Rather than a full on preview for each player on the roster this year we will be attempting to focus on one question that will determine how the player might fit on the team. The questions aren’t designed to carry either a positive or negative connotation, just really suss out how the roster is built. We’ll start with the freshman and build on to the players everyone knows. We know and you know the caveats that Covid brings, so this will be the only mention of it.
If I ask you to name all of Xavier’s pick and pop fours, the list will likely be short. Torraye Braggs didn’t wow anyone with his shooting range, Tyrique Jones and Zach Hankins terrorized the interior but shot threes mostly to be amusing. Kenny Frease was never going to roll off a high screen and knock down a jumper. Ryan Welage, Naji Marshall, and Trevon Blueitt all spent time at the four, but none of them were there as anything other than a piece in an undersized lineup. Xavier’s list pretty much starts and ends with Kerem Kanter and James Farr, with a cameo from Kaiser Gates. X may be Power Forward U, but those power forwards tend to lean heavily to the power side of the equation.
Enter Cesare Edwards. Edwards is gifted with both hands inside and can play with his back to the basket. A 6-9 and a listed 225 (that’s up 30 pounds in just over a year), he’s not quite the size of your traditional Big East banger, but he is big enough to get inside and scrap. Edwards changes the dynamic by also having the ability to confidently step out and shoot or put the ball on the floor. In that very brief list above, it’s Farr and Kanter who could both monster the glass and step deep when the need arose.
Even Farr, though, cut down on his three point attempts as he added muscle and his career developed. Perhaps it is Kanter who is a better comp for Edwards. At only 15 pounds heavier, Kanter was able to dominate the glass while also knocking down 33% of the 51 threes he attempted (including one in a game that ETSU hilariously thought they had won). Edwards won’t be Kanter this year, but he can grow into that sort of player.
But he runs into the same problem that anyone wanting time in Xavier’s frontcourt does right now. It’s crowded. Zach Freemantle remains a sure piece there, with Ben Stanley, Jack Nunge, Dieonte Miles, Jerome Hunter, Colby Jones, and Elijah Tucker all competing for time. If that sentence seems familiar, it’s because it is the same one I typed for Elijah Tucker. The simple fact is that both freshman have a hard row just to get onto the court.
Edwards’ versatility will serve him well there. He’s big enough to rebound, skilled enough to score inside, and quick enough to be dangerous on the perimeter. Even for four star recruits there is a learning curve, but Cesare Edwards has the chance to carve out meaningful rotation minutes this season.