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Cleveland: On McKie Edmondson

RickClevelandIn basketball, we call it “garbage time.” One team has an insurmountable lead on the other with the clock winding down. The winning coach clears his bench, giving little-used “scrubs” a chance to play.

Garbage time? Not for McKie Edmondson, now a 40-year-old Madison businessman. Edmondson, a high school standout at Jackson Academy, was a walk-on sophomore guard on the 1995-96 Mississippi State Bulldogs, the only Magnolia State team in history to advance to the Final Four.

Each of those Bulldogs had a chance to express their favorite memories of that magical season at a 20-year anniversary celebration last week. Edmondson’s story provided goosebumps for the sold-out crowd.

First, some background: Edmondson, the son or former Bulldog baseball pitching star Richard Edmondson, had opportunities to play hoops at smaller schools. Raised a Bulldog, he chose instead to walk-on at State. There, he was teammates with Whit Hughes, a year older, who had been his hated rival when Hughes starred at Prep. (Edmondson had helped JA end a 70-game Prep win streak.) Hughes had walked on at State and earned a scholarship. The former rivals became close friends.

Fast forward to the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Indianapolis: Pete Carril-coached Princeton had knocked off UCLA two nights earlier but was no match for State’s size and strength. The Bulldogs piled up a huge lead and with 61 seconds left, Richard Williams told Edmondson to replace Darryl “Super D” Wilson in the State lineup.

The day before, Edmondson had imitated Princeton players to help State prepare for the Carril’s celebrated offense. “McKie was spot-on in the way he would imitate the opposing team’s perimeter players,” Hughes said. “He would learn their tendencies and their plays. Lots of times, we felt like we knew the other team’s offense better than they did. McKie was a big reason for that. He worked as hard as anybody on that team. He earned the respect of everybody.”

With 61 seconds left and on national TV McKie Edmondson didn’t have to imitate the other team. He could now be McKie Edmondson, not somebody else.

State had the ball. Hughes set a pick to try to get Edmondson open. Didn’t work. So Hughes ran across the court and set another screen for Edmondson. Still didn’t work.

“I couldn’t believe when Whit came back across the court and set a third screen,” Edmondson recalled.

This one worked. Edmondson was open just behind the 3-point line. Jay Walton threw him the ball.

“I was so nervous I couldn’t feel my hands,” Edmondson said. “But somehow I caught the ball and shot it. I was thinking, please don’t be an air ball.”

Edmondson’s shot hit nothing but net. Three points! Edmondson glanced over at the State bench and what he saw will be with him until the day he dies.

“My teammates, the starters, were all jumping up and down and hugging each other like we had just won the national championship,” Edmondson said. “Making the shot was one thing. Seeing my teammates react like that was another. That’s what I’ll never forget — my teammates. I mean, Whit set three screens on my man to get me open.”

And there was more.

With a couple seconds left, another State player missed a 3-pointer; Edmondson retrieved the rebound. He was fouled with .2 seconds left and went to the free throw line.

“I still couldn’t feel my hands,” he said, chuckling.

But he converted both free throws, the last points ever scored against a Carril-coached team. The popular, highly regarded Princeton coach retired after the game.

The NCAA record books will forever show that McKie Edmondson scored five points in one minute for a Final Four team. He did not miss a shot.

Garbage time? Hardly.

  • ••

Rick Cleveland is a syndicated columnist and historian at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. His email address is rcleveland@msfame.com.

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Adam Brown
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