NCAA Tennessee Purdue Basketball

Purdue center Zach Edey goes up for a shot against Tennessee in the Midwest Region final Sunday in Detroit. Edey scored a career-high 40 points and grabbed 16 rebounds as Purdue advanced to the Final Four. Paul Sancya/Associated Press

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The child who wanted Zach Edey’s autograph during his Purdue recruiting trip apparently saw something others missed.

Big Maple was destined to be a basketball star.

While many college coaches passed on the unpolished Canadian prospect as the basketball world became enamored with perimeter play and 3-point shooting, Purdue Coach Matt Painter took a swing on his third center in the recruiting class and found a gem who led the Boilermakers to their first Final Four since 1980.

On Friday, Edey collected his second Associated Press Player of the Year award, becoming the first back-to-back winner since Ralph Sampson won three in a row at Virginia from 1981-83. Edey received 57 of 62 votes from journalists who vote in the weekly AP Top 25. Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht received three votes and Houston’s Jamal Shead got two.

Edey is the fifth player to win the award in consecutive seasons. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also won the award twice, but in non-consecutive seasons.

“I get to pay (Matt Painter) back. There were so many coaches that looked over me, like you could – name a program – I could name a coach that looked over me,” Edey said. “Tennessee, Rick Barnes is a great coach, but he was at our practice, looked over me. It’s kind of been the story of my life. People have doubted me. People looked past me. Can’t do that anymore.”


A dedicated work ethic and a fiery, steely-eyed determination has turned he 7-foot-4, 300-pound Edey from intriguing project into college basketball’s biggest star.

The truth is Painter, who routinely builds his team around big men, almost missed, too. His first two choices in that recruiting class were Hunter Dickinson, who chose Michigan, and Ryan Kalkbrenner, who wound up at Creighton. Dickinson became an All-American with the Wolverines and again at Kansas, while Kalkbrenner was a two-time all-Big East selection.

Edey outplayed them all, becoming the first national scoring leader to take his team to the Final Four since Oscar Robertson in 1960.

He heads into Saturday’s matchup against North Carolina State averaging 25.0 points and 12.2 rebounds. He also averages 2.2 blocks while shooting 62.2% from the field, and virtually willed the Boilermakers past Tennessee, 72-66, in the regional final with a career-high 40 points and 16 rebounds.

Edey grew up in Toronto playing hockey and baseball until the strike zone became too large. Eventually, he landed at IMG Academy in Florida, where he played only one season on the school’s top basketball team. Still, Painter took a chance.

“We were fortunate, right? I didn’t know he was going to turn into a two-time national player of the year,” Painter said. “I did think he would be good, I just didn’t know when he would be good. But he had good hands, he had good feet, he just needed repetition and work so right away, I was like ‘We’re going to throw him the ball when he’s open.’ He’s always open.”


Edey wasn’t sure if Purdue was the right fit, either.

But his mother, Julia, remembers how that youngster at the Boilermakers’ scrimmage made them feel welcomed. Edey explained he wasn’t even on the team, but the kid didn’t care. He just wanted the autograph.

“Zach and I were standing in the tunnel and we said, ‘That kid just got a signature from a nobody,’” Julia Edey recounted, drawing laughter from Edey, his parents and Purdue’s sellout crowd on Senior Day.

Now Edey will leave Purdue as perhaps the greatest player in school history.

He broke Rick Mount’s 54-year-old school scoring record and now has surpassed 2,400 points. He broke Joe Barry Carroll’s 44-year-old career rebounding mark. His jersey number, 15, hangs in the rafters alongside other All-Americans such as John Wooden and Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, and even one of Edey’s former teammates, Jaden Ivey.

Edey and his teammates are two wins away from Purdue’s first national title since Wooden led the Boilermakers to the 1932 championship.


He has excelled with an unforgettably powerful, selfless style that endeared him to fans and teammates without shedding the same humility he treated the young autograph seeker all those years ago.

“You can tell he loves the game, you can tell he respects the game and not every No. 1 person is like that,” fifth-year forward Mason Gillis said of his teammate. “I think a lot of people don’t respect the game, don’t respect people around him. He does. He looks out for everybody, he’s a good guy, he stays in the gym and I don’t think we could ask for a better national player of the year. He does it the right way.”

COACH OF THE YEAR: Houston’s Kelvin Sampson edged UConn’s Dan Hurley for his second Associated Press Coach of the Year award, receiving 23 of 62 votes from the national panel that votes for the weekly AP Top 25.

Hurley, whose top-seeded Huskies will play Alabama in the Final Four on Saturday night as they chase a second consecutive national title, got 21 votes.

Houston won the Big 12 regular-season title in its first year in the league, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in a row.

USC: Bronny James will enter the NBA draft after one season at Southern California that was shortened by his recovery from cardiac arrest.


The 19-year-old son of LeBron James announced on his Instagram account that he also plans to retain his college eligibility and will enter the transfer portal.

“I’ve had a year with some ups and downs but all added to growth for me as a man, student and athlete,” James wrote.

James posted his decision hours before USC introduced Eric Musselman as its new coach. He comes from Arkansas and replaces Andy Enfield, who left on Monday to become coach at SMU.

James averaged 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds while starting six of 25 games for the Trojans.


VIRGINIA TECH: Georgia Amoore announced that she is transferring to Kentucky, following her coach, Kenny Brooks, who left Virginia Tech to take over the Wildcats.

Amoore, a 5-foot-6 guard from Australia, teamed with All-America forward Elizabeth Kitley to lead Virginia Tech to last year’s Final Four and this year’s Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship. Kitley was sidelined by an injury for this year’s NCAA Tournament, and the Hokies lost to Baylor in the second round.

Amoore, a third-team AP All-America selection, averaged 18.8 points and 6.8 assists this season. She leaves Virginia Tech as the Hokies’ career leader with 656 assists.

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