Jesse Edwards played a pivotal role in SU’s 72-70 win over North Carolina last night. The sophomore played a career high 24 minutes last night and did an adequate job against UNC’s bigs. Edwards wreaked havoc down low and battled for rebounds. In fact, he won some of those battles and reeled in five on the defensive side.
Yes, he still looks raw and is far from an unfinished product. But you can’t teach heart and hustle and if you watched the game last night you saw a lot of it. This begs the question that everyone has wondered, and a few brave souls have even asked Coach Boeheim in postgame pressers, “What if Jesse Had Been Playing Since Day 1?”
This has been a strange season to witness. Edwards has touched the floor in 12 games this season, but has played five or more minutes in only five contests. He randomly played 23 minutes in the win over Miami back in January, but played a combined five minutes in the next eight games.
Why wasn’t Edwards playing more? Well Coach Boeheim has said repeatedly that “he’s not ready.” But he said the same thing after the UNC game…
Who cares if he’s ready or not, he needs to get the experience even if it’s just 5 minutes per game. Coach has also said that SU wins when it plays small. Sure, but five minutes of rest for Quincy Guerrier, Alan Griffin, or Marek Dolezaj could go a long way considering they play 35 minutes a night.
Getting experience would’ve also fast tracked Edwards development. The bigs in the ACC this year are very skilled and the competition Edwards is seeing in the Melo Center during practice is nothing like what he’ll see on a night to night basis in the ACC.
Getting even those short spurts of minutes for Edwards would’ve been valuable for his improvement. And what if he looked good in those five and playing big was working? Who’s to say SU couldn’t have won some of the games they lost this season with more size down low?
SU’s last two games have told a different story. The Dutch native tallied 23 minutes against Georgia Tech and looked serviceable. Edwards scored 7 points and grabbed 8 boards in the losing effort. He was “forced” into action after Marek Dolezaj picked up some early fouls and was in foul trouble for the first time this season.
In Monday night’s game, Edwards tied his career high with 8 rebounds, five defensive and three offensive. He also had six points and four steals. Hopefully this is a trend that continues, and it should. Bourama Sidibe is all but done for the season and we haven’t seen or heard a peep from Frank Anselem in 2021.
SU fans should expect to see Edwards on the floor against Clemson to try and combat Amir Simms. Syracuse could also use his size offensively for second chance opportunities against the ACC’s second best defensive unit.