Dre’una Edwards: More than just a game-winner


Kentucky Wildcats forward Dre’una Edwards (44) drives the ball during the UK vs. Auburn womens basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 90-62. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke

Kentucky forward Dre’una Edwards made the 3-point basket to win the Wildcats their first SEC Championship since 1982, but that is far from all to her story.

Edwards returned to Kentucky as a junior, looking to improve upon a sophomore season that saw her average under 10 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

She looked to be a different player from the beginning of the season, having gotten in prime shape to compete during the offseason.

Playing Kentucky’s season-opening schedule against the likes of Presbyterian, North Alabama and Winthrop, Edwards averaged 22 points per game, barring the Indiana loss.

The first crack in the facade came before Kentucky’s first game inside Rupp Arena against DePaul on Dec. 9, when Edwards was suspended for ‘failing to uphold the academic standards of the team’.

Kentucky would eventually lose 94-85 to the Blue Demons shorthanded, with a fair amount of blame from onlookers going on Edwards’ shoulders.

Though she came back after the single game suspension, the train fell off the rails early in 2022, as it was announced prior to tip-off for Kentucky’s home stand against Florida that Edwards would again face suspension, this time for disciplinary measures.

Kentucky would get blown out by 25 points.

Unlike the first suspension, Edwards would be absent for four games, not traveling with the team to Auburn or Nashville for Kentucky’s duels with Auburn and Vanderbilt.

The Wildcats would go 1-3 in the stretch without Edwards, with the lone win coming against Auburn by 12 points.

Though some speculated that Edwards would not appear for the rest of the season, news broke that the forward was with the team in Baton Rouge in preparation for Kentucky’s matchup against LSU on Jan. 30, in what was the start of one of the greatest turnarounds in college athletics.

Kentucky would eventually lose that game 78-69, but it looked vastly better than it had in games prior, losing by single digits to an LSU team that would eventually claim the No. 3 seed in the conference going into the SEC Tournament.

Though she put up just 10 points and eight rebounds in the loss, Edwards’ presence on the court made an immediate impact for the Wildcats.

“It was great having Dre back,” Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy said after the loss. “Obviously she makes us different on both ends of the floor with her ability to stretch the defense with the pick and pop. It’s good to have Dre back.”

Though Edwards’ scoring ability continued to be mostly absent, she picked up where she left off in Kentucky’s next loss against Texas A&M, recording a 10-point double-double with 10 rebounds.

Edwards was shut down in Kentucky’s nine-point loss to No. 1 South Carolina on Feb. 10, but since then, she has averaged 20 points per game, including 30 points against Missouri on Feb. 24.

Edwards has also recorded five double-doubles during Kentucky’s win streak, bringing her total up to 11 on the season.

“I definitely feel like I owe [my teammates],” Edwards said after the Missouri game. “They held me down, so now it’s time for me to hold them down. I think I’ve been doing that and we’ve just been there for each other all the way so it’s been amazing.”

Honing in on the SEC Tournament, Edwards recorded two double-doubles in the wins over Mississippi State and No. 3 seeded LSU, totaling 24 rebounds for Kentucky.

In the championship game against No. 1 South Carolina, Edwards achieved her storybook ending, recording 27 points with three made 3-pointers including the game winning shot for the Cats.

With seven seconds left to play, Edwards let the ball go from the top of the key, with the made basket giving the Wildcats its 64-62 lead that ultimately won it the game.

“I was very confident,” Edwards said regarding the shot. “It was just that whoever was open was going to shoot it. They got me the ball, I was open, I let it fly.”

While the shot will go down as the defining moment of the game, Edwards contributed far more than just one basket, with her coach emphasizing throughout the winning stretch how important her energy was for the team, with the same appearing to be the case against the Gamecocks.

“I just kept telling the team that it ain’t over,” Edwards said. “We just kept trying to hype each other up and they kept hyping me up and telling me, ‘Can’t nobody guard you, you go out there and score’. I had to do it for my team.”

Elzy recalled the suspension and struggles Edwards had overcome after the game, praising the forward for her contributions towards the historic win.

“I am so proud of Dre,” Elzy said. “We did hit heads early on, but she came back a better person and a better player and committed to what we needed to get done. She has helped this program move forward.”

Regardless of what happens in the big dance for Kentucky, Edwards has cemented herself in the history books of the womens basketball program.

Her story and struggles may not always be remembered for years to come, but her success and game-winning shot will, with her interview in the immediate aftermath sending chills down the spines of viewers across the country.

“They told me to shoot it, they was going to give me the ball,” Edwards said with tears streaming down her face. “We just battled, we’ve been battling all year, we faced adversity and we turned it up. Can’t wait for the NCAA Tournament, we’re not done. We’re not done!”