Cardinal O’Hara senior Keyonte Edwards is back and better than ever after missing last year’s Federation Tournament with a dangerous blood clot. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes
Keyonte Edwards knew something wasn’t right.
Now a senior in her fourth season with the Cardinal O’Hara Lady Hawks basketball team, Edwards is primed to have her best season yet and help the team return to the State Federation Tournament.
She wants not only win this time around but also erase the memory of what cut her junior season short.
Helping O’Hara capture its second straight Catholic state title, Edwards saw her season come to an abrupt end when a blood clot resulted in her right shoulder and arm becoming severely swollen and hard.
“It was really crazy. I kept telling coach (Dan) McDermott my arm was hurting when we did the shooting machine,” Edwards recalled. “I’m a big jokester so he thought I was playing around and I was like, ‘No, my arm is really tired.’
“So when we went to (Catholic) states my arm was really swollen,” she added. “I couldn’t shoot a free throw. I was at the free throw line, and I couldn’t shoot it.”
Edwards said the on-site athletic trainer at the tournament checked her out but was unable to explain the ailment.
Upon returning to home to Buffalo, Edwards said she went to four different hospitals to get checked out. Initially, none of the medical experts she saw were able to diagnose the problem. It wasn’t until a return visit to Women and Children’s Hospital that Edwards finally found some answers.
“They found a really big blood clot,” she said, “and it actually separated into my chest.”
Edwards said that though she has a medical condition which causes her blood to clot faster than normal, this was this first time she had experienced a situation severe enough to threaten her life.
“Neither of my parents have blood clotting so we really don’t know where it came from,” Edwards said. “Nobody knew what [was going on]. I’m a normal, healthy, teenage, athletic girl. Nobody knew what was wrong.”
For McDermott, who looks at all of his players as if they were his own daughters, the sight of seeing one of his players in trouble had him sick with worry.
“That’s exactly the way I thought about it,” he said. “I was going crazy, thinking of her as one of my own daughters. It was not a good situation but she handled it like it was nothing.”
Spending 10 days recovering in the hospital, Edwards was put on blood thinners to regulate her clotting. Not being with her team when they traveled to the Federation state playoffs was far more painful for Edwards.
“It was terrible,” Edwards said. “The first day when my team went to Federation I was breaking out in hives all over my body from reaction to the medicine. It was the blood thinner that was making me break out. So I couldn’t go to Albany. I knew I wouldn’t be able to play, but not going, it was just crazy.”
Thanks to Mrs. McDermott, Edwards was able to surprise her team by making it to Albany for Day Two of the tournament.
Being sidelined was especially disheartening for Edwards, who, after two seasons as her team’s defensive specialist, was coming into her own as not only a scoring threat but the Hawks’ leading scorer. Being unable to play when her team needed her the most was a hard pill to swallow. But Edwards sparkling personality and sense of humor, and some irony, got her through those dark days.
“It was crazy because we only had eight players last year and everybody got hurt except for me,” she said. “I kept saying, ‘All you guys are accident prone.’ I’m the only one who didn’t get hurt. Then I get hurt when it’s the biggest games of the year.”
Edwards said she will have to take the blood thinner medication twice a day for a year. Doctors will then do an evaluation to see if she will have to continue taking the medicine long term.
Back, and at the top of her game, Edwards was on fire as she notched a triple-double in the Hawks’ 62-57 win over Hamburg on Jan. 16. She recorded 19 points, 10 steals and 13 rebounds.
“She’s a consummate leader,” said coach McDermott. “She leads by example and is vocal. She brings a lot of energy, a lot of toughness; a very aggressive player. One of the best ways I can describe Keyonte is she can guard the other team’s point guard or she can guard the other team’s post player.”
She was touched by the outpouring of support from the Hawks basketball family. Edwards said she feels this season is her chance to pay the Hawks back by giving it everything she has for the team, and game, she loves.
“When something you love is just taken away from you and then you get it back, you want to go that much harder,” Edwards said.