THE DAY before last Saturday's NCAA West Regional final, a
visibly nervous Tyus Edney paced a darkened corridor of the
Oakland Coliseum Arena. Time was running out on Edney, UCLA's
point guard, normally L.A.'s coolest customer this side of
Branford Marsalis. Any Bruin fan witnessing Edney's jumpy
condition would have been nervous too.
Fortunately for UCLA -- and unfortunately for Connecticut, a
102-96 loser to the Bruins the following day -- basketball was
not the source of Edney's tension. Getting to the Final Four
seemed easy compared to getting through a final exam in earth
and space sciences, which Edney was scheduled to take that
night. ``It's all about dinosaurs,'' Edney said. ``It sounds
easy, but it's hard. You have to remember all those bones and
everything. And how can you study at a time like this?''
Edney ended up postponing the test, but don't worry -- he
knows how to pass. UCLA's Little General, as Bruin coach Jim
Harrick calls him, is as adept at setting up teammates as anyone
in the country, and in the postseason the 5'10", 152-pound Edney
has been carrying top-ranked UCLA. ``Without Tyus,'' says Bruin
forward Ed O'Bannon, a top player-of-the-year candidate, ``there
is no UCLA ball.''
Even before his unanimous selection as the West Regional's
outstanding player, Edney had saved the Bruins from a
second-round defeat to Missouri with a mad dash the length of
the court in the final 4.8 seconds, pulling out a 75-74 victory
with one of the most difficult game-winning shots in tournament
Against UConn, Edney played almost flawlessly, scoring 22 points,
dishing out 10 assists and shredding the vaunted Husky press. He
also hit the three- pointer that broke Connecticut's spirit. With
3.6 seconds left in the first half and UCLA up by four, Edney made
another wild dash, which he capped off by burying a 26-footer.
Then Edney busted a move that would have made Madonna proud,
striking a hands-on-hips pose with a stern facial expression while
teammates ran to mob him. ``That's about as animated as he gets,''
says Edney's father, Hank, a human resources manager for TRW.
``I've never really seen Tyus lose his cool.''
Tyus's low-key demeanor has helped keep him out of the national
limelight, but he has made a name for himself during the Bruins'
Final Four run. That name, in fact, is a source of some dispute in
the Edney household. Hank says he made up the name Tyus, while
Tyus's mother, Barbara, a schoolteacher, says she named her son
after 1964 and '68 Olympic sprinting champion Wyomia Tyus.
``They're still arguing about it,'' Tyus says of his parents, who
live in Long Beach, Calif.
Now Edney heads for the Kingdome, where, because of his size and
penchant for clutch shots, he may qualify as the darling of the
Final Four. But he hasn't forgotten about that other final. Ninety
minutes after the UConn game, as he made his way out of the arena,
Edney wore a Bruin-blue backpack over both shoulders, carrying the
materials he needed to bone up on dinosaur bones.
COLOR PHOTO:JOHN W. MCDONOUGHUCLA's little big man has made a big name for himself with last-second heroics. [Tyus Edney cutting down the net after victory]