Imagine a world where “Lebron James” wasn’t a household name. He was never on TV, never in the news, but just happened to show up on your YouTube feed. Well, that’s pretty much what happened for Syracuse Men’s Basketball Center, Jesse Edwards.
It was his brother, Kai, who really introduced him to Lebron James and to basketball.
“I’ll always remember, he [Kai] was watching crazy Lebron James videos,” Jesse said. “He was into it, and when he gets into something, we all started doing it for a while.”
It didn’t take long for Jesse to get into it too. The only problem is that basketball courts are very hard to come by in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Jesse and Kai had one hoop in the neighborhood. Basketball leagues were even harder to find.
“We didn’t have high school sports,” Jesse said. “We used to go to a club and play. But when we came there, the club was also super tiny, no serious practice or training.”
“I remember when I was 16 [years old],” Kai added, “I went to the club to join the team and they were like, ‘oh come next summer for the tryout’. I really thought it was over, but I hadn’t even started. For basketball, it’s a different word than in the U.S. In all of Amsterdam you have one or two clubs.”
But that didn’t deter Jesse or Kai. Soon enough, offers started coming in for Kai, and Jesse wasn’t far behind. When Syracuse became an option, he didn’t hesitate to say that the Carrier Dome was one of the determining factors in his decisions. But he really didn’t hesitate about anything.
“I didn’t feel like any other place could bring what ‘Cuse could bring,” Jesse said. “For me it wasn’t the hardest choice.”
While the choice wasn’t hard, Jesse said that the adjustment was.
“The hardest thing is the quickness. Out in the states, everyone plays quicker. I was just hard to catch up and I couldn’t just rely on my own athleticism. Here, everybody has some sort of crazy athleticism. So just to play against others at the level, it’s a lot of fun but it’s also challenging.”
As challenging as it is, Jesse has one of the most experienced coaches in all of college basketball. He says thar Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim says the same thing before every game, but it never gets old.
“Before we go out into the Dome, with cameras and everything, he would say that nothing changes, it’s still basketball. He always says, ‘just go out there and play’, which sounds really easy, but it’s what I always remember.”
In Syracuse’s first game of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, Jesse will certainly be remembering Boeheim’s words to just go out there and play.