As the start of the Cal State Fullerton women's basketball season continues to inch closer and closer, FullertonTitans.com caught up with first-year assistant coach Taja Edwards in part three of our five-part series.
Assistant Coach Edwards: It's been great so far. I think it really helps that the team is already such a tight knit group with most of them returning from last year. I mean it's almost like you have no choice as a coach to adapt to them, which is awesome. The environment here at Cal State Fullerton is so great. It's just very family oriented.
FullertonTitans.com: With you being so young and a former college player not too long ago, do you feel like you can connect with the players a little differently because you understand what they're going through?
Assistant Coach Edwards: Yes definitely. I have a pretty good idea what they're going through as student-athletes, but at the end of the day they're still going to have to experience things for themselves. For example, I was actually talking to Sammi Logan the other day, and we were talking about her time management. I told her "hey I know what you're going through, so feel free to talk to me if you need anything," and she said "yes I know you do coach, thanks." So it's just little day-to-day situations like that I feel I can make an impact. I think it just allows them to open up and share things with me.
FullertonTitans.com: With all that being said, how do you walk that fine line between being a supportive coach, but not becoming their friend?
Assistant Coach Edwards: For me, I've always been the youngest of all my friends. They're all three to five years older than me. In school, I started kindergarten when I was four years old. I guess you could kind of say I have an old soul. I do my best to keep my personal life separate from my work life, so at the end of the day I think the players have respect for me and I have respect for them. The players definitely know I'm there for them, but we're not going to hang out and go to the movies or anything like that.
FullertonTitans.com: When you do get some time away from the basketball court, what are some things you like to do for fun?
Assistant Coach Edwards: Well being from Southern California, all my friends and family are already out here so I've definitely have a few spots I love to go hang out at. I like to go to the Gypsy Den down in Santa Ana. I go there quite often with my friend because he likes to do spoken word, which is pretty cool. I have some spots down in Los Angeles too, I mean there are just so many good places to go eat down there. I really love playing the guitar too. I like to think I'm pretty good at it.
FullertonTitans.com: Fresno State is coming to Titan Gym on Nov. 16, obviously that's where you played your college basketball. What are your feelings on that game?
Assistant Coach Edwards: That game will definitely be a fun one for me. It's funny because when coach Park was coaching at Louisiana Tech, and I was playing at Fresno State, we were both in the Western Athletic Conference. He always brings up the fact that we tied while we were both there. We went 3-3 against each other while we were at our schools. So now we're both on the same team and we both want to beat Fresno State. I'm already getting emails from Fresno State fans saying "hey we can't wait to see you on Nov. 16," so it's really cool. But besides the personal stuff with me, Fresno State is a really good program and it's going to be a great test for us. When we play at Fresno State in 2014, I think that's when it will hit me with all the fanfare and stuff, but once that ball is tipped off in the air I'm a Titans' fan and I want to beat the Bulldogs just as much as anyone.
FullertonTitans.com: Can you talk about what made you decide to come to Cal State Fullerton after your stint at Ole Miss?
Assistant Coach Edwards: When I first took the job at Ole Miss last year, Adrian Wiggins brought me on, but the funny thing was that he reached out to my dad to try and get me. He didn't even call me directly. He told my dad "Hey I told you when she was a sophomore in college that she was going to be a college coach, and now is her time. She has to come with me." Coaching wasn't always something I knew I wanted to do, but I jumped on the opportunity and really learned a lot there. I remember that we played five top-15 teams in the span of two weeks and it was my job to scout all these teams, so it was definitely a lot of responsibility, but something I loved. As much as I loved the SEC, I really wanted to get back to the West Coast and as soon as I heard coach Park took the job at Fullerton, I gave him a call. We had at sit down at the Final Four and we really hit it off. So it's really cool how it all worked out.
FullertonTitans.com: What are your expectations for this season?
Assistant Coach Edwards: My expectations for this group is just to get them to believe in themselves and bring 100-percent effort every single day. As a coach you just want to see consistency. When you really look at what this group did last year, there just was no consistency, so the goal is to be great at being consistent.
FullertonTitans.com: What's one thing people don't know about you that you think they should know?
Assistant Coach Edwards: I'm a really awesome body surfer actually. I used to do it all the time when I was a kid. I hadn't done it in a while, but I picked it up again this past summer and I realized that I am good at it.
FullertonTitans.com: When people think of Cal State Fullerton women's basketball this year, what's the one thing you hope comes to mind?
Assistant Coach Edwards: When people think of us this year, people are going to say "wow I didn't know this team was this good" or "wow I didn't know this team was capable of playing like this". There are going to be a lot of "wows." We're going to take some people by surprise this year for sure.