Never Too Late – Jessie Edwards transfers to a Div I school after starting her university degree in Australia.
With basketball development as her main focus, skilled post player Jessie Edwards (6’3″) will embark on a Division I career in the United States this upcoming season. But it hasn’t been the typical route to the Division I ranks for Edwards.
Like many young Australians, Edwards was active and into many different kinds of sports as a kid. Edwards described her early beginnings with basketball. “I started playing when I was 11 years old. I had two friends who were playing and I was really into sports at the time so I decided to give it a go. The first moment I felt like basketball was for me was when I made the Western Australia U12 team.”
“I performed well throughout my teens, often making representative teams. 2014 was no exception and I was selected to play for Western Australia at the U20 National Championships in Perth. At that stage I had already qualified for university in Australia and decided to start my uni degree in Perth instead of going to the US and playing college basketball. I was training with the West Coast Waves as a development player. Things were going well,” Edwards explained.
Edwards continued to grow as a player throughout 2014. Her stats increased and things started to click. “2014 involved a lot of hard work and practice. My strengths are that I have a definite advantage in the post area. I don’t only like to play the back to the basket style, but I can also play a quicker style too which gives me an advantage over stationary centers.” That being said, Edwards understands there are areas in her game that she can work on. “I’d like to improve my outside game, my accuracy from three point range and my ball handling skills as well.”
The turning point came about halfway through the WNBL season when her coach pulled her aside and told Edwards
that she had the potential to really grow as a player, but that she would need intensive training to reach that level. “At that point, I decided it would be best for me to go to college in the U.S. to help really develop my skills. So I contacted Randy Livingston to help me find a school,” Edwards said.
With her mind set on heading across the Pacific Ocean to continue her career and education, Edwards had a few factors to consider when it came down to making a decision on where to go to college in the US. “I didn’t have an exact location in mind, but I did want a school with a good academic program. The most important thing for me was to find a school that would help me develop my game the best.”
Edwards’ father Craig who has played a large role in her career, expanded on the decision process. “The hardest part is over that in Australia you don’t understand the system in the United States. The differences between Division I and Division II schools. Randy was able to get her name out to the right spots and have people contacting Jessie. Randy was able to help greatly.”
Edwards’ father continued, “the biggest thing is that Randy knows the system and the contacts. There’s a lot of work involved in that. The more contacts you have, the better opportunity you’ll have to find a good spot over something in a lower division.”
The main challenge of taking this route to a Division I school is that even if you are a Division I calibre player, many schools will not consider players who have already started their university degree at another school because it can reduce their eligible playing years. The other main factor that could completely exclude this possibility is where players are paid for playing with a professional or semi-professional side during their time at an Australian university. Doing so would immediately void a player’s amateur status and disqualify the player from gaining eligibility with any NCAA school. Luckily for Edwards, she had not been paid by the Waves so the door to securing a U.S. College scholarship was still open.
After considering various options, Edwards chose to accept a college scholarship from the University of Minnesota, starting in August 2015 (the American ‘Fall’ semester). Both Edwards and her father feel this is a great result because Edwards will be able to develop her game and enjoy her studies, two of the most important things they both felt were necessary. “The main thing for Jessie was to find a spot to help her develop in basketball. The universities in America have a much better structure for that, so the main thing was getting a good school where she would get a lot of court time. The fact that she can continue her university degree too, that is really a bonus.”
Edwards’ unconventional path to a Division I school may not be the recommended route, however it seems to have worked for this versatile post player. Edwards now looks set to achieve her goals both academically and on the basketball court. The main lesson learned through this process is that it’s never too late to consider college in the US. Although it is harder to find a college that is willing to take a transfer student instead of a freshman, it is definitely possible.