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 history.
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.