A Closer Look at Tony Edwards
From Their Words
By: Rick Lewis
Lewis Carroll wrote, “One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.” This quote can be said about many of today’s AAU coaches who give countless hours to help the betterment of many young men working to obtain a college scholarship. However, this quote cannot be more fitting to a person and coach I’ve known over the past ten years. This person is Tony Edwards and we want to share this story with you.
Too often today, AAU coaches get an undeserved negative connotations and not the proper credit they deserve. Sure, there are some in it for selfish reasons, but the majority of coaches are in it for the right reason. I’ve watched and observed Tony Edwards over this ten-year time span and this is my story shared through players like Melvin Tabb (Kent State), Dez Wells (Maryland), Poobie Chapman (NC Central), Rodney Purvis (UConn) and John Wall (Washington Wizards).
Tony Edwards graduated from Smithfield-Selma High School in 1988. At Smithfield-Selma, he played multiple sports such as football, basketball and track. Tony was the middle linebacker on the football team and was All Conference in track. He played basketball, but didn’t excel at it. He loved the physical contact of football more. Playing sports was a way of life for Tony and more importantly a relief valve from the hardships he encountered as a youth. It is no question that Tony’s background laid the foundation for his tough approach in coaching. One can easily see, Tony Edwards has a passion that is deeply rooted in helping others. His life is about serving others!
It all started back in 2002 when Melvin Tabb was playing for the Garner Road Bulldogs 10U AAU basketball team. Melvin grew up without a father and he looked up to his uncle Tony. Melvin asked Tony to help out with the team. Uncle Tony now became Coach Tony and the rest is history. Tony coached Melvin at the 10U level as an assistant coach and became Melvin’s full time AAU coach at the 11U level. Coach Tony and Melvin formed a bond over the next seven years.
Melvin is now a senior at Kent State University and Uncle/Coach Tony has been there every step of the way. Looking back on his basketball career, Melvin stated, “Uncle/Coach Tony became his father figure early on in his life. Coach Tony was my mentor and today we still maintain a close bond.” We asked Melvin to describe Coach Tony and without hesitation, he quickly answered, “Coach Tony is always there for you. He wants the best and will push you to become the best player you can become. Coach Tony is a down to earth guy and more importantly never asked for anything in return.”
Melvin went on to add they still are in constant communication either by phone or text. Coach Tony is constantly following up with his coaches at Kent State just to check up and make sure he is doing well on and off the court. While Coach Tony is a passionate coach, he believed in toughness and a no excuse attitude. Melvin stated when he in the ninth grade, they were playing in the AAU Nationals in Orlando, Florida. In the game against the Wisconsin Playground Warriors he went up and landed awkwardly and broke his leg. Melvin was in tremendous pain, but more than anything he was scared. As soon as the play happened, Coach Tony ran immediately on the court to check on him. As he lay there frightened and scared, it was Coach Tony who put his arm around him holding and comforting him giving him reassurance everything would be OK. After they took him to the hospital, the X Rays showed he had a fractured leg. The road to recovery was a long and difficult one, but Melvin stated, “ Uncle/Coach Tony was always there for me, every step of the way.”
One fond memory Melvin never forgets is Coach Tony’s old pick up truck, which was his only form of transportation. Melvin stated that truck was so old that the key would fall out of the ignition and it would still run. That being said, Coach Tony would use this truck as the “team bus” getting team members back and forth from practice. Melvin stated, “Coach Tony was strictly in it for the kids and never asked anything in return. We asked Melvin one last question. We asked him who is Tony Edwards? “Without question, he is my dad!”
Another player that has known Coach Tony for a long time is NC Central senior PG Emanuel “Poobie” Chapman. Poobie first met Coach Tony when he was onlyeight years old, but started playing for him on the Garner Road 12U AAU team. Poobie started and finished his AAU career with Coach Tony and he never played for anyone but him. It didn’t take long to understand the strong relationship the two have shared over the past ten years. Poobie stated, “Coach Tony was his first true father figure or male influence in my life. With Coach Tony, it wasn’t all about basketball.” Poobie was quick to say that his relationship grew as the two grew older. Coach Tony kept him on track in the classroom and he had a zero tolerance for not doing the right thing.” More than anything, Coach Tony taught Poobie how to be a leader on and off the court. Playing for Coach Tony, there were no weekends off, they were training or practicing every weekend. Coach Tony gave his team a “tough love” approach and stressed playing together as a team.
One of the biggest lessons Poobie experienced was a time when he was playing 15U AAU. Poobie thought he was better than everyone else and it was the discipline of Coach Tony that brought him back down to earth. Poobie stated, “Coach Tony always told us never to relax and we can always get better and always play the game for the right reason.” Coach Tony was about hard work and he was always telling them “no one is better than you, but you have to work like it” still resonates today. When we asked to describe Coach Tony, Poobie stated, “He is he most genuine person you will meet. He will push you when you have nothing left and will maximize your ability. The one thing about Coach Tony is he never asks for anything in return. He just tells us to give back.” Like many young players they have their aspirations on playing at the next level for money. When asked what he would do after basketball, Poobie stated he would like to own some Boys and Girls Clubs. Giving back like they gave to me.”
University of Maryland junior Dez Wells first met Tony Edwards when he was nine years old. Dez was playing up on the Garner Road 10U AAU team while Coach Tony was an assistant. After being around Coach Tony just for one season, Dez Wells played the next seven years under the leadership of Coach Tony and finished his AAU career with the CP3 All Stars. Dez stated, “Coach Tony has been like a father to me. He has supported me every step of the way and has been with me through good and bad times. As a matter of fact, my mom would call Coach Tony if I weren’t doing well in school. It was Coach Tony that provided the tough love.” Dez learned a lot from Coach Tony, but the one thing he quickly mastered was his approach to the game and it was the guidance that helped Dez become the player he is today. One of the biggest lessons Dez learned at an early age was to respect his elders and coaches. Dez stated, “I will never never forget the time I ignored one of my AAU coaches in practice. Coach Tony chewed me out for over ten minutes and told me point blank I was not being a leader. He stated perception matters and the perception I displayed was not worthy of being a leader. Coach Tony was always harder on me because he expected more from me.”
Looking back, Dez stated one of the funniest things he remembers about playing for Coach Tony was their trip one summer to the AAU Nationals in Orlando, Florida. In the van were Melvin, Poobie, Rodney, PJ Hairston (UNC) and Reggie Bullock (UNC). We were in the van listening and singing to music. We were really loud and Coach Tony told us to be quiet. After a few more miles down the road, the music and our singing got louder and louder. Suddenly, Coach Tony pulled the van immediately off the road and put it in park. He got out of the van and opened the side door and jumped in the back wrestling with us and told us he was not to hear another word from us until we hit Orlando. Well, to make a long story short, we didn’t say another word or make another sound the entire trip to Orlando. Looking back, that was hilarious.”
While Dez is entering his third year in college, the relationship is still strong today. When asked to describe Coach Tony, Dez stated, “Coach Tony is a loving father figure to me. He has always remained selfless and true to his heart. No matter what, he was always loyal to his own players and took care of his own.” All that being said, Coach Tony “never asked for anything in return except to always give back.”
McDonald All American Rodney Purvis (UConn) first met Coach Tony when he was thirteen years old. Rodney’s father passed away before he was born and never had a male role model until Coach Tony stepped into his life. Rodney stated, “Coach Tony was a father figure, big brother and best friend all rolled into one. We still talk every single day.” At an early age, Rodney quickly developed a trust factor with Coach Tony. He was the male role model that was always there for you. He was honest to the core and helped develop you a player and a person. One thing for sure, you never expected Coach Tony to baby you because that was not his style. “He gave me tough love, but gave you room to make your own mistakes and own up to them.” While Coach Tony was his coach, father figure, big brother, and friend, Rodney stated he would never forget the time he was working him out. You see, Tony never really played basketball. He was a tough football player. One day at the park, Coach Tony wanted to play me a game of one on one. He was going to show me the student a lesson. Well, unfortunately for coach it didn’t end up to well for him. After that, he wasn’t so quick to play one on one again.”
Rodney stated he would never forget Coach Tony. To this day, he is still my best friend, brother and father figure. Playing for Coach Tony was a player’s dream. You know he is a player’s coach. He knows what we have been through and understands us. Coach Tony will always do what’s best for you. He is demanding, but honest and fair. Every single player he works with develops a special bond and personal relationship.”
Former University of Kentucky standout and current NBA star John Wall first started playing for Coach Tony when he was fifteen years old for D One Sports. John stated his father passed away when he was nine years old and Coach Tony helped provide a strong male role model in my life. John Wall stated when he played for Coach Tony, “D One sports always played up 1-2 age groups. It wasn’t about winning. It was about playing tougher completion and making us better. He could see the big picture. Coach Tony knew I was going to be a special player and believed in me. The one thing about Coach Tony, he would make you work hard and push you to get better. It was all about getting better! He knew my abilities, but always make me work to be the best I could be.” When asked John Wall what Coach Tony meant to him, he stated, “Coach Tony was a loving, caring person who wants the best out of you on and off the court. He is always giving you positive words. Even last year when I suffered my injury with the Washington Wizards, Coach Tony was always giving me words of encouragement. He was someone you always looked up too.”
Martin Luther King once wrote the following, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question, what are you doing for others” can be a life summary of Coach Tony Edwards. His life is about helping young kids become men on and off the court. He has constantly done all the little things for others and by doing so has left a huge impression in the players he has worked and coached over the years. I’m sure there are many coaches at the AAU and high school level volunteering their time and money to develop a young man achieve his dream, but there are few people in the world today that has made the impact of Coach Tony Edwards. Today, Coach Tony is doing what he loves most! He is coaching his own AAU team called Synergy Sports and training many young players in the Raleigh area. With Coach Tony, it’s about giving back and giving back he does indeed.
Below is list of players coached by Coach Tony Edwards
Melvin Tabb (Kent State)
Rodney Purvis (UConn)
Dezmine Wells (Maryland)
Reggie Bullock (UNC)
John Wall (Kentucky & Washington Wizards)
Ryan Kelly (Duke)
JT Terrell (Southern California)
Emanuel “Poobie” Chapman (NC Central)
PJ Hairston (UNC)
Jay Canty (Appalachian State)
Chris Wilson (St. Joseph)
Preston Ross (Western Carolina)
JT Miller (Howard University)
Marquis Rankin (Virginia Tech)
Jacob Lawson (Appalachian State)
Madison Jones (Wake Forest)
Shawn Lester (Charlotte)
Brice Johnson (UNC)
Abdul Kasim (Hampton University)
Theo Pinson (UNC verbal)
Aaron Scales (Cleveland State)
Reggie Dillard (Presbyterian)
Shane Whitfield (Lehigh)