MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Growing up in the Netherlands, Jesse Edwards spent most of his childhood playing soccer. Then he started growing and wasn’t quite as fast as he needed to be. He then gave the track and field team a try as he participated in the high jump.
Edwards, now a 6-foot-11 center at WVU, didn’t even have an interest in basketball until he was a teenager watching his older brothers play pickup games around the neighborhood.
“I was about 13-14 when I started to watch them and 15-16 when I started playing,” Edwards said. “I was alright. I wasn’t too bad I just didn’t have a lot of skills. I relied on my athleticism to grab a few boards or whatever the coach told you.”
He played basketball in Amsterdam throughout the remainder of high school. One day, he finally decided to check his email.
He wasn’t expecting to receive anything of much interest so he was quite surprised to find a message waiting in his inbox from IMG Academy, a preparatory and sports training school in Florida.
At that point, Edwards was very new to the sport, he only had three years of experience. Over that span, there was some film of him out there and he’s not quite sure how, but it made its way to the prep school.
“It was out of the blue,” Edwards said. “I checked my email once every two weeks at that point so I’m surprised I saw that”
After spending 2017-18 at BC Apollo Amsterdam, Edwards made his way to the United States in December 2018 for his first taste of American basketball. He was enrolled at IMG Academy the following month and his basketball career took off from there.
Edwards’ time in the Sunshine State helped him improve his skills and get exposure in the process. He started garnering attention from collegiate programs for the first time and ultimately decided on Syracuse.
He worked his way into the starting lineup in his junior season. He started 24 straight games and averaged 12 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest before sustaining a season-ending wrist injury.
During the 2022-23 season, Edwards’ averages were up to 14.5 and 10.3 respectively. He averaged 32.6 minutes per game and shot 59.2% from the field through 32 games. He finished the year with 87 blocks and 44 steals.
“Playing for Boeheim was a great learning experience,” Edwards. “He’s one of the legends of the college game. Learning from him every day, it shaped my basketball game up to now. He and his crew at Syracuse really built me into the player I am today.”
Following four seasons under Hall of Fame head coach Jim Boeheim, Edwards pursued the opportunity to play for another head coach of that caliber, Bob Huggins.
Edwards officially signed with the WVU men’s basketball team in late April. Two months later, Huggins announced his resignation, leaving uncertainty for the future of the program. That put Edwards and his teammates in an unfamiliar situation and left them with decisions to make.
“I really didn’t want to leave. I was quite happy here. I liked the place. I’m out here with my girlfriend, we have a nice spot. We were excited for everything to start. I wasn’t looking for any reason to leave,” Edwards said.
Once Josh Eilert was named the interim head coach, Edwards talked with a few other players who were newcomers to the program like Kerr Kriisa and RaeQuann Battle. They decided the best thing to do was stick together.
When it was announced that the WVU coaching staff would remain intact, as well, that gave them even more confidence to finish what they started months prior.
“We knew if we stayed together we could do something really special,” Edwards said.