Feature photo courtesy of Jaking Dottin.
When Javaughn Edmonds was an 11-year-old, he would often go to the Boys & Girls Club near his house in Brighton, a neighborhood of Boston. One day at the club, he was playing basketball when a man approached him.
“The first question he asked me was like, ‘Do you want to go to the NBA?’” Edmonds recalled. “I was like, ‘Yeah, of course,’ and he was like ‘Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.’”
That man, Eric Downie, became Edmonds’ trainer, and the two still work closely together today.
Now a junior at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Massachusetts, Edmonds doesn’t visit the Boys & Girls Club as often, but instead trains on his own and gives reports to Downie. The trainer sends back workout and diet suggestions.
“Hands down he [has] changed my life,” Edmonds said of his trainer. “He gave me a whole different perspective on life and how I should overcome it and all the struggles. Basketball-wise, he definitely is my role model.”
Together the two work on improving Edmonds’ ball-handling skills, a facet of his game that if perfected, they both agree could take him to the next level. Edmonds described himself as standing between 6-foot-4-inches and 6-foot-5-inches, but he can be versatile in many different positions.
“I can handle the ball and I can play the two role,” he said. “Right now I think my best skill is shooting. I always shoot the ball. That’s the first thing I do when I go in the gym.”
For these reasons and because he believes he can be a team leader, he said he compares his game to that of Kevin Durant.
Edmonds hasn’t received any offers yet, but he has “high interest” and plans to make visits to some schools in the spring. While he doesn’t have a specific school in mind, Edmonds has a vague checklist of features he is looking for in a program.
“I want to play basketball at a school down south,” he said, noting that he likes the weather and the atmosphere that the region offers. “I’m looking for a coach that’s willing to work with me, [to] make me a better player and a better person on and off the court.”
Edmonds added that, as a “hands-on kind of person,” he would rather go to a school where he would likely play immediately than one where he might have to wait.
“I don’t think I will learn as much as I want to from sitting and watching,” he said. “I’m all for the playing time.”
Edmonds spent his freshman year at Brighton High School, where his team won a Division II Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) state championship.
“We had great players on that team,” he said. “[Winning] just felt so good. I don’t have the words to explain how good it was.”
Nevertheless, he transferred to Thayer for his sophomore season. That season didn’t play out exactly how he had wanted it to, though. After starting 10-4, his team began to lose game after game until they finished with a record around .500.
The contrasting results of Edmonds’ freshman and sophomore seasons made him realize that success lies in how teams prepare in the offseason. Last year’s sub-spectacular season “motivates me to want to have a better team [this year], and that all starts in the team workouts,” he said. “If we workout, we’re going to be a better team on the floor.”
While he now attends Thayer, Edmonds still lives in Brighton. About three or four times a week, he sleeps over at the house of his close friend and teammate, Jordan Mello-Klein, who lives closer to the school.
“He’s like my host family,” Edmonds said. “He’s in the same grade as me, same age, actually 14 days older than me.”
After last year’s .500 season, the teammates made a pact.
“We told each other, ‘We’re not going to leave,’” Edmonds explained. “‘We’re going to make this program stronger. We’re going to take it from the bottom and build it up.’”
This basketball goal may play a part in Edmonds’ commitment to the game, but most of his dedication springs from a different, more big-picture source. It’s his family in Brighton, Edmonds said, that motivates him.
“I was born and raised here [in Brighton], my whole family is from here,” he said. “People in Brighton never really make it. It’s important that I make it, because if I make it, I feel like everyone wouldn’t think it’s impossible to make it out of Brighton.”
Edmonds is playing for more than just himself, he said.
“I have an older brother and I have an 11-year-old brother, and a single mother, so I want to make my family proud,” he added. “That’s my number one goal. That’s my number one priority. I put my family first, and that’s about it.”
With this goal in mind, Edmonds does what he can to make his game as good as it can be. He said he works out every day, and that a typical day’s lunch might consist of two plates of pasta, meatloaf, two plates of mashed potatoes and two sandwiches. His aim is “being better than the next person, working harder than the next person.” He hopes these commitments will lead to a school offer, which would be the first step toward achieving his dream.
“My personal goal, honestly, is to go Division I,” he said. “I want to play basketball at a Division I school. The route I’m going, I’m looking at like a mid-major school to a high-major school. I think I can do it.”
Leaning on support from Downie and Mello-Klein, Edmonds continues to work hard on his own. On the court, his dedication is rooted in impressing colleges. On a larger scale, he faces the challenge of defying seemingly long-standing odds. Edmonds said the key to his team’s success this season will be to face each hurdle one at a time.
“We can’t go from being held to running,” he said. “You’ve got to crawl. You’ve got to take baby steps.”
He will likely take the same approach toward achieving his personal dreams, his large-scale purpose.