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Last week, Cairo’s own Teresa Edwards spent the week sharing not only her knowledge of the game of basketball, but the wisdom gained from an incredible journey that took a little girl who loved basketball around the world.
Teresa Edwards is recognized as the greatest female basketball player in the world. Sports Illustrated has placed her as the 22nd greatest female athlete of the 20th Century out of 100 female athletes. The U.S. Olympic Committee appointed Edwards as chef de mission for the 2012 Olympic games. In 2010, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, in 2011 she was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2013 she was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame. Teresa Edwards won four Gold Medals and one Bronze Medal as a member of the USA Olympic Women’s basketball team.
However, with all of her world famous accolades, last week Teresa returned to the place where it all started as a young student, Washington Middle School. Edwards, home for a couple weeks to spend time with her mom, Mildred, invited the Syrupmaker and Syrupmaid basketball teams to join her for a couple of hours each day last week on the court at Washington Middle for a free camp. She worked with the boy’s team on Tuesday and the girl’s team the rest of the week.
“It all started for me right here, this place is hallowed ground for me,” Teresa shared with the players about Washington Middle School. Pointing to the band room, Teresa remembered her first time encountering organized girls basketball. “I heard the band practicing after school one day as I was outside listening to them then, as I walked away, I peeked in the window of the gym and I saw girls playing basketball. I didn’t know the girls even had a team, so I went in the gym and asked if I could play. They were having tryouts and I didn’t even know what that meant. I just wanted to play, and they let me. I didn’t have any shoes and they gave me some to play in, next thing I knew, I made the team,” Edwards fondly remembers.
For Edwards, her earliest memories of basketball were shooting hoops with a tire rim nailed to a tree in her back yard with her brothers. “Eventually, I worked my way on to the courts at Holder Park to play with the boys, then I couldn’t get enough,” Teresa said with a grin.
Speaking of the WMS gym, Teresa said, “I won my first ever championship on this court.” Pointing to the baseline under the basket at the far end of the court, she flashed back to her days learning the game. “I remember practicing in here and loving it so much that when my coach told me it was time to leave, I didn’t want to go. She turned off the lights and I laid on the floor under that basket in the dark, dreaming of being the greatest player I could be, then I got up and shot baskets in the dark for another hour.” She added, “That’s how much I loved this game.”
Each day last week, Edwards worked with the high school players, sharing her knowledge and love of the game each day. She pushed them to find their best efforts, showing them different skills and sharing with them the work ethic, the love and the dedication it takes to be the best you can be at a sport she loves so much.
For the Cairo coaching staff, it was a dream come true to work with this basketball legend. Boy’s coach JJ Cooper said, “I hope she comes back often, I learned a lot today.” Former classmates of Edwards stopped by the gym to visit and watch their former teammate in action, moving up and down the court like it was 1982, the year she helped lead the Syrupmaids to their last state title.
In spite of keeping the workouts low key, WCTV caught wind that the legend was in town and stopped by for an on camera interview. Edwards shared her love for the game and her hometown of Cairo with them, then parted from the media for the next workout with the girls.
“I plan to return more often now that life is slowing down some. I enjoy coming home and, of course, spending time with my mom, I owe everything to her. She sacrificed so much to be sure I had every thing I needed all these years, and I love her so much,” Edwards concluded.
Capital City Bank fed the players and Edwards on Wednesday and the Jackie Robinson Boys and Girls Club director, Stephen Francis, coordinated the workouts with CHS and WMS which also included a trip by the Club to visit the kids.