By Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
Justin Edwards has peace of mind. The 6-foot-7, Imhotep Charter senior star wing will be going to Kentucky, a decision he announced on Monday on national TV at Imhotep.
It was not an easy decision.
Edwards, considered universally as one of the top players in the nation, chose Kentucky over Tennessee.
Imhotep Charter's Justin Edwards committed to Kentucky on Monday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“Kentucky has always been my dream school and I always saw myself playing for coach (John) Calipari,” said Edwards, who led the Panthers to their eighth PIAA state championship and a 28-4 record last year. “It really came down to where I felt comfortable and I trust coach Calipari when he says he’s going to help me get to where I want to go.
“It was really close because Tennessee is like Imhotep and they really welcomed me. They have a family atmosphere there. It was a hard decision. I know I can be myself and work on my weakness, while I can still be myself. They have me at the three. It was stressful, but it was good when I figured out where I wanted to go and all of that stress was relieved.
“Towards the end, it started to get stressful because schools kept calling me, and other schools still called me, even after I went public that I had my mind made up it was between Kentucky and Tennessee.”
Ebony Twiggs, Edwards’ mother, is also greatly relieved.
She is excited that the recruiting process is over.
“I’m extremely glad that this is over, but it was an extremely stressful process,” Twiggs said. “I’m extremely proud of Justin because Kentucky has always been his dream school. And we’ll see how the future goes, if (Camden’s) DJ (Wagner) goes there. That will be a dream team. But I am happy it is over.
“Justin’s a great, lovable kid who will play video games until two, three in the morning and go work out. But for Justin to go through his senior year, going throughout the season without nothing to worry about, it’s great for me.”
Three weeks ago, Ebony caught Justin in his bedroom emotional over concerns of making the wrong decision.
“He just burst out crying, ‘Mom, I don’t want to make the wrong decision,’” she said. “But either way, it wasn’t the wrong decision. They’re both great schools, with great coaches.
“Either way, I told him that he would have to continue working hard at whatever school he goes to.”
There was a large contingent at Imhotep for Edwards’ decision.
“They’re betting that I didn’t cry when he made his decision, but I see all of these people in here, and that shows me how much everyone in here cares about my son,” Ebony said.
Imhotep Charter's Justin Edwards was the Class 5A PIAA Player of the Year in 2021-22. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Imhotep coach Andre Noble, who has had a large contingent of players go on to play at the next level, was also pleased with the choice. He, too, saw what Edwards was enduring throughout the recruiting process.
“Justin is a great kid and I love telling people how far Justin has come,” said Noble, who has directed the Panthers to 10 Philadelphia Public League championships and eight PIAA state titles. “Justin is a great student, who’s a character young man, and a great example for what we want our young people to be at Imhotep.
“Justin isn’t someone who you have to worry about where he is at two in the morning, unless he’s up playing a video game. But I’m really, really happy for him. I feel good about the fit. Justin had a lot of great schools, but the biggest part of the decision was that Justin bought into it, and believes in this decision.
Edwards averaged 18 points a game last season and was the PIAA Class 5A Player of the Year. The Panthers have won two-straight Public League titles in Edwards’ sophomore and junior years.
Last season, Kentucky finished 26–8 overall, and 14–4 in SEC play, in a tie for second place. As the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament, the Wildcats beat Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament quarterfinals, before losing to Tennessee in the semifinals.
The Wildcats were the No. 2 seed in the East region, before becoming just the 10th No. 2 seed to lose in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, losing to No. 15-seeded NCAA darling Saint Peter’s, 85–79, in overtime. It also marked the first time Kentucky had suffered a First Round exit under Calipari.
It had to be a relief to the Wildcats’ faithful when Edwards put the Kentucky hat on.
“I was little nervous about it, but nervous in a good way,” Edwards said. “I know I can play and have fun next season knowing where I’m going and happy where I’m going.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.