DYRICUS Edwards was thrown into the Ballarat Miners’ mix.
One day in late June he was working a summer basketball camp back home in Illinois, his agent called and the next day he was on a plane bound for Australia after a quick pack and farewell to family and friends.
He was unsure what he was stepping into.
The explosive guard was to replace GMHBA Miners’ injured star and fan-favourite Roy Booker, who was to remain around the Minerdome, and he would arrive with exactly 11 games to qualify for finals in a foreign league. This started with a double-header two days after he arrived in Ballarat.
Edwards said what he stepped into had been a complete blessing.
He is fiercely proud to represent his adopted city in finals.
He knows how much this means to Ballarat and MARS Minerdome fans.
The Miners will suit up for their first finals series in eight South East Australian Basketball League seasons.
“It’s tough coming into a team mid-season. Back home I was training and staying in shape so I mostly had to get used to their style of play and what guys we’ve got,” Edwards said.
“I knew coming in would be tough. They didn’t know me and I had to know what they would expect from me.
“...Now we’re at the point where I understand how every guy on the team plays.
“All the talk (since arriving) has been about trying to get a top-four spot and how long it has been since finals.
“We’ve got a great coach, great teammates and great fans. I am blessed with this situation.”
He has enjoyed having Booker around the stadium for training and game day.
Edwards said it was hard to know what to expect when he arrived with the guy he replaced watching on.
He found a mentor. Booker has offered an extra watch on plays, advice to improve his game and a tough rival for shooting competitions.
Edwards said he was missing summer back home in Peoria, a couple of hours from Chicago, but had quickly adjusted to a Ballarat winter by getting involved in community basketball work at the Minerdome and in Ararat.
Friendly people and good food around town helped too.
Now the Miners are in finals, Edwards is keen to see how far they can push.
The Miners captured a rare win at the Dandenong stadium in mid-May that sparked the Rangers to win their next 13 games.
That was with Booker and so much has changed since then.
Fellow American Ken Horton has been sidelined for a month with a fractured thumb.
He asked to be unleashed on the floor last week after the Miners’ slow start against experienced SEABL finalist Geelong.
The change in the Miners’ game, particularly with Edwards, was an impressive comeback and near-upset.
Edwards said the time playing without Horton late in the season had also bolstered the team’s confidence because others had to step up and did.
But it was great to have him back on the floor leading into finals.
“Ken’s a great player. He averages 21 points, 13 rebounds a game. He’s a great player but it’s also his presence on court,” Edwards said.
“Ken’s always talking. He’s just like a point guard, he sees things and lets people know ... I feel like that opens things up for me and Nate Sobey and Fish (Anthony Fisher) and gives up better opportunity to drive the lanes.”
The Miners should be near full strength to meet Dandenong with an extra light training session on Friday night scheduled to ensure players were ready.