by Ryan Semanko
When Lynx guard Teresa Edwards was wrapping up her brilliant college career at Georgia in 1986, Minnesota's four current rookies were just turning four years old. Eighteen years later, they are all teammates with the Lynx, playing together despite their large age difference.
The 40-year-old Edwards is the oldest player in the WNBA, but that does not stop her from being the floor general for the Minnesota Lynx. Instead, she uses her age and experience to help her each night on the court. "I'm at a point where I have played so much and done so much that I know what it takes to be successful in the long run," Edwards said.
One of the top players to ever play the game, Edwards has played thousands of basketball games and has been in just about every game situation. The first and only American basketball player (male or female) to compete in five Olympics, she won gold medals in 2000, 1996, 1988 and 1984. Edwards tops USA Olympic career records in assists (143, 4.5 apg), steals (59, 1.84 spg) and games played (32). She also ranks second all-time in points (265, 8.3 ppg) and fourth in rebounds (68, 2.1 rpg).
Edwards also played three seasons (1996-97 through 1998-99) in the ABL with the Atlanta Glory and the Philadelphia Rage. In 98 career games, she averaged 20.8 ppg, 6.4 apg and 2.57 spg, and was twice named to the All-ABL First Team. Edwards was the lone ABL player to score 40 points in a game, and she did so four times in her two-plus seasons. She was even named a player/coach with Atlanta for one season. Along with the ABL, Edwards' professional playing experience includes stints in Italy, Japan, Spain and France.
“When you think about the past and the players that came before you," Lynx guard Katie Smith told the Pioneer Press, "I think all of us know in the back of our heads that what we are doing and where we are at is because of everyone that paved the way before us. 'T' had an awful lot to do with that.”
"I've had the benefit of coaching T before, and what you love is that she's a coach's dream on the floor because she takes care of any issues you might have in terms of not working hard or mental approach," said Seattle coach Anne Donovan, who coached Edwards with the Rage in 1998-99. " 'T' is on it all the time, sharp. She makes sure that your rookies and your veterans alike come to play every day. Her leadership is invaluable."
Edwards has played in plenty of big games in her career. Her Lynx teammates have been the beneficiaries of this experience. “She wants the best of everyone, every day," rookie Amber Jacobs told the Pioneer Press. "I’m learning from a five-time Olympian. I’ve been trying to pick her brain not only about basketball, but about life too.”
"I think Teresa is an awesome player and awesome person, and she is someone I really look up to," said rookie center Vanessa Hayden.
It isn't always easy to be playing against much younger opponents, but Edwards looks at it as an added boost to her game. The younger players may have more quickness, but they may not have the same work ethic. When asked in an online mailbox last season how it felt to be called a rookie at age 39, she responded, "I love it! It keeps me forever young... with experience :) "
Edwards has played and started all 68 regular-season games during her two-year stint with the Lynx. Her assist numbers are down this season, but she moved from point guard to shooting guard for the final two-thirds of the season. She still led the Lynx in assists nine times in 2004. Her scoring increased from 5.3 ppg in 2003 to 5.7 this season, and steals improved from 1.21 to 1.38.
Edwards scored her WNBA career high of 17 on Opening Night in Seattle, then surpassed that with 18 in the Sept. 10 win over the Storm. "We talked before the game about challenging our veterans, and they are the ones that got it done for us tonight," Lynx coach Suzie McConnell Serio said following the game. "Teresa Edwards really responded — she dug deep and came up big. She played 30 minutes tonight. She hasn't done that since early in the season. But veterans know how to win, and she took it personally tonight. She looked like the old 'T' out there. She was doing everything. She took over being the leader tonight."
Edwards constantly remains focused on her game and works hard to improve each day so that the younger crowd does not catch up to her. "I have always had the mentality that I can still get better," said Edwards. "I am not a player that can play and just be happy to be out there; I want to be effective when I'm out there. In order to do that, I have to stay on top of my game and try to get better."
Edwards is a mentor and inspiration to the other players. Instead of using her age as an excuse, she uses it to her benefit to push herself to work harder and to help teach the younger players. That experience will be a big boost to the Lynx as they enter the 2004 WNBA Playoffs.
Edwards photo gallery
Seattle Storm: Legend Still Leading Lynx (Sept. 2004)
Olympics mailbox (Aug. 2004)
40 Facts on Teresa's 40th Birthday (July 2004)
Lynx feature: Basketball Legend (June 2004)
Teresa Answers Fan Questions (July 2003)
Lynx feature: Rookie In Name Only (May 2003)
Lynx Select Edwards in 2003 Draft
Edwards' WNBA.com playerfile
Edwards' USA Basketball playerfile
2004 Lynx features archive