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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Hanging on the ‘Edge’

    Former UA forward Eugene Edgerson, who is the only Wildcat to play on multiple Final Four teams, is now a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.
    Former UA forward Eugene Edgerson, who is the only Wildcat to play on multiple Final Four teams, is now a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.

    Aside from being the only Wildcat to compete in two NCAA Final Fours, Eugene Edgerson is also the only Wildcat who has played basketball on two aircraft carriers, participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and slept in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces.

    “”Who in the world can say that they’ve played a basketball game on an aircraft carrier?”” Edgerson said, referring to one of the many perks of being a Harlem Globetrotter. “”It’s always a favorite of mine when I can play basketball in these strange and unique places.””

    In December the Globetrotters went on a 21-day tour of the Middle East, visiting 12 different U.S. military bases in five countries.

    “”It was really special that I had a chance to go over to the combat zone personally and thank the troops for what they’re doing,”” Edgerson said, “”just let them know that I appreciate the sacrifices they’re making.””

    During their visit the Globetrotters spent a night in a palace owned by Saddam’s son, which Edgerson described as “”one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.””

    “”We spent a lot of one-on-one time with the troops, moreso than playing basketball, just playing dominoes and card games, talking about current events happening back home,”” Edgerson said.

    The most frightening moment of their military tour came during a game they were playing in Baghdad when a mortar bomb exploded nearby.

    “”I had just gotten out of the game and I was sitting on the bench and I hear a loud ‘ba-boom,’ and I’m freaking out,”” Edgerson said.

    The soldiers in attendance behind the bench gave the team a hard time for being so shocked, joking they might need the team to stay and fight alongside them.

    “”A week after we left, the (World Wrestling Entertainment) went over (to Baghdad) to tape ‘Smackdown’ and about 200 feet (away from where our court was) a mortar (bomb) went off and killed 14 soldiers,”” he said. “”That could’ve been us. A mortar could’ve hit the gym, and (there would be no more Globetrotters).””

    Learning to be a ‘Trotter

    The transition from being a fear-invoking brute at Arizona to an entertaining personality with the Globetrotters was not easy for the man known as “”Mean Gene”” during his tenure in Tucson.

    In addition to learning to smile on the court, Edgerson had to learn all the basketball tricks associated with the Globetrotters.

    “”I didn’t know how to do anything. I didn’t even know how to spin a basketball on my finger,”” Edgerson said. “”I had to take a basketball and basically marry it for a couple of months.””

    “”I wanted to take the basketball and throw it out there in the middle of the desert and let it sit out there and rot in the hot sun,”” he added, describing the frustration of a 6-foot-7 power forward trying to develop the ball-handling skills of a point guard.

    He continuously worked with the ball until he was able to magically move the ball around the Globetrotters circle to the whistling tune of “”Sweet Georgia Brown.””

    If the enigmatic Edgerson decides that being a Globetrotter or teacher is not for him, there are always other career paths.

    “”I think professional wrestling would be pretty cool,”” he said.

    Helping out his home

    Edgerson lived in New Orleans until he attended the UA in 1996. Several of his family members are still getting back on their feet after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their neighborhood in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans.

    “”Everybody is living as close to a normal life as they can,”” Edgerson said.

    His mother and two siblings are currently living in Tucson, while other members of his family have relocated to Texas and other parts of Louisiana.

    The Globetrotters have participated in charity events in Houston and New Orleans to help those affected by Katrina.

    “”It was just beautiful to be back home and give those who are still there hope and motivation to continue to move forward,”” said Edgerson, who devoted much of his own time to personally help those affected in his local community.

    Still a Wildcat at heart

    When Edgerson is not busy playing for the Globetrotters and being the advance ambassador on the 2007 World Tour – which takes up eight to nine months of the year – he relaxes in his home in the southwest side of Tucson.

    He doesn’t mind when people recognize him on the street and talk to him – in fact, he loves it.

    “”If you don’t say something to me, I might strike up a conversation with you,”” he said.

    Globetrotter teammate Anthony Blakes said the team has a problem getting Edgerson to shut up at times.

    “”Eugene has an hour story for every topic, if you give him an hour,”” Blakes said. “”We try to cut him off after 15 minutes.””

    When he is in town, Edgerson works out in McKale Center and visits UA basketball head coach Lute Olson’s office. He also keeps in touch with his former teammates, such as current UA assistant coaches Josh Pastner and Miles Simon, and visited the Arizona locker room after the Wildcats’ Dec. 30 win over Stanford.

    “”Any time I get a chance, I’m watching my team or just backing (Pacific 10 Conference) ball in general,”” said Edgerson, who said he was “”heartbroken”” over Arizona’s loss to UCLA Saturday. “”It’s where I once roamed the conference causing havoc.””

    He even compared his 1997 national championship team – which finished fifth in the Pac-10 recordwise – to this season’s team, which is currently seventh in the Pac-10.

    He rarely talks to his former UA teammates because their busy schedules clash, but he talks to current players whenever he has the chance.

    Edgerson said he’s just as concerned with what players do off the court as he is with their performances as on it. He stresses the importance of getting a degree to the players so they can leave college and be better prepared for the real world.

    Of course a focus on student-athlete studies has always been a priority to the man who redshirted the 2000 season to complete his degree and earn his teaching certificate.

    “”He promised his mom he’d get (his teaching degree) in four years,”” UA head coach Lute Olson said.

    In each city the Globetrotters visit, Edgerson visits at least one school to give back to the community and teach children valuable life lessons.

    “”I’m living a dream,”” he said. “”I got the best of both worlds. I get a chance to continue playing the game I love and at the same time I’m impacting kids.””

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