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Player Preview: What, exactly, is Cesare Edwards?

Xavier’s most hirsute player caused a stir last year, but Coach Miller has to figure out where he fits.

NCAA Basketball: Norfolk State at Xavier
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

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.

There is a certain expectation that comes with being recognizable. Matt Stainbrook wore fun bowties (and drove for Uber!), Zach Hankins rocked braids, Drew Lavender was quite small. All of these things, and the personalities that come with them, create a buzz in the fanbase. Cesare Edwards has a ton of hair and wears glasses. Fair or not, people look and him and expect entertainment.

Exactly how he would provide that was something of a question last year and remains that this season. Edwards was never just a back to the basket big, but he’s good with a baby hook and has good feet on the post. He’s also not a pure pick and pop four, but he can step outside and has some range on a jumper that is decent for a player of his size. He’s tall, but doesn’t get on the offensive glass much, he’s thin but was second on the team in defensive rebounding rate. Finding where he fits was a problem that Travis Steele never quite sorted and now passes along to Coach Miller.

Edwards burst onto the scene last season after one of Zach Freemantle’s increasingly frequent shows of petulance. On that day in early February, he attacked the Seton Hall front line, scored eight, grabbed a board, and didn’t miss from inside the arc. After those ten minutes he played a total of one of over the next two games. As a shooter he didn’t shoot quite well enough to get on the court. As a rebounder he couldn’t quite make enough of a difference to beat out Freemantle or Jack Nunge.

That leads to this season. Edwards has a skill set that could play, but he either needs to shoot the ball better or rebound better. Defensively, Edwards is almost good enough to go now, but Xavier’s frontcourt is packed. For what it is worth, neither Evan Miyakawa or Bart Torvik see Edwards as a major contributor in their season projections. Is that because they don’t think he’ll get the time or because they just don’t think he’s good enough? That’s noise lost in the machine.

To get time in this frontcourt, Cesare needs to be that guy he was in the first game against Seton Hall: fearless, attacking, and able to score in the paint and short corner. Is he that guy all the time, though? Even in that game he managed only one board. To get time in this frontcourt, Cesare needs to be that guy he was in the game against St. John’s: active on defense, willing to shoot, and able to grab more rebounds than minutes played. Finding out which of those guys he is and how he fits will determine the course of his season. Whichever it is, his distinctive look means we will all take notice.