Friendship serves Hampton girls basketball pair as college looms
Rising seniors Laryn Edwards and Ali Collins could walk away today and leave a lasting mark on the Hampton basketball program.
The past two years, the duo has helped decorate the halls with two section championships, two WPIAL semifinal appearances, two state playoff appearances and multiple individual awards. They have been among the team's leading scorers since their sophomore seasons.
But Edwards and Collins were standouts — and best friends — long before high school. An example of that long-lasting relationship on and off the court was signed on a dotted line last week.
Collins made a verbal commitment to play collegiately at Seton Hill, and Edwards accepted her Division I scholarship offer, pledging with Loyola (Md.). It's the beginning of the end for a journey that started back in elementary school.
“We are best friends on and off the court,” Edwards said. “We started AAU basketball together in fourth grade and have never been on different teams. We've always played together.”
They recently wrapped up their AAU careers with a tournament in Atlanta and will play summer league before turning focus to their upcoming senior season.
“We connect on everything,” Collins said. “There's never jealousy between us. We always support each other and are there for one another. It is going to be different not having her there.”
“It's nice having your best friend play with you, having someone you're really close with. It's going to be really different in college. We've always played together.”
With a season to go, it's tough to look that far ahead. But playing hoops after high school was a foregone conclusion for both.
“I definitely wanted to stay close,” said Collins, who will major in Elementary Education. “I went to their camps a couple times, and I loved the coaching staff and the girls. The school is beautiful. It's great place to go for teaching. I'm excited to go and further my athletics there.”
Edwards was receiving Division I interest from out-of-state schools such as Holy Cross. The standout guard fell in love with Loyola on a recent visit to the campus located just outside Baltimore and will major in business.
“When you think of a college campus in your head, you think of Loyola,” said Edwards. “Like in the movies. It just gives you that comfortable feel. When I walked into the gym, all the girls shook my parents and my hand. Everyone was really respectful and welcoming.”
Edwards is the city type.
“I love New York City. It's my favorite place to go. When I get older and start my own life, I want to live in the city. I love the environment. It's always busy, and there's always something to do.”
Edwards and Collins, along with recently graduated Jenna Lafko, formed a deadly guard combination for coach Tony Howard's squad. The team went 23-4 last year, was the highest scoring team in WPIAL Class 5A and spent a good portion of the season ranked near the top of the PIAA rankings.
Though Edwards and Collins are returning starters — senior Brooke Fuller also returns to the starting lineup — they said this is the hardest they've ever worked in the offseason. And they have always found a way to success on the court regardless of circumstances. They said it's hard to think their last year together would be any different.
“We just see each other,” said Edwards. “I know when she's going to drive, I know when she's going to cut. We just know how each other plays, and our energy bounces off each other.”
Devon Moore is a freelance writer.
Correction: Aug. 10, 2017
This story has been updated to add a third returning starter to the Hampton lineup.