After three years of being yelled at to rebound, Kaylee Edgemon is finally doing it.
At least, that’s how she puts it. Edgemon, the lone senior on the third-ranked Wayland Baptist Flying Queens has been a force to be reckon with when she’s been able to get on the court. Being able to get on the court, though, has been a problem.
The Flying Queens came into the season with extremely high expectations. They got off to a good start back in November but quickly saw the rest of their non-conference slate wiped away. With December already being designated as a no-go for Wayland Baptist basketball teams, that meant the Flying Queens – as well as the Pioneers – were off for two straight months before returning to action a couple weeks ago.
“I’ll be honest. As a senior, it was definitely heartbreaking,” said Edgemon following WBU’s 66-52 win over Southwestern Christian on Thursday night. “I got gypped. That break was such a long break, but I think that all of us handled it really well.”
In those two games back in November, Edgemon let it be known that she wasn’t just a role player, picking and choosing her spots to produce. Now a full-fledged starter who rarely comes off the court, the Littlefield native left her mark in a big way.
In her first game of the season, she put up 24 points and came one board shy of tying the program record for rebounds in a single game, hauling in a career-best 19 in a victory over Mid-America Christian. Two days later, she had a career-high 30 points and added another 12 rebounds.
Edgemon had to wait another two months until she got to continue that high level of production, but those kinds of numbers aren’t exactly shocking to her head coach.
“She’s gone into this season knowing she’s got to be a leader,” said Flying Queens head coach Alesha Ellis. “She’s had that the whole time. She could go off at any time. In the past we’ve been able to kind of dish that pressure off to different people and it was her at times.”
Her first two years in a Flying Queens uniform saw Edgemon post identical 13-point, 5-rebound averages per game, mostly playing as the first player off the bench. Now, she’s in the starting lineup and a focal point to what her team needs to accomplish.
“I’m playing down low a little more so I’m getting more opportunities to get rebounds, but the big thing is my coaches have really changed my mindset to go get the ball,” said Edgemon. “That’s huge. They’ve encouraged me, they’ve pushed me, so that is huge.”
Since she wasn’t able to lead her team on the court most of November and throughout December, Edgemon had to lead in a different way. With her and her teammates scattered across the state during the end of the 2020 calendar year, they kept in touch through text messages, making sure everybody was on the same page and putting in the work that would benefit them when they did eventually get back on the court.
“This break was definitely better because we had things open to be able to work out, shoot and all that stuff,” said Edgemon. “I definitely think our communication is getting there. It’s a whole new team, so we’re still working on it, but it’s been good.”
Last season’s Flying Queens were a deep, cohesive unit that had plenty of upperclassmen to guide the squad. This year’s team is a mix of key returners and plenty of new faces getting put into the spotlight quickly. Building team unity started in the summer and had to be reworked over the last few months.
“This team is very new,” said Edgemon. “We had to build chemistry, but that chemistry is growing. The chemistry was there with the previous teams, and this one, we’re kind of having to figure it out. I think we’ve doing a great job, just meshing and encouraging each other and fighting for each other. It’s been a whole new experience.”
Edge, as her coaches and teammates call her, is leading by example and has established herself as one of the best players in the nation.
As of Jan. 17, Edgemon was 15th in the country in points per game (22.0) and seventh in rebounding average (13.8). Though averages are a bit wonky because of the number of games each team in the country has played, she’s been one of the key driving forces so far and will continue to be moving forward for the Flying Queens.
“She’s a great player. Always has been,” Ellis said of Edgemon. “She’s an All-American. People are going to focus on her this year. We’ve got to make our team as strong as we can. If we can get the other ones going, they’ll back off of Edge and they’ll let her do her thing.”
Part of getting some of the attention off of Edgemon comes from the play of Jenna Cooper and Payton Brown. Cooper is also averaging a double-double so far this season with 18.8 points and 10 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, Brown is putting in 13.6 points per game.
Though they’ve only had a small handful of games, the Flying Queens, who were known for 20-plus point wins a year ago, are having to scratch out victories right now. Some of that comes with figuring out the team and who can do what. That includes the players and the coaches.
“I have to, as a coach, learn to trust my bench more,” said Ellis. “That’s a problem I’m battling right now. As a coach I need to do better in practice with the intensity level. We’ve got to get better and stronger and more in shape. I blame that on the coaching staff as much as the players. We’ve just got to continue to get better.”
The players would prefer to have those blowout wins as well, but Edgemon sees the close games, especially with a young team, as a silver lining.
“It definitely is preparing us for big games,” said Edgemon. “If it is a close game at nationals, we know what to do so we’re not shocked or surprised when the score is pretty close. It takes us out of our comfort zone, and that’s a huge thing for nationals. Sometimes we get use to blowing teams out and then we get to nationals and, oh crap, it’s a three-point game.”
As the team tries to find its new comfort zone, Edgemon is excelling in her new normal on the floor. She’s always been a productive scorer, but the rebounding numbers? Those are certainly a new experience. It just took her some time to get to that point.
“After having three years of getting yelled at for not rebounding, it finally clicked and I’m going to rebound,” joked Edgemon.