LARAMIE — When Allen Edwards’ Wyoming Cowboys take the court Wednesday at South Carolina, it will be against a defending Final Four team (5 p.m. Mountain Time, SEC Network-Plus).
“Well, just watching them on film,” Edwards said, “this is a Frank Martin basketball team.”
Edwards should know. Martin, now in his sixth season as South Carolina’s head coach, coached Edwards when the Wyoming coach was a freshman on the junior varsity team at Miami High School.
“I mean, he started from the bottom in a sense of driving around 11-year-old kids, going to play in tournaments in the city of Miami,” Edwards said.
Martin has been a mentor of Edwards’ since he first coached him on an under-12 team.
“Sometimes as a young man, you probably didn’t get it,” Edwards said, “but now that you’re older and you see life differently and you see where he’s at now, a lot of the teachings and the things that he used to say back when I was younger and all the way through high school and even now just makes more sense.”
Martin is known for his fiery demeanor on-court, even if his off-the-court reputation has softened in recent years — especially when he interacted with a Sports Illustrated Kids reporter at last year’s Sweet Sixteen.
Allen experienced both sides with Martin. He recalled one JV game when Martin kicked him off the team in the middle of the game.
“I ended up getting up and going to take off my uniform and going into the locker room,” Edwards said. “And he gave me a nice butt-chewing, but the next day was a brand new day. We met at school. We sat down. He called me in to talk and then everything was fine.
“So that’s the type of coach (he is). It wasn’t like he let it linger on. It was a moment. I probably did something and he reacted, and for that segment kicked me off. But then the next day we talked and we were fine and I was back on the team.”
Edwards’ connections with the South Carolina coaching staff don’t end with Martin. Edwards’ older brother Doug, who was drafted 15th overall in 1993 by the Atlanta Hawks, is the director of student-athlete development for the Gamecocks.
“All the young guys that came from the community that we came from, ... just the discipline that they were trying to teach us at an early age and get us away from what was going on within our community to where basketball was an outlet,” Edwards said. “And then obviously, I think Doug was the one that kind of set the tone for a lot of people in our community, because he was the first one that really went to college.”
Because Doug is four years older, Edwards said the two were never all that competitive growing up.
“I was always watching him, wanting to be like him, and then wanting to be like my brother Steve,” Edwards said. “But my brother Steve, who’s the middle, is two years apart, so we had a little bit more than myself and Doug. I mean, we’ve never been, lack for a better word, (expletive)-talking family amongst each other. It more of rooting for each other than that.”
That doesn’t mean they won’t be competitive Wednesday.
“They’re probably thinking the same way,” Edwards said of South Carolina’s staff. “It’s family. It’s friends. But when the ball goes up, we’re enemies, at the end of the day. And then when the game’s over, you become friends again and family again. I don’t know if you can say family again. You’re always family. But yeah.”
The Gamecocks come in at 6-2, with losses to Illinois State and Temple on their record. The game would give Wyoming (6-2) an opportunity for its second road win over a power conference team this season, as the Cowboys already won at Oregon State. Wyoming began two-for-one series with both the Beavers and South Carolina this season.
“I think at the end of the day, what’s human nature is, ‘It’s South Carolina,’” Edwards said. “I don’t know if I have to say too many words for our guys to be ready. They’re playing against South Carolina.”
South Carolina did lose three of its four leading scorers from last year’s semifinalist team, including SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell, who is now on the Los Angeles Clippers.
“If you’re sitting there and saying ... just because they came off the Final Four year now, year in and year out, this is the expectation,” Edwards said, “I don’t know if that is realistic. ... But they still have the same core values that Frank preaches.”
Few know what that means more than Edwards.