Sports

Zach Edey insists there's more to his game than meets the eye as he prepares to enter NBA

CHICAGO — (AP) — For all he accomplished the past four years at Purdue, Zach Edey realizes there are some huge questions surrounding his game — almost as big as his 7-foot-4 frame.

Though he was the national Player of the Year the past two seasons and led the Boilermakers to the championship game this year, he is viewed as a slow-footed defender who can't stretch the floor on offense, either.

Those are two big marks against him as he prepares to enter the NBA. He also wants to make it clear there's more to his game than meets the eye — or what's on video.

“I’m the college player of the year, but I’m going to the NBA,” Edey said this week at the NBA draft combine. “You’ve got to leave all that behind. I’ve got to re-establish myself.”

Edey is a bit of a throwback with his back-to-the-basket game. But he's entering a league fixated on 3-point shooting and perimeter play, where big men need to be quick on their feet and able to shoot and defend away from the basket.

Edey is also a relative newcomer to basketball, even though he played four years in college. His focus growing up in Toronto was on hockey and baseball until his strike zone grew too large. He eventually wound up in Florida at IMG Academy, where he played one season on the school’s top basketball team.

“I’m never going to be the wiry 7-foot guy like Kevin Durant,” he said. “I’m a 7-foot-4, 300-pound guy. I’m built to be in the paint, to carve up space, to protect my area. That’s what I’m going to keep doing.”

Edey's task at Purdue was to post up, work the pick and roll and defend down low. He insisted there's still room in the NBA for players who do those things.

Edey was also adamant there's more to his game than what he showed in college. He insisted he can score from the perimeter, though he made only one 3-pointer and attempted two at Purdue. He got a chance to show more of his skills during drills on Monday.

Edey shot 60% off the dribble, albeit with no one guarding him, ran three-quarters-of-the-court sprint in 3.42 seconds, and had a 31 1/2-inch vertical leap. Not bad for a player who measured 7-3 3/4 with no shoes and weighed 299 pounds.

“I think I need to show people I can shoot the way I believe I can,” Edey said. “But I think, for the most part, teams kind of know what I’m good at. Teams have tons of film on me. Obviously, I think I’m quicker than teams think I am. I think I can shoot better than teams think I can. I have to show that. I’ve been in college four years. They’ve got a lot of film on me. They kind of know what I can do.”

Edey went from an intriguing and unpolished prospect to college basketball's biggest star and the first repeat winner of the Associated Press Player of the Year award since Ralph Sampson won three in a row at Virginia from 1981-83.

Edey withdrew from the draft last year and returned to Purdue. He went on to average 25.2 points and 12.2 rebounds as a senior while propelling the Boilermakers to their first Final Four since 1980. He also became the first national scoring leader since Oscar Robertson in 1960 to take a team that deep in the NCAA tournament. The Boilermakers lost to UConn in the championship game.

Edey scored more than 2,500 points at Purdue, breaking Rick Mount's 54-year-old school record. He had more than 1,300 rebounds and surpassed Joe Barry Carroll’s 44-year-old mark. His jersey hangs from the rafters. But for all his accomplishments, the questions loom large.

“It’s basketball,” Edey said. “It’s the same game I’ve been playing for six years. It’s just better athletes, stronger people, taller people. But it’s just basketball. Rebounds are still important. Blocked shots are still important. Boxing out is still important. All those things are so important. I think people kind of undervalue those things.”

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