Twitter & Instagram: @famous_zeke
*Photo taken by Phenom Hoops co-worker, Frank Bennett.
Having now been associated with the Phenom Hoops team for a full year, I can recall one of the first Richmond, VA high school varsity programs I became familiar with dating back to Fall 2018: Meadowbrook High School (Chesterfield, VA). The 804 public school welcomed me with open arms to cover their hosted annual fall league last September through October. It gave me a strong initial glance at over a dozen other local opponents additionally. It was back in that six-week league when I deemed the Monarchs as a passionate group who played with collective energy before anything else. Meadowbrook’s energetic presence on the court, from the first roster member to the last, gives one no choice but to notice them once games start rolling. It’s an impressive trait that I’m more than likely expecting them to firmly grasp again in this upcoming preseason play. This year, there’s good news considering up to eight 2020 players can make up a senior core. One of the team’s anchors returns in the form of Ezekiel Edwards ’20, aka ‘Zeke’; a starting forward from the 2018-19 squad. He delivered nicely in his role last year but assured to me that he’s “coming back in a different manner” for his final go-around.
While Meadowbrook sustained their enthusiasm and effort in the four times I watched them play last season, they would ultimately come up short of earning a chance to compete in the postseason. Being a member of the highly competitive Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 5 classification, a big portion of surrounding players admit that wins do not come with ease. Furthermore, they’ll explain it’s even more difficult to continue on after the regular season wraps up. Learning from the Monarchs’ 10-11 final record during his junior campaign, Edwards shares a mission with other teammates to build upon the past.
“Overall, I’d say last season went decent for us,” Edwards stated. “It was disappointing to miss the playoffs but I think we showed sparks of what we could do as a team. For me, I think I learned more about myself as a player too.”
In regards to his own production on the court, Edwards another one of those valuable ‘glue guys’ who can impact the game in ways outside of solely putting up points. He’s a lengthy 6’5” athlete who contains a high motor and impressive defensive attributes. One of Meadowbrook’s main emphasis, in my eyes at least, always appeared to center on team defense; where Edwards consistently proved himself as a force. The rising senior can move his feet to contain different positions, block shots, pull down rebounds on both ends, and won’t hesitate in sacrificing his body for a winning play. A combined presence of he and 6’6” frontcourt mate Sincere Clark ’20 gives Meadowbrook one of the best rim protecting and rebounding duos I’ve seen in Richmond public schools thus far. Offensively, Edwards can finish well and showed a pretty solid mid-range jumper last year. Being a reliable scorer, when the time happens, is something that he’s hoping to showcase more of moving forward.
“On my part, I feel I did good as a junior, rebounding-wise. I could’ve done better on the scoring end but defense is what I knew I had to really bring to the floor. Everybody knew me as a defenisve player and a hustle guy; diving on the floor to do whatever I could to help us win.”
“Lately, I feel like I’ve really improved my jumper, that’s something I’ve worked the most on. I’m currently focusing on my handle also to combine it with shooting off of the bounce and become better on the outside. I’m still making sure to focus on inside moves too but the main transition has been going from inside to outside and not vice versa. The jumper feel pretty good right now though…recently, in a summer league game, I made about six three-pointers. I just feel a better jump shot is going to allow me to bring more to the table.”
These past few spring and summer months saw Edwards spend his last travel season playing for Ballers U 17u. Joined by two of his Meadowbrook teammates, Clark and newcomer Lorenzo Mentor ’20, Edwards and his group had some solid success on the Adidas circuit and built up their on-floor chemistry even more. I constantly observe high school teammates make the decision to link up and continue their play into AAU ball on the same team. It’s a relatable tactic, as a feel for one another’s tendencies can’t ever become too strong. The results usually pay off once guys are even more familiar with each other’s games in the winter.
“This year was Ballers U’s first season in the Gauntlet. We started off strong; winning our first three tournaments. Once the Gauntlet games began, we lost a couple of close ones, including a championship, but I’d still say the summer went pretty well. I’m looking forward to having Lorenzo (Mentor) at Meadowbrook this year. We’ve been playing together since fifth grade and know our spots pretty equally. Bringing him in and also having Sincere Clark, Lamondre Gregg ’20, Gary Ampy ’20, James Patterson ’21, and others all coming back should have us ready to make some noise.”
The Monarchs contain a chance to start off their statement in the next couple of weeks on September 14th; the opening day of their 2019 fall league. In a likewise method compared to previous years, all games will take place on weekly Saturday mornings. Up to eight games, featuring both area public and private school programs, tend to comprise Saturday morning/late afternoon. Being the host team, Edwards and the rest of Meadowbrook’s varsity all know each year brings many eyes centered on them. They want to win and assert themselves as much as possible but indeed acknowledge execution comes first before anything. Finding out what currently does and doesn’t work remains one of the necessary components of fall league competition.
“For our fall league, the coaches usually break it down to say that this is the time for us to really run our sets the right way. They’re not all that concerned about winning, but, of course, we want to defend our home floor. The crowd should get a good, early idea of what our team has this year. We have some good height returning and guys look more athletic. I think we’ll have the crowd excited and really into the Saturday games.”
It’s easy to note the eagerness in Edwards’ voice when he speaks about Meadowbrook’s potential this year. He knows that it’ll start with his senior class, however, and his own role in being able to adjust for whatever’s asked of him. That’s a job not every player can full embrace: working as a utility guy who sees his duties frequently switch up by the game.
“My coaches told me that, firstly, I’ll have to lead everyone and bring up the younger players to help them understand how everything works here. One game, I may be the main scorer. One game, I may be the main rebounder or defender. So, that’s something that’ll probably change off and on. But they’ve already talked to me in understanding my role as a main leader. Making sure to keep everybody up.”
If Edwards can develop into a big-time leader, continue his glue-guy value, and display a better offensive repertoire, I personally feel he’ll attract more interest from the collegiate level. With his size, demeanor, and upside, there’s a lot to appreciate about what he does on the court. Not to mention the fact that he’s spending his last few days of summer break (until after Labor Day 2019) constantly in the gym.
“My recruitment is going OK at the moment. I’ve been talking mainly to different NCAA schools and some prep ones also. I’m just trying to put myself out there more for the low Division I and Division II teams. A lot of coaches have been in touch with me and said they’re looking forward to seeing me this season. They want me to show more of a handle and put the ball on the floor often. If I can touch up on some little things, those same coaches said I could be a good prospect for college basketball.”
Sounds like Edwards’ promise has gained attention. I’m looking forward to viewing what he’s ready to prove soon as the underdog. Team-wise, he firmly feels Meadowbrook contains some of the most talent in Region 5A and can make a run to the state tournament this year if they come together as one. Two more of his personal goals involve averaging a double-double for the season and making the 2020 804 Senior All-Star Game; he wishes the latter for his other senior peers as well. There’s big plans ahead, for sure…something I’ve always appreciated about the personable Edwards.
One more thing though: where does Ezekiel Edwards see himself in ten years?
“Of course, everybody’s dream is to play in the NBA. That’s a dream of mine too but, really, I just want to experience the life of a college basketball player and go to school for business. I want to own my own business as an adult and then give back to the basketball community. I could be a coach, start my own AAU program, open up my own gym, and more. I would just plan to give kids what I didn’t have growing up.”
Giving back is one of the best things one can do once he or she makes it to the top. Keep striving, Zeke!