingman Tony Snell, who has left school to enter the NBA Draft after his senior season.
Edwards was recruited heavily by UNM assistant coach Drew Adams, who worked with Forbes for two years as a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee when Forbes worked there under former coach Bruce Pearl. Forbes also has another tie that made his confidence in UNM grow.
While an assistant coach at Tennessee, Forbes was present when Emmanuel Negedu collapsed after running due to a heart condition that ended his career with the Volunteers. Negedu then transferred to UNM, where he played briefly before doctors ruled his heart condition was too much of a risk to allow him to continue playing college basketball. Negedu, who is from Nigeria, stayed at UNM and is expected to receive his degree in May.
“I was in the emergency room with Emmanuel when that happened,” Forbes said. “I was then and still am very close with Emmanuel and I know that the way UNM treated him and took care of him even after he couldn’t play for them anymore, that meant a lot to me. It’s a place that I really trust because of that.”