Michigan has contributed mightily to the growth of girls basketball across the nation over the last 50 years. At its height during the first few seasons of this century, nearly 21,000 athletes played for MHSAA member schools. And those schools have produced their share of legends who have gone on to also succeed at the higher levels of the game.
Four decades after starting high school as a student, Tonya Edwards remains one of the most accomplished standouts to travel that path.
The 1986 Flint Northwestern graduate completed her varsity playing career in Fall 1985 (when girls basketball was still played during the fall) with the MHSAA record of 2,307 career points (22.2 ppg) that stood until 1994 and remains 10th on that record book list.
She averaged 26.4 points per game as a senior, and her 104 games played remain tied for 10th-most by a girls basketball player in this state. Edwards helped her team to 99 wins, which remains tied for fifth-most and stood as the MHSAA girls hoops record until 1997. She led Northwestern to Class A championships as a sophomore and junior and a runner-up finish as a senior.
And that was just first chapter.
Edwards went on to play at national powerhouse Tennessee, helping the Volunteers win NCAA championships in 1987 and 1989 under coach Pat Summit. Edwards came home after graduating in 1990, and that fall began a five-year run as Northwestern’s girls varsity coach. She led the 1993 team to the Class A championship and a 28-0 record – becoming the first person to win an MHSAA Finals girls basketball championship as both a player and coach.
Meanwhile, her playing talents were leading to international opportunities with USA Basketball and professional leagues overseas. She returned to play in the U.S. in 1996 and won two championships with the Columbus Quest of the former American Basketball League, then was the No. 7 pick in the 1999 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx, one of three WNBA franchises for which she played over five seasons.
Edwards went on to coach briefly in the National Women’s Basketball League, then as an assistant at the college level before serving as head coach of Alcorn State from 2008-09 through 2014-15. She then served as an assistant for the L.A. Sparks from 2016-18, helping that team to the WNBA championship her first season.
But on top of all of those achievements, a unique and incredibly cool twist was yet to come.
In March 2020, COVID-19 ended the MHSAA girls and boys basketball seasons before champions could be crowned. But as Michigan’s high school teams returned to the floor under various precautions the following winter, Edwards returned to Flint’s high school courts as the varsity coach at Flint Carman-Ainsworth.
What’s more, she’s also continuing to coach in the WNBA, which begins regular-season play in May. Three months after serving as an assistant and helping Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky to the WNBA title, Edwards has Carman-Ainsworth 6-3 and among the top teams in the Saginaw Valley League.
Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.
Previous Title IX at 50 Spotlights
Jan. 18: Iron Mountain Completes Championship Climb - Read
Jan. 11: Harrold's Achievement Heralds Growth of Girls Wrestling - Read
Dec. 20: Competitive Cheer Gives Michigan Plenty to Cheer About - Read
Dec. 14: Evelyn's Game Had Plenty of Magic - Read
Dec. 7: Council Term Ends, But Leinaar Leaves Lasting Impact - Read
Nov. 30: Basketball Season Ready to Add to Rich Tradition - Read
Nov. 23: Marysville Builds Winning Streak Yet to be Challenged - Read
Nov. 16: Wroubel Has Championed Girls School Sports from Their Start - Read
Nov. 9: Pioneer's Joyce Legendary in Michigan, National Swim History - Read
Nov. 2: Royal Oak's Finch Leading Way on Football Field - Read
Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
Oct. 12: Bedford Volleyball Pioneer Continues Blazing Record-Setting Trail - Read
Oct. 5: Warner Paved Way to Legend Status with Record Rounds - Read
Sept. 28: Taylor Kennedy Gymnasts Earn Fame as 1st Champions - Read
Sept. 21: Portage Northern Star Byington Becomes Play-by-Play Pioneer - Read
Sept. 14: Guerra/Groat Legacy Continues to Serve St. Philip Well - Read
Sept. 7: Best-Ever Conversation Must Include Leland's Glass - Read
Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read
(MHSAA file photo.)