‘Once-in-a-lifetime athlete’: USC signee Joyce Edwards celebrated for historic career

Camden High School has produced its share of well-known athletes over the years, but none received the fanfare Joyce Edwards got on Wednesday.

A school-wide assembly complete with a marching band, cheerleaders and mascot was held at the Kershaw County school to honor Edwards as she received her ceremonial jersey for next month’s McDonald’s All-American basketball game. School leaders believed it was the first such assembly they’ve held just to honor one individual.

Edwards is the school’s first McDonald’s selection and is one of the most decorated athletes to ever come through Camden, which has produced NFL players Vonnie Holiday and Bobby Engram.

“It is a true testament to the historic greatness of her career,” Camden girls coach Natalie Norris said. “She is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, and I am glad our school took the opportunity to recognize her as such.”

Edwards, a University of South Carolina signee, broke down in tears during her ceremony’s speech in which she thanked her family, coaches and teammates, and being a part of Camden High School.

“Originally I didn’t want to speak because I knew I would get pretty emotional,” Edwards said. “... Just thinking back from my seventh-grade year until now and all the accomplishments and obstacles I have faced. It is a once-in-a lifetime moment.”

During Norris’ introductory words, she talked about Edwards’ perseverance after losing the 2022 state championship game and then being cut during tryouts for the Team USA 17U and 3-on-3 teams.

Edwards made the 19U Team USA squad for 2023 and led the team in scoring in winning a gold medal.

Edwards and Norris also talked about the importance of her being able to accomplish everything and stay at Camden during her high school career, despite the pull from national programs. Charlie and Rasheedah Edwards, Joyce’s parents, said about a dozen schools including national powerhouses Montverde and IMG Academy, both in Florida, recruited her hard during her sophomore and junior years.

“It is easy to move somewhere else and to get a better opportunity to get more exposure and more followers (on social media),” Edwards said. “But home is home, and I could never leave home. The family I established at Camden High School is like no other.”

Edwards, a starter on varsity since the seventh grade, shattered all of Camden’s individual records, including breaking Norris’ scoring mark. The second-ranked prospect nationally in the Class of 2024 has 3,937 points, which ranks second all-time in South Carolina behind former York great and WNBA star Ivory Latta. She could have easily passed 4,000 points already had it not been for the 2020-21 season that saw teams schedule fewer games because of the COVID pandemic.

Edwards has helped Camden to three straight state title game appearances. The Bulldogs go for their second Class 3A championship in a row Saturday against Wren. Winning another title is tops on Edwards’ mind with the McDonald’s game and NIKE Hoops Summit on the horizon next month.

“The state championship is my main focus right now,” Edwards said. ”I don’t want to lose a state championship. But I’m grateful for the opportunities in my post-high school career. … I’m excited to see some of my AAU teammates and looking forward to it.”

Edwards could be the last of the state’s McDonald’s All-Americans for a few years, ending an unprecedented stretch. Since 2022, the state has produced four players for the game: Cardinal Newman’s Ashlyn Watkins, East Clarendon’s Ta’Laysia Cooper, Keenan’s MiLaysia Fulwiley and Edwards — with all but Cooper from the Columbia area.

The four McDonald’s All-Americans in a three-year stretch is one more than the run between 2012-14 that included Spring Valley’s Xylina McDaniel, Dutch Fork’s Alaina Coates and Heathwood Hall’s A’ja Wilson, who has gone on to be a two-time MVP in the WNBA.

Edwards will enroll at South Carolina this summer.

“We are going to have a blast and do good things there,” Edwards said. “South Carolina is producing good talent MiLaysia and Ashlyn both All-Americans and me up next … I can’t wait to get there and play with them.”

South Carolina McDonald’s All-Americans

2002 — LaTangela Atkinson, Lee Central High (UNC)

2003 — Ivory Latta, York (UNC)

2009 — Morgan Stroman, Lower Richland (Miami)

2012 — Xylina McDaniel, Spring Valley (UNC)

2013 — Alaina Coates, Dutch Fork (South Carolina)

2014 — A’ja Wilson Heathwood Hall (South Carolina)

2022 — Ashlyn Watkins, Cardinal Newman (South Carolina)

2022 — Ta’Laysia Cooper, East Clarendon (South Carolina/Tennessee)

2023 — MiLaysia Fulwiley, Keenan (South Carolina)

2024 — Joyce Edwards, Camden (South Carolina)

Camden High’s Joyce Edwards receives her jersey for being named to McDonald’s All-American game. Lou Bezjak/The State
Camden High’s Joyce Edwards receives her jersey for being named to McDonald’s All-American game. Lou Bezjak/The State