Welp. After reports to the contrary last week, Jesse Edwards will not return to Syracuse for a fifth season of eligibility. The center’s decision has to do with NIL potential. He can’t sign NIL deals the way most athletes can because of his status as an international student, and the visa he has that allows him to study and play in the United States.
It’s hard to overstate how big of a loss this is for SU. Edwards averaged a doubled-double, with 14.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Both marks represented career highs. Beyond the numbers, Edwards was Syracuse’s best player at times, and was consistently one of the three, along with Judah Mintz and Joe Girard, that the Orange needed to play well to be successful.
Edwards’ career at Syracuse ends with an incomplete feeling. He was a backup on the 2021 Sweet 16 team, but his two years as a focal point ended in disappointment. Edwards never started an NCAA tournament game.
He got better every single year, coming to Syracuse as a raw prospect out of IMG Academy. His growth was obvious and praised by Jim Boeheim effusively at the end of last season. Boeheim often said he thought Edwards was as many as two years behind other players in his class developmentally, meaning his ceiling was higher than he showed in a Syracuse uniform.
A fifth season on the Hill would have allowed him to show an extra year of that potential, but it’s not to be.
As far as what Syracuse does know, there are a couple of options. Adrian Autry and company could go internal, with Mounir Hima and Peter Carey still on the roster, plus William Patterson, the Orange’s only recruit in the class of 2023, joining the team.
Hima showed potential on the defensive end, especially as a shot blocker, but was not an offensive threat in his limited playing time, scoring just 27 total points last year. Carey and Patterson are complete unknowns.
If Syracuse wants to replace Edwrads and not just fill a position, it has to look to the transfer portal. The Orange missed the first wave of transfers while trying to keep Edwards, but now it has to be aggressive. If they go into the Fall with a three way in-house battle, the ceiling of the center position would drop substantially from last year. The fate of the 2023-24 Orange depends on how persuasive the coaching staff can be.