Culture / Sporting Life

Why Kyler Edwards Is Just Getting Started — Embracing UH’s Guard Freedom, a Texas Tech Transfer Raises His Game

UH Assistant Quannas White Sees a Little Rob Gray in Edwards

BY // 01.25.22

Even as Kyler Edwards struggled to find his shot at times, the University of Houston coaching staff never worried. Not after Edwards opened his UH tenure with a 3 for 14 night against Hofstra. Not after he went 0 for 7 from three in a romp over Alcorn State. Not after a 1 for 14 showing against Wichita State.

The Cougar coaches had seen this before. With the greatest pure scorer of the Kelvin Sampson era.

“It happens to the best of them,” UH assistant coach Quannas White tells PaperCity. “I remember all the way back from when Rob Gray played here. Guys that can really shoot the ball will sometimes go in slumps. Kyler isn’t worried about when he misses a shot.

“I think the biggest thing is Coach (Kelvin) Sampson isn’t worried when he misses a shot. He has the absolute freedom to take the next shot. And the next shot after that.”

With Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark out with injuries, Edwards is taking on the lead scorer role for the seventh ranked team in the nation. The Texas Tech transfer is averaging 25.7 points in Houston’s last three games, shooting a scorching 51.4 percent from three while taking 12 of them per game in this stretch. He’s won the last two American Athletic Conference Player of the Week awards, appeared on the Jim Rome Show, found himself very much back in the spotlight.

Even with this sizzling stretch, Edwards’ overall shooting percentage for the season still sits at 39.9 percent. Which is why the sense around the program is that Kyler Edwards is still only really getting started.

“Being more aggressive,” Edwards tells PaperCity when asked what he’s improved on this season. “Being aggressive through my teammates. Scoring through my teammates.”

This is never more apparent than than in Houston’s 79-36 demolition of a decent East Carolina team (ranked about 150th in the NET rankings of all 358 Division 1 basketball schools coming into the game). Edwards puts up 25 points on 13 shots — without UH running a single play for him.

“When the ball moves it will find the open guy,” Sampson says. “And Kyler’s been shooting it well. But he’s also put in the time and work. . . I don’t think Kyler’s taken it upon his shoulder. But you can see his confidence. He’s taking shots that earlier in the year Marcus was taking those shots.

“Last year, Quentin (Grimes) took those shots. Before that Armoni (Brooks) took ’em. Corey (Davis Jr.) took ’em. There’s a reason we win a lot. We’ve had really, really good players here. But Kyler because of those guys that came before him, their success is part of the reason he chose to come here too.”

Kyler Edwards and the UH Move

Edwards left Texas Tech — which has turned into a somewhat unexpected Final Four contender of its own under new coach Mark Adams — because he wanted the chance to expand his game. He saw what UH did for Quentin Grimes, another high-profile transfer. Edwards knew from UH assistant Kellen Sampson, who started recruiting him when he was a sophomore in high school, how Kelvin Sampson believed in giving his guards freedom.

As a kid, Kyler Edwards became enamored with LeBron James’ multi-faceted game like many young hoopers. Now, his on-court possibilities are expanding. He’s showing more of his playmaking abilities, essentially emerging as UH’s point guard when Jamal Shead isn’t on the court. And sometimes when he is.

“Watching him at Texas Tech, playing for Coach Beard in the motion offense they run, you really didn’t get to see that side to him,” White says. “But coming over here, Coach has allowed him to have more freedom. To expand his game.

“. . . You see more of his game. Not just him shooting threes. Not just attacking the basket. He’s making other guys around him better, which is helping our team.”

This plays out in the floor game Edwards has against East Carolina — a game-high seven assists and zero turnovers.

“I’ve gotten better in every aspect,” Edwards tells PaperCity. “Being a leader to the young guys. To be someone they can look up to when they’re having a hard time. Because I’ve been a freshman. I’ve been at different schools. I know how hard it can be. I think I can give good advice.”

Edwards played in an overtime national championship game as a freshman at Texas Tech. And he played well, scoring 12 points on 4 for 5 shooting off the bench. On this Houston team, only the sidelined Sasser can match that rising to the sport’s biggest stage confidence.

“I think the biggest thing is Coach (Kelvin) Sampson isn’t worried when he misses a shot. He has the absolute freedom to take the next shot. And the next shot after that.” — UH assistant Quannas White on Kyler Edwards

Now, Edwards is doing his best to take freshman guard Ramon Walker, who’s turned into an important rotation player with the loss of Sasser and Mark, under his wing.

“I guess Ramon surprised me,” Edwards says. “Because I didn’t really know much about him coming out of high school. He’s pretty good. Can do a lot of different things for us.”

University of Houston Cougars defeated the Wichita State Shockers Saturday January 8, 2022 at the Fertitta Center.
Kyler Edwards is becoming more and more of a playmaker for Houston. He still has more skills to show. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

You could say Kyler Edwards sees a little of himself in Ramon Walker. Edwards has never been afraid to take the big shot. To keep shooting when others might back away from the moment.

“As far as modeling my game, I like looking at (All-Star NBA guard) Dame Lillard,” Edwards says.

For this reconfigured Houston team, it’s not Dame Time. But the 22-year-old Edwards certainly feels the clock ticking.

This Houston coaching staff never had any doubts. Much like they did with Rob Gray when he’d slump, they never talked to Edwards about shooting less. Shooters shoot. And complete players who can shoot make a difference in all kinds of ways.

Kyler Edwards is making the most of this one season at Houston, rooming with fellow major program transfer Josh Carlton, embracing being a playmaker and a leader. Shooting for another Final Four.

“I still take some things from that,” Edwards says of that Monday night playing for the title.

Kyler Edwards has been there. And now he’s getting it done in a whole different way at Houston.

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