Aug. 5—VALDOSTA — The Region 1-6A Most Valuable Player is taking his talents to the coast.
Valdosta High senior Cameron Edmonds signed a letter of intent with Division II Savannah State University on Wednesday.
"Honestly, it means a lot to me and my family," Edmonds said. "We dreamed of this moment. I dreamed of this moment. All the work is finally showing and to come from Valdosta High where I've been since I was a kid, It's amazing.
"I was considering some JUCOs — South Georgia State, Iowa Central — but ultimately, Savannah State. The campus, the coaches, the feel — it was amazing. They were into me so it was a perfect situation for me."
Going into his first season as boys varsity head coach at Valdosta, James Lee has seen Edmonds' development up close as an assistant coach under former coach Darrell Lockhart over the past three seasons.
Lee opened the signing day festivities with a story about Edmonds and his growth as a player — specifically his 17-point, five-assist performance to lead Valdosta to a 50-49 win over Lee County in the Region 1-6A Championship game.
"The region championship this year, me and Coach (Lockhart) talked about his ability to improve and being a point guard," Lee said. "He was always team-first, almost to a fault. We had enough conversations this year in the fall. Early, I let him know, 'I understand what you want to be. I understand your game. But if you want to win, you've got to put it in the cup.' From that conversation about him taking control, he averaged (14) points a game and led Region 1-6A in scoring and assists as well.
"My favorite moment was the region championship game. It was a tight game against Lee County and the beginning of the fourth quarter, we're in the huddle and I walked up to him and I said, 'You want to win or not?' In that fourth quarter, he really showed what he had done all year — just in command of the game, making the right pass, taking the right shot every time down. That was him as a player — always making the right play, not for Cam but for the betterment of the team. It was a pleasure to coach him this year. He's one of the best captains I've had in my four years here. He was in my first class I had at VHS. It's definitely amazing to see how far his game has come in the past four years. I'm definitely going to miss him. I just know that Savannah is getting an amazing player that's going to contribute and make an impact immediately."
Last season, the dynamic 5-foot-10 guard averaged 13.8 points, 5.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 steals over 27 games — leading the team in scoring, assists and steals.
Edmonds showcased his sweet left-handed shooting stroke, finishing second on the team in 3-pointers made with 30 and leading the team in free throw percentage at 78%.
Edmonds' scoring ability was on full display during his senior season as he scored in double figures in 20 of the team's 27 games. He poured in a season-high 25 points in the team's second-round playoff loss to River Ridge Feb. 26. He also had his only two double-doubles of the season on consecutive nights — posting 16 points and a season-best 12 assists against Durant Dec. 22 before going for 15 points and 10 assists the next night against Auburndale.
"My mindset changed, for sure," Edmonds said of his leap from averaging just 2.1 points and 1.8 assists per game as a junior to nearly 14 as a senior. "My coaches, Coach Lee — he was always on me. It was a mindset thing. He knew I could become good, but I had to change my mindset. I was passive. I had to just take over the game. I had to be a killer."
Edmonds credits local renowned skills trainers Michael Strickland and Jeremy "Smoke" Fountain for helping to mold him into a college prospect.
Strickland, who played at Savannah State from 1994-96, first came into contact with Edmonds as a seventh grader at a camp as the middle school boys basketball coach at Valwood. Fountain, who played at Valdosta High and went on to play in the NBA's G-League, has built a reputation for developing guards in the area as well.
"Coach Strick helped me all the way through eighth grade and Smoke as well," Edmonds said. "They both played a key role in my development."
Edmonds joins a Tigers team that finished 15-14 under longtime head coach Horace Broadnax, who has been the coach at Savannah State since 2005.
"(My role) is to come in and get instant buckets — foot on the gas," Edmonds said when asked what Broadnax expects of him with the Tigers. "They expect me to play from Day 1, so it's nothing short of being amazing."
Despite possessing a silky touch on his shot, Edmonds shot just 39% from the floor and 29% from 3-point range.
In his preparation for the college level, Edmonds said he has been working to improve his in-between game and controlling the tempo better as a point guard.
"I've been working on mid-range pull-ups, for sure...controlling the game more, pushing it, knowing when to push, when to pass — things like that," Edmonds said.
After four years at Valdosta, the newest Savannah State Tiger reflects positively on his time as a Wildcat.
"Playing at Valdosta means everything to me, man," Edmonds said. "The support, the fans, the coaches, the whole experience; amazing. It really is."
Shane Thomas is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.