When I found out that the 4th ranked Purdue basketball team was headed just down the street from me to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln, my first thought was “I’ve got to go and check out that big dude.”
My second thought was, “Man I wish Gene Keady was still the coach so I could see him BLOW HIS STACK!”
My third thought was, “His last name is pronounced the way people always pronounce mine – we must be related!”
That “big dude” has a name and it is Zach Edey.
How tall is Zach Edey? Edey is listed as 7-4 and 290 lbs. He wears a size 20 shoe.
He isn’t just extremely tall, but he is legit BIG. Thick. You can’t push him around. No bean pole Shawn Bradley type.
I’ve always been enamored with the tallest basketball players in NBA history, as you can read here.
So was Zach Edey a Chuck Nevitt type? A large, space eating big man that alters shots, and occasionally blocks some, but doesn’t contribute offensively.
Was he a Manute Bol who exhibited the aforementioned defensive abilities and led the NBA in blocked shots multiple times, while sprinkling in some occasional offensive ability from behind the arc (before big guys EVER did that)?
A Gheorghe Mursean-esque big, that accumulates stats just by being literally head and shoulders above opposing defenders and offensive players?
Or was he a Rik Smits type of 7-4 big man that had robust offensive skills? A factor on both ends of the floor.
Seeing him in person made me realize he has elements of all the aforementioned players.
And is at an advanced stage of basketball IQ at this point in his development.
Because this generation of basketball is more wide open, run and gun, with a greater emphasis on getting into transition faster, his athleticism “dwarfs” the previously mentioned bigs.
Zach Edey was born on May 14th, 2002. If he would’ve been born in 20 years earlier, a player of his height and size would have been castigated every time he drifted outside the free throw line, or anywhere near it, on offense or defense.
At seven feet, 4 inches (and still growing) he is the tallest basketball player in Big Ten history.
The “biggest” thing I noticed about him was his impact on defense.
On the defensive side of the floor, his presence alone alters shots and offensive gameplans.
Every time a Nebraska player dribbled inside the three-point line, you could see them consciously think about where they were on the floor in relation to Zach Edey.
Not only is he long, but he is also extremely agile and athletic. That combined with his 7-foot-7 wingspan, he can cover a lot of ground quickly.
In the game I witnessed first-hand versus Nebraska, he had 7 blocked shots, a season high. And it wasn’t because he was trying to block everything. He really did a great job of playing within himself.
While I was watching, I kept thinking about about how even though he is an absolute beast on defense, you have to attack him like he’s 6-10.
Because if you don’t, it makes every other defender immediately better. It forces opposing teams to settle for three-point shots and shots from long range that they really don’t want and aren’t used to taking.
It took Nebraska’s offense most of the first half to decide to consciously attack him near the rim.
The first person that did was 6-9 inch center Derrick Walker.
One on one about 7 feet from the basket, Walker attempted a quick flip of a hook shot that was promptly swatted and led to a transition basket for Purdue.
Edey’s presence makes their team defense better by at least 40%. The only way you can see Purdue losing is by him getting in foul trouble.
Based on watching him in this game, he doesn’t get sucked into trying to “swat” shots. Or over commit on head fakes.
He literally doesn’t even have to jump to block shots. And if he isn’t leaving his feet, he isn’t going to accumulate stupid fouls.
Offensively, I was impressed by his ability to let the game come to him.
Facing constant double and triple teams, his vision and passing in the half court set created endless open shot opportunities for teammates. As soon as he received a pass, he was quick to send a skip pass and force the compromised defense to rotate.
His interior passing to other bigs on his team was also adept. Purdue runs everything on offense through him and you can see why.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but Edey’s 11 points versus Nebraska was a season low and the first time in 8 games he hadn’t scored 20+.
Big men also are traditionally not great free throw shooters. Now in his junior season, Edey is shooting 74% from the charity stripe.
His average for his career is 68% so you can’t employ the “Hack A Shaq” method that NBA teams used versus a physically dominant Shaquille O’Neal to neutralize him.
In 30 minutes per game, Edey is averaging 23 points per game, 13 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks.
So, how did Zach Edey get so tall? How tall are his parents?
Zach Edey’s mom, Julia, is 6 feet tall and was 5-9 by the time she hit ninth grade. Zach Edey’s dad, is listed at 6 feet 2 inches.
By comparison, Gheorge Muresan, the tallest player in NBA history, his dad is 5’9,” and his mom is 5’7″. Chuck Nevitt’s dad was 6-7 and his mom was a 6-footer.
Manute Bol’s mom was 6-10 and his dad was 6-8.
Rik Smits son is a 7-footer. Muresan’s son is a 7-footer.
So there is no rhyme or reason to how a person’s height is dictated by their parents. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have tall ones.
But the unique thing about Edey is not just his height, but his diverse skillset. He impacts games on both ends of the floor.
Seeing him play in person, it is easy to see why you are watching a future #1 pick in the NBA Draft.