SYRACUSE, N.Y. — If this was the last time Jesse Edwards played inside the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse, he sure made it a performance to remember.
Edwards finished with his 13th double-double of the season, tying a career-high 27 points and grabbing 20 rebounds on Senior Day. Edwards was just one rebound shy of tying a career-high 21 he set earlier this season against Bryant. The senior big man from the Netherlands also had five steals and two blocks.
“Jesse was a monster tonight inside. I think we looked for him. I thought we did a good job of finding him. But he was all over the glass. He had five steals. You can’t play better than that. He was a different world today. He was great,” Jim Boeheim said post-game.
Edwards had his family in attendance for what he estimated was just the third time in his college career. The Netherlands native divulged that having his family there to watch him play in person gives him an added boost and additional motivation to play well. During the pregame ceremony as Syracuse honored its seniors, Edwards walked out with his girlfriend, mom, dad and brother, Rens.
“Walking out with them was also just amazing. Just to be able to do that in front of them is a blessing,” Edwards said.
Edwards came out strong in the first half, scoring the first bucket of the game on a drive to set the tone. He rebounded exceptionally well, he disrupted Wake’s entry passes into the high-post for steals and he finished around the basket for 11 first half points.
But through one stretch of play in the second half Edwards scored ten unanswered points for Syracuse, fouling out Andrew Carr in the process which seemingly put the game out of reach. Edwards, he said, wanted to celebrate Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara’s jersey retirement in the right way and given Syracuse’s recent play he wanted to turn things around. Of course, it helps when family is present.
“Every time it’s been an amazing feeling when you see them,” Edwards began. “For me its special because they’re usually not there. Every time I get to do that I just have a lot more fun. It’s just a lot more loose and it’s just a great feeling when you do well as well.”
Edwards’s Syracuse career will sunset after this year, barring the use of an additional covid year. He’s been one the bright spots on struggling Syracuse teams during the last four years, having come in as an unheralded and raw talent to emerging as one of the best big men in the ACC.
Edwards played sparingly in his first two seasons before having a breakout junior campaign. A fractured wrist last season derailed any momentum Syracuse had down the stretch. He came back for his senior year and fortified the center position, keeping pace with some of the best centers in college basketball, averaging a double-double with 14.1 points and 10 rebounds per game. His 2.8 blocks per game rank seventh nationally.
Edwards has the talent and skills to play professionally, but before that happens he still has at least one more week of basketball left to play as the Orange get ready to head to Greensboro for the ACC Tournament.
“We all wanted to come back and show we’re not done. We’re not giving up. We’re not going to let them down in that way,” Edwards mentioned of Syracuse fans. “So I hope they enjoyed it and I hope we can give them some more stuff to enjoy next week.”