When the Daily Reporter first phoned the Maryville, Tennessee, home of Mike Edwards one day this week, his wife, Debbie, told us Edwards was “out jogging in an ice storm.”
It turns out she was only half-kidding. Edwards’ daily 3-mile trek was indeed slippery, but it was more of a walk, he later explained.
Still, at age 64, Edwards is displaying the same gusto that made him one of the most prolific scorers in the history of Indiana high school basketball.
The 1969 Greenfield High School graduate once scored 57 points in a game (and had another game of 55 points) and finished with 2,343 points — all without benefit of the 3-point shot. Nicknamed “The Greenfield Gunner” by the time he posted a state-leading 36.4 scoring average as a senior, his career point total remains 10th-best all-time, ahead of Hoosier luminaries such as Steve Alford, Eric Gordon and Shawn Kemp.
Story continues below gallery
Heavily recruited by the Big Ten, Edwards instead decided to play for coach Ray Mears at the University of Tennessee, where Edwards went on to score 1,343 points and earn co-SEC Player of the Year honors following his junior campaign. Edwards was elected to the Indiana Baskeball Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Tennessee All-Century Team in 2009.
Q: Your 57-point game for Greenfield against Morristown in 1969 remains an all-time Hancock County single-game record. Are you surprised it’s still intact?
A: It’s about time that’s broke, isn’t it? I mean, they’ve got the 3-point shot and everything. I’m surprised it’s stood this long (laughs). What I remember about it is that it was the last game in the old gym (before Greenfield High consolidated with Hancock Central). That was a special place. A lot of people don’t realize this, but the gymnasium at the new school was done, and the old gym (on School Street) was always full. It was really hard to get in. There was some talk of moving the games my senior year out to the new place, because it seated a lot more people. Coach (Joe) Stanley came and asked about it, and we wanted to stay where we were. It was a real tough place to play for teams that came in. The fans were right down on the court.
Q: You’ve lived in Tennessee, working as an educator, since college. Do you stay in contact with Greenfield folks?
A: We had our class reunion last summer, and I enjoyed that. I hadn’t been back for a while. I got to see some of the guys that played on the team: Eddie Bodkin and Dennis Andrews, and Alan Kirby and Tom New were there. So it was kind of nice to see all those guys again.
Q: You played in what could be considered The Golden Age of Indiana high school basketball — before school consolidation and class basketball. Do you feel fortunate to have played in that era?
A: Absolutely. Real special memories. You had a lot of small schools, a lot of support. Gyms were filled. And then we went to consolidations, and a lot of trophies and awards and everything got sold at garage sales, or booster clubs auctioned them off to get money, and they weren’t brought to the new schools. And a lot of the identity of players and so forth, it wasn’t carried over.
Q: The story goes that Ray Mears offered you a full-ride scholarship to Tennessee after watching you shoot just a few jump shots. Is that true?
A: That’s a true story. It was during football season. There was a rule at the high school back then that if you played basketball, you had to either play football or run cross-country in the fall. And I knew I didn’t want to run cross-country (laughs). We played Carmel the night before. In fact, I dropped two touchdown passes in that game from Denny Andrews, the quarterback. They were great passes.
Anyway, the next day, with some of the guys from the basketball team, we went to a clinic up there in Muncie that coach Stanley was helping run. Out of the clear blue during this clinic, coach Stanley asked me to come out to the top of the key and take some jump shots, unannounced. Best I remember, it was nine in, and the last one came off.
I went to eat lunch, and I didn’t know anything about Ray Mears or Tennessee basketball. And he came over, and I was going into my junior year, and he said, ‘I’ve got what I call a star system. I’ve got people that handle the ball. I’ve got people that rebound. Whatever you do the best, that’s what we’ll allow you to do. And I want you to come down to my program and be a shooter.’ And he had never been to a game. He did come to some games later on, but he had never seen me play.
Q: You averaged nearly 30.1 points a game for the Tennessee freshman team, before NCAA freshman were allowed to play varsity. Then you averaged 17.4 points your final three seasons. Were you surprised by your immediate success at the college level?
A: Coming in down here, I felt comfortable at Tennessee. A lot of times, I think kids pick a school, and they’re not looking at how they’re going to fit in. I was real particular about that, because I knew I wasn’t going to be real happy if it was going to be my junior or senior year before I really got to play. So, at Tennessee it looked like the best opportunity for me. I played on the wing in high school, and they played a 1-3-1 offense at Tennessee, so I was very comfortable. Coach Mears was a great coach. He was really ahead of his time with the one-guard front. Now, everybody plays a one-guard front.
Q: What other schools recruited you?
A: Well, even though Tennessee offered early on, I didn’t actually decide, officially, until kind of late. It was May of my senior year. I took several visits to Indiana, Purdue, and I made a trip to Ohio State. I went out to UCLA and visited with coach (John) Wooden, and Denny Crum was an assistant out there. They had offered me a scholarship.
Q: Are you still a teacher?
A: No, I retired last spring (from William Blount High School in Maryville, Tenn.). Now, on Saturdays, we have a two-hour radio show here in Maryville, it’s called The Sports Page (WBCR 1470 AM). I host it with Charlie Puleo, he’s an ex-major league baseball player, and Lon Herzbrun and Ray Trail. Lon was the linebacker coach at Tennessee when I was over there, and Ray was the offensive line coach. Probably the two best coaches at those positions Tennessee has ever had. We do a lot of UT stuff, because Maryville is only 15 minutes from Knoxville.
Q: Since you’re in SEC country, I have to ask, when is your alma mater going to turn things around on the football field?
A: Well, they’ve had two straight top-10 recruiting classes, but this program has been in such a disarray. They’ve gone through a lot of different coaches. But, the defense is suppose to be really awesome next year. It looks pretty promising. They’re talking about challenging for the SEC East. I think that’s a pretty monumental challenge. I look for them to go in the neighborhood of 8-4 and win a bowl game, or maybe 9-3 at the best.
Q: You coached in Tennessee at the high school and college level (at Emory and Henry College and Carson-Newman University). What was that like?
A: I enjoyed the experience, but it wasn’t like playing. I couldn’t recreate the way it was back when I played. I tried, but it’s a whole different ballgame today. I came from a different era, and it’s probably best left to guys today who understand the players probably a little bit better than I do (laughs).
Q: What’s your opinion of the state of college basketball?
A: The players are bigger, faster and stronger today. I don’t know if they shoot the basketball better than generations past. They’re better athletes, so to speak. I’m kind of like coach Wooden in the respect that, I still think it’s a great game, but I don’t particularly care for all of the individualism and showmanship and so forth. I think they ran more plays back in the day. You could see what they were trying to set up. I think the college game today — outside of a few schools like Gonzaga and Butler who have done real well with a system that has worked forever — really looks like the pro game.
Q: After finishing with the Volunteers, you tried out with Indiana Pacers. How did that go?
A: Probably wasn’t the best year to try out, because they had just won the ABA championship. They didn’t even keep their No. 1 pick that year, which is very unusual. But, I enjoyed the experience of going to Indianapolis and spending a week up there and trying out. But, you know, there’s a time in everybody’s life, no matter what you do, you just sort of run out of ability. And I think I had taken it as far as I could take it, and there were just better people.
Q: Sir, we definitely appreciate your time. We’ll have to see how much longer that 57-point mark lasts.
A: Well, I hope it goes pretty soon (laughs). I’d like to see somebody break that. Records are meant to be broken. I enjoyed my time in Greenfield and in Indiana. It seems like a lifetime ago.
Still, when it gets around sectional time, which is right now, it starts to bring back some memories, of going to New Castle and playing games up there and so forth. I live in a town, Maryville, that is very much like Greenfield. And that’s why I’ve stayed down here. If you drive in Greenfield and you drive in Maryville, you’d look around and say this is a spitting image.
I feel very much at home down here. I’m good. My health and my wife’s health is good. We stay active. It’s been real enjoyable. I walk three miles every morning. I have to pinch myself, because I got a new hip about two years ago and they did such a great job that I can’t tell the difference between the right hip that was implanted and the left one. We had an ice storm the other night, it was a little icy on the path. But, rain or shine, I try to get my three miles in.
All-Time Indiana high school boys basketball career scoring leaders, with rank, player, school, final year and point total.
1. Damon Bailey, Bedford North Lawrence, 1990 — 3,134
2. Marion Pierce, Lewisville, 1961 — 3,019
3. Deshaun Thomas, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, 2010 — 3,018
4. Brody Boyd, Union (Dugger) 2000 — 2,632
5. Rick Mount, Lebanon, 1966 — 2,595
6. Trevon Bluiett, Park Tudor, 2014 — 2,568
7. Billy Shepherd, Carmel, 1968 — 2,465
8. Alan Henderson, Brebeuf Jesuit, 1991 — 2,419
9. James Blackmon, Jr., Marion, 2014 — 2,387
10. Mike Edwards, Greenfield, 1969 — 2,343
11. Delray Brooks, Michigan City Rogers, 1984 — 2,324
12. Brady Adkins, Morristown 1992 — 2,319
13. Anthony Winchester, Austin, 2002 — 2,256
14. Logan Irwin, Whitko, 2012 — 2,230
15. Dave Shepherd, Carmel, 1970 — 2,226
16. Seth Colclasure, Bellmont, 2002 — 2,207
17. Grayson Flittner, Tri-Central, 2006 — 2,198
18. Eric Gordon, North Central (Indianapolis) 2007 — 2,178
19. Chris Thomas, Pike, 2001 — 2,156
20. Charlie McKenzie, Claypool/Warsaw, 1967 — 2,145
Still Hancock County’s Finest
Hancock County boys basketball players with at least 1,000 career points. Total points listed, with player, school, year graduated.
2343 — Mike Edwards, Greenfield (1969)
2064 — John Hamilton, Greenfield-Central (2000)
1673 — Ken Sparks, Mt. Comfort (1963)
1463 — Keegan Carmony, Greenfield-Central (2004)
1447 — Dustin Smith, Eastern Hancock (2011)
1415 — Derek Harmon, Eastern Hancock (2003)
1390 — Tim Miller, Mt. Vernon (1998)
1369 — Rhett Reed, Greenfield-Central (1998)
1315 — Larry Spegal, Wilkinson (1955)
1285 — Tom Giles, New Palestine (1979)
1264 — CJ Coleman, Mt. Vernon (2014)
1210 — Pete Hubert, Eastern Hancock (1976)
1147 — Troy Cross, Mt. Vernon (1988)
1145 — David Essington, Greenfield-Central (1988)
1144 — Jon Kleine, Mt. Vernon (1987)
1134 — Kent Raymond, New Palestine (2004)
1100 — Richard O’Neal, Eastern Hancock (1976)#
1057 — Ryan Reed, Greenfield-Central (1994)
1053 — Daniel Turner, Mt. Vernon (2010)
1047 — Kevin Bell, Greenfield-Central (1982)
1041 — Matt English, Greenfield-Central (1991)
1039 — Dennis Ulrey, New Palestine (1975)
1027 — Michael Morris, New Palestine (2013)
1025 — TJ Ott, New Palestine (1998)
1009 — Mark Galbraith, Greenfield-Central (2004)
1006 — Ryan Curry, New Palestine (2015), through Feb. 14
1004 — Gene “Tink” O’Neal, Eden (1946)
1000 — Kevin Browning, Mt. Vernon (1992)
Editor’s note: Special thanks to all of the Daily Reporter readers who provided updates to this list since it appeared recently alongside the Gene “Tink” O’Neal story. Among the additions is Mt. Comfort’s Ken Sparks, who ranks third all-time in county career scoring. — Brian Harmon (contact at 317-477-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org with additional info)
Hancock County boys basketball single-game high scorers (with points, player, school and season set where available)
57 — Mike Edwards, Greenfield, Feb. 21, 1969, vs. Morristown
55 — Mike Edwards, Greenfield
52 — Victor Vincz, Eastern Hancock, vs. Alexandria, Feb. 14, 2012.
50 — Kevin Bell, Greenfield-Central, 1981-82
50 — John Hamilton, Greenfield-Central, vs. Warren Central, Dec. 3, 1999.
47 — Gene “Tink” O’Neal, Eden vs. Charlottesville, 1945
46 — Ryan Curry, New Palestine, Feb. 6, 2015 at Shelbyville
44 — T.J. Ott, New Palestine, Jan. 24, 1998 vs. Hamilton Southeastern
43 — Mike Edwards, Greenfield vs. Hancock Central, March 1, 1969
42 — Danny Keys, McCordsville vs. Cadiz
42 — Mike Edwards, Greenfield vs. Blue River, February, 1969
42 — Dustin Smith, Eastern Hancock, 2010-11
41 — Quinn Williams, Mt. Vernon, Feb. 25, 2011 vs. Westfield
40 — Brian Jones, Eastern Hancock
40 — Dennis Ulrey, New Palestine, 1975
40 — Jeremy Riddle, Mt. Vernon, Feb. 23, 1999 at Frankton
Note: According to the IHSAA, the Indiana single-game scoring mark is 113 points, set by Culver’s Herman “Suz” Sayger vs. Winamac on March 8, 1913. Host Culver won 154-10. Sayger made 56 field goals and one free throw.