Reuben Edwards and Tracy Jackson are two names one would not expect to hear uttered in the same sentence, much less when discussing the same record.
Jackson, a 1977 graduate from Paint Branch High School, has been the school’s single-game scoring record holder (47 points) for the better part of three decades. He went on to play at Notre Dame for four years, get drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 25th overall pick in the 1981 National Basketball Association Draft and have stints with the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers.
And to think, Edwards, a lightly recruited senior walking the school’s halls like Jackson did 37 years ago, was just one 3-pointer away from tying the former NBA player’s single-game record of nearly 40 years.
Prior to that game, Bethesda-Chevy Chase coach Sean Tracy had gathered several scouting reports from coaches around the county. Edwards wasn’t mentioned in a single one, Tracy said. So imagine Tracy’s surprise when the 6-foot, 175-pound guard began methodically picking apart the Baron defense to the tune of 24 first-half points.
“Man,” Tracy recalled of the Jan. 28 matchup with the Panthers, “it was just one of those nights. He was hitting from everywhere on the floor. He was hitting shots from NBA range, he was getting to the basket, he was scoring inside and out.”
All in all, Edwards finished with 44 points, three shy of Jackson’s record, and buried a career-high six 3-pointers.
“I just came out aggressive,” said Edwards, who is leading Paint Branch with 18.2 points per game. “When I hit my first three shots, I just kept shooting whenever I had an open shot.”
And, according to Panther coach Walter Hardy, he kept shooting when he didn’t necessarily have an open shot, though when a player is on pace for 48 at halftime, every shot has an argument to be considered “open” some way or another. But that’s the thing with Edwards: he’s dangerously streaky, a bane for Hardy when cold, an Achilles heel for opponents when hot.
“Reuban takes a lot of shots,” Hardy said. “Sometimes they’re not always the most advisable shots, but he’s a streaky shooter, he can get hot. We’ve had games where he’s on and other games where his shooting. ...”
There Hardy trailed off, perhaps recalling a six-point effort in an overtime loss to Quince Orchard or a seven-point night during a 64-47 loss to Montgomery Blair. In those games, Edwards did little to get noticed. Yet even when he hung 44 on B-CC, neither coach realized how much the senior was piling up until the game was over and Edwards nearly matched an all-but cemented record.
“I don’t know how you can have a quiet 44, but he was just gradually scoring,” Tracy said. “Whenever they needed a bucket, he would score, and I looked up and I was like ‘Whoa.’ I didn’t know he had 44, it’s not like he was going on these sprees.”
“He had 44 and I had no idea,” Hardy agreed. “He has the potential to get hot. He’s definitely a capable scorer. He can wow you with some of the finishes he makes.”
Hardy estimated that he lost 95 percent of his scoring and minutes from last season. Somebody, or, more accurately, several, would have to step into scoring roles. Over the summer, the leader of the bunch appeared to be guard Donovan Walker, but he transferred to St. Maria Goretti, and the void was reopened.
Edwards said that when he walked into the gym on the first day of tryouts, “I knew I was going to have to be aggressive.” His role would be much different from when he was a junior, there to spell the starters for a few minutes, launch a 3-pointer or two, and then head back to the bench — that much he knew. At times, he’s overaggressive, heaving up the inadvisable shots that drive Hardy up a wall, take an up-and-under layup through traffic that caromed off the backboard and never touched the rim, quickly earning him a spot next to Hardy on the bench. At other times, he’s an offensive juggernaut.
“I thought he was going to have some high-scoring games this year,” Hardy said. “There were some games over summer where he’d get hot and it’d be ridiculous. He could have some more big games. I’d like to see more balanced scoring. Sometimes we’ll have a tough time scoring and we’ll need guys to step up.”