Coming out of a redshirt year, there was some hope that Ryan Edwards would be able to carve out a larger role for himself in the rotation despite the glut of talented bigs ahead of him. Following the unfortunate season-ending injury to Przemek Karnowski early in the season, the hope that Edwards could contribute positive minutes turned into a need for him to do so.
For his part, Edwards was able to provide a positive contribution to the rotation by allowing Mark Few to find a couple of minutes for each of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis to get a breather during games. In 8.7 minutes per game, Edwards was a solid bench player, averaging 2.6 ppg and 2.2 rpg, with his 10-point performance at home against San Diego serving as the high watermark for his season. Edwards also had a really nice game on the road against LMU.
Moving forward, however, it's unclear whether Edwards can be counted on to comfortably step into a more prominent role on the team. With the departures of Wiltjer and Sabonis, and the uncertainty surrounding Przemek's return (though I think he'll be back), Edwards may by default be thrust into a bigger role next year whether he's ready or not. Should Przemek return for another season, there will be less of a need to rely on Edwards for more minutes as Zach Collins and Johnathan Williams (and possibly Killian Tillie and Jacob Larsen) can capably round out the production on the interior. But if Przemek elects not to return to Spokane, things will get interesting.
Based on what we saw from Edwards this year, I'm not entirely sold on the notion that he'd be able to slide into the starting center role on next year's squad and produce at a sufficient level. Edwards worked hard on his body during his redshirt year, shedding 30 pounds, and also showed some noticeable improvement in his post game as his hands and footwork were better this year. However, it's a big jump from being a back-up center to a key cog in the system.
This offseason will be a big one for the big man from Montana. Development is not always linear, and we can't simply assume Edwards will make significant developments in his game going into his junior year. However, the Zags will need more from Edwards, especially if Przemek doesn't return. Continuing to improve his conditioning, agility, and post-moves will be crucial for Edwards to see more of the floor next year.
By all accounts, Edwards is a hard worker, and at a minimum the coaching staff know they have a solid bench piece in the 7-footer. But there may still be more untapped potential for him, and if he can tap into it, Ryan Edwards may just force the coaches to give him a more significant role in the 2016-2017 season.