July 27, 2023 

Why Joyce Edwards could be the future of USA Basketball

Joins Stewart and Bueckers as only U.S. high schoolers named to All-Star Five

MADRID, Spain – Joyce Edwards was the youngest player on Team USA’s roster at the Under-19 World Cup. Ultimately, she was its leading scorer and an All-Star Five honoree for the tournament. The 17-year-old broke through in Madrid, recording 12.6 points per game, as the Americans defeated Spain, 69-66, for its 10th gold medal in the event and third consecutive.

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“It’s my first time playing for USA Basketball, and I am grateful for that,” Edwards said. “I have the gold medal, but we are not satisfied. We need to get it again next year and the year after that. I have more stuff I want to accomplish, so just getting through this is a big step for trying to climb a mountain.”

The 6’2 Edwards also grabbed 6.1 rebounds during the seven-game competition. That number was third on Team USA behind Chloe Kitts and Breya Cunningham.

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Back to school

This autumn, Edwards will be a senior at Camden High School in Rembert, South Carolina. As a junior there, she averaged 28.5 points and 13.6 rebounds. Guard Allie Ziebell, from Neenah High School in Wisconsin, was the only other high schooler on the Team USA roster. While Ziebell is committed to UConn, Edwards is rated No. 1 in the class and is uncommitted collegiately. Some of the athletes she played against in Spain are already playing professionally overseas, like Leila Lacan of France. This defintely forced her to rise to a new level.

“I am playing AAU, and this is definitely a step up,” Edwards said. “The physicality, the refs, the atmosphere – everything is a level up – something I am not used to. I am just grateful to have that experience I needed. I never would have thought it would come true as a little girl.”

Elite club in All-Star Five

FIBA began awarding All-Star Five players in 2005, and Team USA alumna with the honor include A’ja Wilson, Nneka Ogwumike and Caitlin Clark. Not to mention Notre Dame-bound Hannah Hidalgo this year. Only two, though- Breanna Stewart in 2011 and Paige Bueckers in 2019 – were returning to high school in the fall.

“She is going back to high school,” Team USA Under-19 coach Joni Taylor said of Edwards. “She is very talented, but she was able to pick up scouting reports really quickly and adjust the pace. Everything is a lot faster here because we have a short window to get things in. She is someone who takes it upon herself to study; if she doesn’t understand something, she takes it upon herself to ask questions. She is a bright young lady; she is very smart. I think she really worked on that part of her game to make sure she picked up everything.”

The magnitude of a 3-point gold medal game, with 7,000 Spanish fans cheering for the hosts, did not deter Edwards either. She understands the importance of the atmosphere.

“I am grateful and surprised all of these fans came out and also for women’s basketball,” Edwards said. “I am so happy. Especially late in the fourth quarter, Spain was coming back, and the crowd was getting into it.”

Edwards will still be eligible for the next Under-19 World Cup in the Czech Republic in 2025. If she stays healthy, she will be on target to graduate college in 2028 – just in time for the Los Angeles Olympics. Stewart also returned to win a second Under-19 World Cup and won the Rio Olympics as a WNBA rookie. When you play for an organization with the pedigree of USA Basketball, the pressure and comparisons to the elites are always present. There is no telling how high she might climb.

Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.

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