Syracuse Orange men’s basketball center Jesse Edwards played sparingly off the bench last season. He appeared in 18 games as a sophomore but extended playing time proved few and far between.
Still, Edwards came on late in the season when called upon. After putting in additional work with centers coach Allen Griffin throughout the year, Edwards made strides as a backup to Marek Dolezaj. He grabbed at least five rebounds and blocked a minimum of one shot in every game he played double-digit minutes. The center from the Netherlands is still relatively new to basketball — his focus as a youth was track and field. But it’s his potential as a basketball player that has those around the Syracuse program yearning for more.
So, to realize that potential and handle the rigors of ACC basketball, the 6-foot-11 Edwards focused on adding strength to his frame in the offseason. But not too much, noting that a dramatic increase in muscle mass might reduce his mobility.
“Right around 10 lbs,” Edwards said of his offseason gain. “It’s not like I’ll lose control of my body. It’s not a dramatic change.”
During Edwards’ freshman season, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim mentioned his potential, stating the only thing Edwards lacked was strength. The tools and skills were all there, he just needed to get stronger to compete with bigger bodies in the paint. Edwards has since focused on adding strength by zeroing in on his nutrition.
“Over the summer it was a lot more weight and body work. Maybe a little less skill work, generally just good lifts,” Edwards divulged. “(I’m) a lot more focused on what I eat, when I eat and how much. Some of the people I work with back home help me with that. So yeah, changing how I look at food and what I put into my body.”
During the summer Edwards went back home to Amsterdam. He says he enjoyed time with family — something he doesn’t get to do during basketball season — and went on a family vacation. After, he worked out with the Netherlands national team, also known as the Orange Lions, for “three to four weeks.”
“We went over everything. From just regular drills, to plays to in depth stuff for just the national team. It was more like a yearly thing for everybody to come together over the summer,” Edwards said.
Usually in the offseason Edwards works on his entire game. This summer he spent more time on the aforementioned weight gain and improving his offense. In early fall practices, his head coach had noticed improvement on both ends of the floor and thinks he’s getting to where he needs to be.
Edwards figures to take on a larger role for Syracuse in the upcoming season. Redshirt senior Bourama Sidibe is back for an additional year after tearing his meniscus a season ago. Edwards will compete with the beleaguered Sidibe for a starting role. He feels as though he’s in a good position, but he’s willing to do whatever is asked of him.
“It’s not make or break if I start or not. It’s more... it’d be nice,” Edwards articulated. “I’ll do whatever he [Boeheim] needs at this point, just fill my role and whether that’s the off bench or starting, that’s something we’ll have to see. I feel confident in the way I’m playing right now. I feel like I’m in really good position.”