I’ll start with a confession.
I didn’t think Zach Edey would be this good, so early in his career at Purdue. I’ve spent way too much time in the offseason (weather is something I’ve had a lot over the past year) pissing off at the Purdue Vault (I told you I had too much free time). I eventually came to the conclusion that if Tre was in trouble, or worse yet injured, Purdue should turn to Aaron Wheeler at 5, because there was no way Zach Edey was ready as a true freshman.
I will gladly admit that I was completely wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked everything about Edey’s signing. I watched his highlights from the IMG Academy and thought ‘dude, in a few years this dude might be a real problem in the Big10’. I saw a huge, gigantic man with surprising athleticism who was raw like a steak tartare. I had faith that Coach Brantley, a great man scholar, would climb a stepladder, whisper the great man’s magic words into Zach’s ears, and by the time he hit the ground as a junior, he would be ready to go. carry the great man Purdue into battle like the giants before him.
I underestimated two key things about Zach:
- He’s more athletic than I thought.
- Coach Brantley can do magic with a blank slate.
The first point is obvious. Edey doesn’t move like his 7’4 ”, 285 lbs. Some fat guys his size (and there aren’t many) look like they’re or always about to fall because their center of gravity is somewhere in the middle of their chest and their legs are basically two long. ankle rods with feet attached at the end. Zach, meanwhile, has a strong, athletic build and moves with a fluidity that belies his size. Tall men can look stiff and robotic in their movements, but he has the ability to catch the ball in the middle of the post, effortlessly spin on his left shoulder, and return the ball into the basket with ease. Messages from his brain to his feet do not reach their intended destination any slower, even though they travel longer than 99.9999% of the population.
The second point requires a little more explanation. I remember my uncle (and current Old Oaken Bucket keeper) telling my dad one Thanksgiving day that he was spending the first grade that an offensive lineman is in school trying to teach them the wrong ones. habits. Muscle memory is a blessing and a curse, and if you’ve been doing the same for your entire athletic career (take Tim Tebow’s funky throwing motion), it doesn’t matter how hard you try to break that habit, when you are. under pressure, your brain returns to muscle memory. Since Zach didn’t start playing until 2017 and received top-level coaching at IMG, Coach Brantley could spend the majority of his time with Zach teaching him what to do, instead of teaching him. What you should not do.
You can see that time spent in the gym pays dividends at the end of the season.
I had been planning to visit Zach for about a week now, and thought today would be the perfect opportunity. It looks like Hammer and Rails All-Star HaamsTime punched me out and saved me a bit of legwork in the process. I highly recommend you check out his fan article as it puts everything together in a nice little board that is above my pay grade.
What the stats show is pretty intuitive if you’ve watched Purdue over the past 6 seasons. When you compare Edey’s first year to that of Purdue’s former great men Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms, he’s better in most categories. The three main areas that interest me, as far as Edey is concerned, are offensive scoring, defensive scoring and rebounds / 40 minutes. Edey has a higher offensive rating and Reb / 40 than Haas and Haarm, but lags behind both in terms of defense.
First of all, a little excuse for the big man. Basketball has evolved so much over the past 6 years that it’s almost difficult to compare Haas and Edey. Centers in 2021 are spending most of their offseason watching highlights from Dame Lillard and Steph Curry and working on their extended 3 lineup. You’ve seen a little with Haas, but not as much. One of Edey’s main problems in defense is shutting down 3-point shooting centers. It’s hard for any great man. Even though he’s starting out a bit slow on defense, I think he has the potential to top Haas and not be too far behind Mountain West’s 2020/2021 Defensive Player of the Year Matt Haarms by the end. time in Purdue.
I’m going to take Edey’s pick and roll defense today on Hass’s pick and roll defense as a senior. Edey is much better at moving his feet and uses his extendable arms to obstruct passing lanes and make layups a difficult proposition. Haas was often left in the dust around the free throw line because he didn’t have the lateral quickness to cover himself on the guard, and struggled to change direction quickly enough to handle the roll man. Edey does not have the same athletic limitations on his mobility and will continue to improve this facet of his game over the next season.
While Haarms is the better shot blocker of the two, I’d almost say Zach is the better shot disruptor. Haarms chases away the blocks and sometimes ends up on the other side of the opponent’s ground, as a base fake head launches him into orbit. Zach is better at staying on the ground and using his long range to disrupt shots. The next time you’re watching a game and he’s on the ground, count the number of awkward looking floats offered by opposing guards when Edey is patrolling the paint. Even when they pass around him he is good at recovering and making layups from the wing difficult.
He’s not here on defense yet, but I can see some solid clay that Coach Painter and Brantley will be working with over the next 4 or 5 years.
Edey is a better rebounder as a rookie than Haas and Haarms were at any point in their Purdue careers. Haas’ first season was his best rebound year by / 40 to 11.2. Haarm’s second season was his best rebound year at Purdue (and in his career) at 10.1 for / 40. Zach is currently sitting at 12.7 reb / 40.
Comparing Purdue’s recent Big 3 Men, Edey is more athletic than Haas and tougher than the Haarms. He’s able to cut rebounds outside of his zone which would leave Haas with flat feet, and he’s able to step up into the crowd and shoot the ball where Haarms was in love with trying to kick the ball towards a teammate. . The more Edey plays, the better he’ll get a pull-down, and he’s pretty good at it now.
There is nothing extraordinary about Edey’s attacking play.
He catches the ball near the basket, keeps it over his head, drops it into the hoop like an adult playing on a nerf goal. This is where not having bad habits at Purdue helped him contribute early on. He knows what he’s good at and he sticks to that part of his game. He’s not going to back you down with the dribble. He’s not going to pull a hook. He’s not going to catch the moving ball in the pick and roll. He’s not going to make a downtime reel pass.
He catches the ball and if he can, he dips it. If he can’t dunk it, he’ll try to pivot, get closer, and drop it. That’s the breadth of his game, and that’s all he needs.
Haas, for his enormous size, seemed almost afraid of dipping the ball. He spun more than 2 feet than he should have soaked than I can count. I think his career cost me at least 3 TV remotes. Haarms, for his athletic length, is not strong enough to play at post. He’s best at the top of the key, performing dribbling transfers and pick and rolls. He’s not close enough to the basket to score on most possessions, which is weird for a 7’3 ”athlete.
Oh, and did I mention that Edey is a smooth free throw shooter with a nice, consistent output? This will help boost his score by 5-6 points per game, as it is more integrated with Purdue’s offense.
Zach will never be a skilled ‘modern’ big man, and that’s fine, but he’s only scratching the surface of his potential on offense. I expect the passing to improve over the next season. When the doubles team comes in he should be able to turn, find the open man and pass. Right now, when the double comes in, he’s either going to try to score on it or move on to whoever is closest to him. After watching the Wisconsin game, I’m sure the opposing coaches will do it in doubles for the rest of the year (and I’m not sure why Wisconsin hasn’t) because at the moment they don’t. is not a good enough passer to be successful. you pay for double the hard. I think he’ll figure that out over the next year or so and once he does … buddy he’s going to be an even bigger problem for opposing coaches to sort out with the shooters Purdue has fielded in the over the next few seasons.
Soooo Purdue Comps?
There aren’t many athletic 7’4 ” Canadians, 285 athletes with limited basketball experience to compare Zach with, but if a varsity basketball team has a lineup, it’s Purdue. Having said that, there is no right mix, but I can give you a fusion of Purdue centers.
Edey is an interesting mix of Haas size and Haarms athleticism. He’s still on the rise and isn’t the man of the mountain that Haas was later in his career, but I think he’ll get there eventually. Maybe not Haas Peak, but close enough. He’ll never be the gazelle on the ground that Haarms sometimes could be, but he’ll also end up weighing 40 or 50 pounds more than Haarms. He’s already more coordinated than the Spastic Haarms, so he loses a bit in the speed category and makes up for it with his ability to control his arms and legs at the same time.
If I could predict the future, I would have retired to a private island by now after going bankrupt in Las Vegas, but I think Edey will outdo his two heavy predecessors by the time he leaves West Lafayette.