UGA Sports Communications talks with hoops legend Teresa Edwards

“I hated losing”

When Teresa Edwards decided to attend and play basketball at the University of Georgia, it set in motion her legendary career. Her No. 5 jersey is one of four retired numbers at Georgia. She is a member of the Women’s Basketball, Georgia Sports and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fames, as well as the Circle of Honor. Edwards' passion for the game of basketball began in her hometown of Cairo, Ga., four-and-a-half hours southwest of Athens. She and her brother nailed a bike rim to a tree in their yard, creating her first basketball hoop. From there, the rest is history. Edwards' career took off at Georgia, segwaying into the Olympics, professional international play and eventually, the WNBA. Today, Edwards reflects on her career as a Georgia Lady Bulldog without any regrets and encourages others to do the same. Georgia Sports decided to catch up with Edwards, look back on her career and some of her favorite moments playing the game she loves.

Olivia PuttinWhen you decided to attend the University of Georgia and play basketball, did you ever think you would have such a decorated career? Teresa Edwards: “No, not at all. I wasn’t even looking for that. A lot of ladies play for the love of the game, there’s so much passion and love for what we are doing. The difference for me is that everything I did came through passion. I hated losing. I was super competitive and I grew up with boys, so that’s probably why it’s a natural thing for me. But no, I never thought it would add up the way it did.”

OP: As a kid from Georgia, how special was it to play for your home state? TE: “I was highly recruited from all across America, but back then you really paid attention to the atmosphere, the coaches and the players that were on the rosters. I wanted to give myself a fair shake and look around, but Georgia had the best in the land. We were on the map, Herschel Walker was crazy big, Dominique Wilkins was blowing up there, the track team was off the chart, and I wanted to go and be a part of something special with basketball. I knew it was a great opportunity and coach [Andy] Landers was an amazing guy, very charming, smart and witty.”

OP: What was it like playing under Andy Landers? How did he impact your professional career and life after basketball? TE: “He impacted me tremendously as a student-athlete. What makes him different, especially coaching young ladies, is that he had the ability to coach basketball no matter who was on the court. It was bigger than shooting shots and making layups, it was understanding when to play hard, how to push, when to stop momentum. I took away an abundance of basketball savviness and experience, which helped me flourish when I went pro. I felt very confident at Georgia, I knew what I was doing and I kept growing beyond that because I was able to absorb everything that he taught us.” OP: What was your favorite moment playing for the University of Georgia? TE: “Winning the SEC on our home court, it was amazing. We were able to stand on our court and hold up a championship trophy. It was one of the best moments I’ve ever had with my teammates.”

OP: While competing as a Lady Bulldog, you also were a member of the United States Women’s basketball team at the Olympics. What was it like representing your country on the biggest stage while being the youngest Olympic basketball player to do so? TE: “I had to grow into my patriotism and understand the weight of those three big, bold letters on my chest. My competitive edge helped me tremendously, proving time and time again that I could get there, go through the trials and play at that level, it became my thing. We fought our way to a 12-player roster and became a cohesive unit to win a gold medal, wanting to prove that we were the best in the world brought us together.”

OP: How did it feel to play with Katrina McClain and represent Georgia at the Olympics? TE: “Katrina McClain and I played three Olympics together, so representing Georgia was cool. We played at a time when the world didn’t really care about women’s basketball. We were winning like crazy for the USA, but it was ‘T’ and ‘Tree’ representing Georgia. I look back and I’m very proud of what we did, and how we held it up together.”

OP: This will probably be a tough question, but of all of the Olympic games you competed in, is there a moment that is your favorite? TE: “My first Olympics, because everything was so new. I came from the small town of Cairo, Ga., I didn’t grow up dreaming about the Olympics, people hate to hear it, but it’s true. I didn’t know about the greatest achievement of basketball, but I knew I loved the game. Everything was new and exciting. I was so young and didn’t get to play much, which propelled me to go back and try out again. I will never forget all of my first experiences that took place in Los Angeles at the 1984 Olympics.”

OP: After graduating from Georgia, you had a stint in the WNBA. The WNBA’s following has grown astronomically in the last few years. How does it feel to have been part of such a special league? TE: “For me, it was about having the opportunity to play professionally in the United States. The WNBA was a dream come true for me and a lot of young ladies that play the game. Dreams of young ladies are just as important as dreams of young men, if she dreams it she should have the space to live and achieve it. I’ve always been an advocate for young women to be their absolute best. That’s what the WNBA means to me, it means we have a place for young women to be inspired.”

OP: You also played internationally for nine years in multiple countries. Do you have any favorite memories from playing and living abroad? How much different was the basketball culture in other countries compared to the United States? TE: “It’s very different, it’s like a pandemonium going on over there. Playing overseas has always been a delightful journey, the fans are amazing and appreciative. You win a big game, you’re on ten guys shoulders being ripped around the gym. They come out to be entertained and truly have a good time.”

OP: You released a book of poetry called Dream with Faith, Legacy, can you tell me about why you decided to write it? What was the inspiration behind it? TE: “I wrote it many moons ago, it was a part of me leaving the game. It’s just my thoughts, I sat down and got enthralled with it and let the words sink in. I realized I was just venting. There’s moments in it that allow me to be free, expressive and grateful. I was lucky enough that the words just came together like they did.”

Puttin: Do you still watch and keep up with Georgia women’s basketball and are you excited to watch them perform this year?  Teresa Edwards: “I’ve worked really hard since I left Georgia to stay connected to the women’s program. I stay in touch with coach Joni [Taylor], and I’m very proud to be a Lady Bulldog. I always find ways to support them and stay in touch with them. Going back to the University of Georgia is like going home.”

OP: Do you have a message to the current Lady Bulldogs who are following in your footsteps? TE: “I hope in my heart of hearts that you are still having fun at your age, that you’re still explorative, creative and you have freedom to try new things. You don’t want to have any regrets when you’re done. You don’t want to regret missing an opportunity that was right there for you. You don’t want to look back and say, ‘I wish.’ You want to leave it all there every time you’re on the court. I want them to know they can be unapologetic for working to be their greatest self. They can be unapologetic for being excited for their accomplishments thus far. I want them to open up their minds and dream beyond measure. Don’t allow a man to predict or measure how far you can truly go. No one knows that, not even you. It’s not about counting the victories, it’s about going out there and getting them one at a time.”

OP: Lastly, what makes the University of Georgia special? TE: “It’s in my blood, I’m Georgia through and through. I was born and raised there, I realized I know I made the best decision for myself by attending the University of Georgia. I have no regrets and am unapologetically a Bulldog. What makes it special is when you come back, no matter how old you are or how long you’ve been away, it still feels like home.”

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