Christy Selagy (@ChristySelagy)
As cliché as ‘first one in the gym, last to leave’ is, that’s one of the phrases that immediately comes to Strath Haven head coach Chris Conlan’s mind when he thinks of senior Luke Edwards. And Conlan means that literally—there were nights when he needed to leave and lock up the gym but Edwards was still there, practicing.
Luke Edwards (above) chose Alvernia over a host of other D-III schools across the country. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Edwards worked his way up from being a JV/varsity player primarily focused on shooting his freshman year to a three-level scorer All-Central League First Team star player his senior year.
“I’ve been working on my athletic ability a lot lately,” Edwards said. “Working on my fundamentals, my shot every day, my handle, just doing the basics every day and working on my athletic ability. That’s what I've been doing for the past four years. I’ve been doing a lot lately, after this season, because it wasn’t really that long.”
That’s always how it’s been for Edwards, lots of practice to improve all aspects of his game to develop into a do-it-all player, which he credits to his dad, brother, and coaches he’s had since middle school.In early May, all that hard work led him to commit to play Division III ball at Alvernia, one of the first schools to express interest in him.
The COVID-19 pandemic limited chances to see Edwards play in-person, but once he uploaded his senior year highlights to his Hudl profile, he started hearing from a number of D-III schools across the country. He knew he wanted to go to college somewhere close to home, but not too close to home.
After weeding out colleges that were too far away and considering all of his options, Edwards narrowed his choices down to Alvernia and Neumann. Alvernia had been in the mix well before the onslaught of D-III programs began reaching out, and Edwards had even gone to visit the school in the winter. It was really the perfect fit—he liked the campus, the coaching staff was communicative and friendly and it was about an hour away from home.
“I just knew that they wanted me a lot,” Edwards said. “ I saw that they were doing good and I knew that they had a lot of good players on the team… I know we have a good shot at going far. ”
In a COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, the Golden Wolves went 5-3, good enough to earn the No. 3 seed in the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Commonwealth. Rather than a typical postseason, the MAC Commonwealth and MAC Freedom marked the end of the season with the MAC Crossover Challenge, where Alvernia took on MAC Freedom No. 3 seed, dropping the contest by two points.
In its last full season of play, Alvernia went 13-13, but has been in the NCAA Tournament as recently as 2015. Since Mike Miller took the reins as head coach for the 2004-05 season, the Golden Wolves have made six NCAA appearances and won the Eastern College Athletic Conference Tournament—similar to Division I’s NIT Tournament—once.
So, with Miller’s penchant for success and a solid roster, Edwards knew Alvernia would be the best fit. Besides, winning is something he’s gotten accustomed to over the past two years, and he knows how to help a team reach new heights.
Edwards (above) spent his high school years working on developing all aspects of his game. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
After a freshman season of playing for Strath Haven’s JV and varsity squads, Edwards spent his AAU season playing for Philly Pride, which he said significantly helped his development as a player. He earned a starting varsity spot as a sophomore, but the Panthers won only three games.
That's when things started to change. Heading into his junior year, Edwards got more into weights, combined with his usual focus on shooting and fundamentals. Conlan took over as head coach at the start of the season, too, after serving as an assistant at Central League rival Penncrest.
“I think he’s pivotal in changing the culture of the program at Strath Haven,” Conlan said. “He’s kind of the guy that has made this change for us and definitely when we look back at how the program changed, he’s going to be the guy that stands out, his competitive drive, wanting to win every single day, every single practice, every single game.”
The Panthers had a huge turnaround in the 2019-20 season, winning 17 games and making it to the District One and state playoffs. Edwards was named First Team All-Central and an All-Delco honorable mention.
The COVID-19 pandemic made the following offseason difficult for everyone. With restrictions and the uncertainty of whether there would even be an upcoming season, any official practices and workouts were stymied for a while. But that didn’t stop Edwards. During the summer and fall, he’d often invite his teammates to his house or outdoor basketball courts.
“I'm a competitor and I want to do whatever it takes to win, so I'm always just trying to be positive towards my teammates and help them out,” Edwards said. “We each got shots up, worked on our skills and stuff each and every day. We love playing with each other, so we just do it to get better and for fun. We didn’t want to just sit at home all day waiting for the season to happen.”
The Panthers only got to play 13 games because of the shortened season and COVID pauses, but they made it back to the district playoffs as the No. 15 seed, finishing with an 8-5 record.
Edwards averaged 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists per game and hit 24 3-pointers for his senior season, which earned him All-Central First Team and All-Delco Second Team honors.
“I've been coaching now for about ten years,” Conlan said. “His work ethic is one of the best that I've ever seen. He’s constantly working on his game, working on his body and he deserves everything that comes his way as far as basketball.”
Although he’s a few months away from stepping onto the court for the Golden Wolves, Edwards already knows what he wants most: All-League honors, All-American honors, and a national championship.
He’s ready to do whatever the team needs from him, whether that’s at point guard, shooting guard, small forward, or wherever. Edwards is just excited to help Alvernia reach the next level, like he did at Strath Haven.
“If the coaches tell me to do something on the floor, I'm going to do it,” Edwards said. “I think I put in enough work to be good at the college level, so I'm just going to let my game do the talking. With all the work I've put in, I feel like it’s going to pay off.”