1 of 3 | Junior guard Doug Edert (25) scored 20 and 13 points, respectively, in Saint Peter's two wins at the 2022 NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament. Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire
March 25 (UPI) -- Junior guard Doug Edert might come off the bench, but his competitiveness and underdog mindset are catalysts for Saint Peter's University's unexpected run through the 2022 NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Edert's terrific touch as a 3-point shooter, scruffy teammate-given haircut and freshly grown mustache caught the eyes of college basketball fans over the past month.
His story -- a local, under-recruited former high school star, who is thriving in the March Madness spotlight -- is shared by many others on the Peacocks' roster.
Saint Peter's, a small Jesuit school in Jersey City, N.J., started its tournament run with upsets of No. 2 Kentucky and No. 7 Murray State. Another win would make the Peacocks the first No. 15 seed in history to reach the Elite Eight.
"We are all looking to prove ourselves as a program and basketball team," Edert told reporters Thursday at a news conference. "The chip on our shoulder is just getting bigger and bigger.
"We are still trying to prove ourselves and we aren't satisfied with anything. We will continue to keep that going."
Edert scored 20 and 13 points, respectively, in the Peacocks' first two tournament games. He made 3 of 4 3-point attempts and 9 of 13 shots overall. His facial follicles -- which he says may emit magical powers -- and on-court exuberance endeared him to flocking fans along the way.
One of his in-game reactions to the Peacocks' effort against Kentucky was captured in a screenshot and became a viral meme.
Billy Armstrong, who coached Edert at Bergen Catholic in Oradell, N.J., said he first noticed his intensity when he met him at a summer camp when he was in seventh grade. Edert stood out because he performed early morning practice drills with unmatched energy.
He went on to carry that wired mentality into high school, where he led the Crusaders to a state title, fueled by a ritual of pregame iced coffees and overly embraced coaching lessons.
In one instance, Armstrong said, Edert thought he was a jungle tiger after the coach used the metaphor to empower his high school team. Edert even texted the coach videos before games, which showed tigers hunting and eating deer.
"Obviously, he has that special skill of shooting threes," Armstrong said. "He has that one special skill. When you combine that with intensity, toughness and competitiveness, that's what makes him really special."
Edert's dad, Bill, called the March experience "surreal," but said his son remains focused on his next game. Edert's family continues to field media requests and business opportunities linked to his newfound fame.
"I don't think he is affected by the stardom and people looking for him," Bill Edert said. "He can't go to cafeteria and this and that, but he is a locked-in, genuine, good kid.
"He was in the gym the other day and someone took a picture of it at 7 a.m. before a lift. He does that almost every day. He believes that once he gets on court, he is playing a game of pickup."
Edert also was recruited by Wagner, Fairleigh Dickinson and New Hampshire, but Saint Peter's coach Shaheen Holloway showed the most interest in the 6-foot-2 sharpshooter.
Holloway, who also is from the New York area, eyed Edert as a perfect fit for his roster. He carefully manicured his lineup with other hard-nosed athletes, a trait he requires for players who need to be able to handle his harsh coaching style.
"Those are the type of kids I like to recruit: under-recruited, have a chip on their shoulder, with something to prove ... tough, hard-nosed kids," Holloway said Thursday.
"I'm a coach who really gets after guys. You gotta be tough to play for me."
Unlike many other tournament rosters, the Peacocks lineup doesn't feature a single player who showed up in high school recruiting rankings. Nine Peacock players averaged at least 13 minutes of playing time in the regular season.
Seven of the Peacocks' Top 8 players only have played for Saint Peter's, while other rosters of tournament teams often are built with star transfers.
Junior guard Daryl Banks Jr. leads the team with 11.4 points per game. Junior forward K.C. Ndefo averages 10.7 points per game, just ahead of Edert's 9.7 points per game.
"This is an amazing opportunity," Ndefo said Thursday. "We are just staying the course. Sticking to the game plan is our main focus.
"Being the underdogs and being doubted is what we thrive off of. We are trying to keep that mindset and keep doing what we are doing."
Saint Peter's (21-11) battles No. 3 Purdue (29-7) at 7:09 p.m. EDT Friday on CBS. The winner will face either No. 8 North Carolina or No. 4 UCLA in the Elite Eight.
The Peacocks have the nation's longest current win streak, which stands at nine.
"It feels amazing to be an inspiration to people, especially young kids," Edert said. "it means a lot to all of us that we are inspiring people with what we are doing. With hard work, you can achieve anything."