We’re nearly two weeks away from Purdue Basketball.
At this time last year, Zach Edey was a 7’4” question mark. A likely redshirt candidate. Someone that in the future when he learned how to play basketball would be somewhere between an exciting project and very tall trinket and gadget for Painter to deploy when Tre Williams was done with his Boiler career.
A lot happened last season for Edey. He played. He played a lot. Way more than I thought. And he was damn good when he did. He averaged 8.7 points a game and 4.4 rebounds. He had the highest efficiency on the team, making just under 60% of his shots. He had a block percentage of nearly 10%. He did this all playing less than 40% of the game.
He didn’t know how to play basketball to start the season, couldn’t pass or dribble without turning over. He fouled a lot. Then a couple games went by and he got better, not casually, but drastically, and then a couple more. He was grabbing rebounds and moving on defense to keep with guards at the top of the key. He was dunking, a lot, ferociously.
Big men like Edey shouldn’t be able to get off the ground like he does. He doesn’t need to jump to dunk or finish above the rim, but he can, and it’s frightening. He does it mercilessly.
At the end of the season Edey was receiving balls in the post, holding it high above his head, getting the double team and kicking it out to the right perimeter player. He literally couldn’t pass the first couple games of the season.
There were games this season where Purdue’s best player and most clutch scorer, didn’t come back on the floor at the end of the game. Tre Williams was at the time, made redundant, a big man yes, but bound by mortal parameters. Edey has no such limitations.
And maybe Edey’s star would have stayed that bright, shining into the night sky of the off season big and beautiful but still mostly potential. But he had more basketball to learn.
He went to Canada, making it as a reserve for the Team Canada basketball team and then going with Team Canada U19 to Latvia to eventually play his fellow teammates on Team USA in the tournament’s semifinal.
He also joined Jaden Ivey on the all-tournament team. Zach Edey was no longer a side show or a tall guy on the bench or intriguing. He was dominating. As the guy. As the best guy, ona good team Canada team. He was as impactful as any player their on both ends of the court - including two future #1 picks.
So Zach Edey in one year went from unknown, not top-400 recruit, to potential redshirt, to good back up, to international star in a year. Again, he didn’t pick up a basketball until high school. His kind of improvement in season wasn’t just incredible or a lot, it was once in a lifetime, the kind of get better in an instant usually reserved for super sayans.
Which is part of why Purdue is top ten to start the year. Why they might finally break through. Why Zach Edey has already been named to the Abdul-Jabbar watch list even though he’s technically the team’s back up.
Ivey will be the sexy pick. The guard. The slashing. The dunking in transition.
But Edey might be the one pushing Purdue’s ceiling to the Final Four and beyond.