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Juco recruit says he'll sign with Lobos

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Edwards visited basketball program over the weekend

Arthur Edwards, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard/small forward from Northwest Florida State College, on Monday gave New Mexico men’s basketball 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 power forward from Etiwanda, Calif., and Obij Aget, a 7-foot center from the Sudan by way of an Indiana prep school.

The third available scholarship could be open awhile as the team evaluates transfer players from other programs. They may have to sit out a season after their transfer and become eligible for the 2014-15 season.

Craig Neal cannot comment on any unsigned recruits per NCAA rules.

Edwards, who is from Maryland and will have three years of eligibility remaining at UNM, started 26 games last 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 Louisville commit Chris Jones and Oregon commit Elgin Cook, among several other Division I prospects.

“He’s a really good catch and good 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 make no mistake, 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 departure of 6-7 swingman Tony Snell. Snell left school to enter the NBA Draft after his junior season.

Edwards was recruited heavily by UNM assistant Drew Adams, who worked with Forbes for two years as a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee. Forbes also has another UNM tie that made his faith in UNM being the right place for one of his players 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. He later 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 received his degree this year.

“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.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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