Column: Edwards the “X-factor” for Penn State
The term “X-factor” might be one of the most overused terms in sports, but every team actually needs one. Ariel Edwards is the Lady Lions “X-factor”. For the Lady Lions to win the Big Ten Tournament and go far in the NCAA Tournament Edwards must perform at a high level. Yes, Maggie Lucas is the definite star of the team, but Edwards is equally, if not more important to the Lady Lions success.
Edwards is a senior forward, and has improved each year in a blue and white uniform. Edwards plays 32 minutes a game, and averages 15 points per game, while grabbling almost six rebounds per game. The senior consistently displays her ability to do it all: score, rebound, and pass.
Edwards ability to score is extremely important for the Lady Lions. The forward is the second leading scorer for the Lady Lions, and one of only three players that averages in the double digits. Most can say the Lady Lions are a very top heavy team when it comes to their offense, but the approach has already brought the Lady Lions a regular season Big Ten Championship.
Edwards is so great at scoring because she can score in a multitude of ways. The forward possesses a reliable mid-range shot, which forces defenders to either play her close, or play a zone defense. If the opposing team chooses to limit Edwards, Lucas can bomb away from three. While being able to shoot from mid-range, Edwards is at her best when she drives to the rim and scores in the paint. The senior has had her best and most efficient games when scoring in the paint. Edwards is a great foul shooter, currently shooting 83%.
Edwards seems to have a nose for the ball. The forward is second on the team in rebounds, while being nowhere near the tallest player. Edwards can rebound the ball and quickly get it up court, giving an open look to either Lucas or Dara Taylor. Edwards is also a great defender. The senior averages a steal and a half block per game. Edwards uses her long arms to get into passing lanes and disrupt the opposing teamʼs offense.
The Lady Lions are having a successful year, but still want to win the Big Ten Tournament and make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. The second banana on a basketball team is never a glorious position. The second banana has to do almost all of the work as the star, just without the benefits of being praised wherever the player goes. Edwards has played the role of the second banana well the entire year and must keep up her career year for the Lady Lions to make a deep run.