College Hoops Week in Review: And we’re off!


Games of the Week: George Mason 92, Rhode Island 90 OT

It was a wild one in at the Patroit Center on Friday night. With both Jamil Wilson of Rhode Island (38 points) and Ryan Pearson from George Mason (28 points, 12 boards) were in a groove offensively, the two teams saw the lead change hands 22 times — with 17 ties thrown in for good measure — in an exciting, back-and-forth game. Mason erased a 10 point first half deficit to tie the game at the half. After opening up a five point lead early in the second half, GMU saw Rhode Island go on a 12-2 run to go ahead by five. The Patriot responded with a 9-1 spurt of their own.

George Mason eventually took an 80-77 lead with 39 seconds left when sophomore Sherrod Wright cleaned up a miss by Vertrail Vaughns. But at the other end, Jonathon Holton — who was 0-5 from long range at that point in the game — buried a three to force the extra period. In overtime, GMU scored six of the first seven points, taking an 86-81 lead, but Wilson responded with a 7-1 run of his own. Pearson game GMU the lead back and after trading baskets, he hit a free throw with 11 seconds left to take a 92-90 lead. URI used their hot hand Wilson as a decoy, but Orion Outerbridge missed a would-be buzzer-beating three.
Evansville 80, Butler 77 OT: Butler somehow always seems to be involved in games with weird endings. Everyone will remember the strange finish to Butler’s upset of Pitt in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but do you remember when Butler beat Xavier when the clock stopped for 1.2 seconds? Believe it or not, Butler may have topped that with the way they lost to Evansville on Saturday evening. After blowing a 12 point second half lead, Butler fouled Colt Ryan with 0.9 seconds left and a one point lead. But Ryan missed the first before making the second shot, tying the game.

On the ensuing inbounds, Butler threw the ball the length of the court to Andrew Smith who made the catch and laid the ball in at the buzzer. The only problem? The refs said the lay-in came after the buzzer, but that he was fouled with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Smith would proceed to miss both free throws and Evansville won the game in overtime when Chrishawn Hopkins failed to get a shot off to try and tie the game. For a more in-depth look at the controversy involved in the finish, we wrote about it here.

Player of the Week: Nurideen Lindsay, St. John’s

St. John’s may not have played a murder’s row schedule in the first week of the season, but the youthful Johnnies were tested. They dug themselves a big hole against William & Mary and a bigger hole against Lehigh before coming back and winning both of those games. Lindsay played a huge role in both of those comebacks, getting 15 of his 19 points in the second half against W&M and finishing with 15 points against Lehigh. Lindsay’s best game of the week came against UMBC. He finished one assist shy of a triple-double with 15 points, 10 boards and nine assists.

For the week, Lindsay finished with averages of 16.3 ppg, 4.7 apg and 4.7 rpg. He also added 3.3 spg while shooting a crisp 50% from the field. Lindsay is a slippery penetrator. He’s got a crafty handle and while he doesn’t have blazing speed, he’s quick and understands how to change speeds. He’s a good finisher when he gets into the paint and, at least against some mid-major competition, was able to avoid getting his shot blocked while drawing fouls. He still has plenty of room to improve — Lindsay turned the ball over 10 times in the three games while shooting 0-7 from three and just 15-27 (55.6%) from the line — but what makes him so important to the Steve Lavin’s team is he is one of the only guys that is capable of getting his own shot.
The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team

G: Tray Woodall, Pitt: The talk of the Panthers coming into the season was their front line and Ashton Gibbs, but Woodall was the star of the first two games. He averaged 21.0 ppg, 10.0 apg and 6.5 rpg while committing just six turnovers and hitting 9-17 from beyond the arc.

G: Allen Crabbe, Cal: Most outlets had Allen Crabbe pegged as an up-and-coming star, and he did nothing to dispute that notion through two games. Crabbe averaged 22.5 ppg in two blowout wins, hitting 9-17 from beyond the arc.

F: Dominic Cheek, Villanova: Cheek is an important piece for the Wildcats if he can become a consistent scorer on the wing. We know about his defensive acumen (he had three steals), but his 27 points and 5-8 shooting from beyond the arc was a pleasant surprise for Nova fans.

F: Ryan Pearson, George Mason: The Patriots big man went for 28 points and 12 boards in an overtime win over Rhode Island on Friday night.

C: John Henson, North Carolina: In a 2-0 week for the Heels, Henson finished with averages of 16.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 5.5 bpg while shooting 66.7% from the floor. He even showed off a turnaround jumper in the win over UNC-Asheville.

Bench: Nathaniel Lester, Hofstra (33 points in a win over Long Island; Jamil Wilson, Rhode Island (38 points in a loss to George Mason); Trae Golden, Tennessee (29 points, 9 assists in a win over UNC Greensboro); Robbie Hummel, Purdue (21 points in his return to the court); Eric Atkins, Notre Dame (27 points, 6 assists, 6-7 FGs, 12-12 FTs in a win over MVSU); Dorian Finney-Smith, Virginia Tech (10 points, 16 boards, 5 assists, 5 blocks in Tech debut); CJ Wilcox, Washington (20.5 ppg in a 2-0 start); Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State (16.3 ppg, 12.7 rpg in three games this week); J’Covan Brown, Texas (28 points, 8 assists, 1 turnover in a win over Boston U.); Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (15 assists, 1 turnover against UNC-Asheville)

Team of the Week: Cleveland State

The Vikings were a bit of an afterthought heading into this season. That’s generally what happens when you are a mid-major program and you lose a player as talented and important to your team as Norris Cole. But Gary Waters’ team did a fine job introducing themselves to the country on Sunday afternoon, as they went into Memorial Coliseum and bullied Vanderbilt into a 71-58 victory. D’Aundray Brown led the way for the Vikings, finishing with 18 points and 8 boards, but he got plenty of help, as five of his teammates scored between seven and 11 points.

But the offensive end of the floor isn’t what won this game for Cleveland State. It was their defensive pressure. Vanderbilt, a top 10 team known for having a powerful offensive attack, had more possessions end in a turnover (20) than in a made field goal (18). John Jenkins, the Commodores all-american, was hounded the entire game, shooting 5-14 from the floor (2-8 from three). Jeff Taylor had just nine points, shooting 3-8 from the field and turning the ball over six times. All in all, it was an impressive performance from the Vikings, one that will likely get them into the conversation — along with Butler and Detroit — for the favorite in the Horizon.
Teams deserving a shoutout:

Akron: Akron made a statement on Wednesday night, as they went into Starkville and handled Mississippi State fairly easily. Quincy Diggs led the way with 19 points, but it was an all-around team effort that got the job done. Much like Cleveland State’s win over Vanderbilt, it was work on the defensive end that got the job done.

Cal: The Bears looked quite impressive in their two games this week. After running through UC-Irvine with a dominating first-half performance, Cal used a 21-0 run to close out the first half against George Washington on Sunday night. Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe have been as good as advertised, but it was the play of Justin Cobbs (16 points, five assists on Sunday) and Brandon Smith (seven points, six assists on Friday) that was promising.

St. John’s: The Johnnies went 3-0 this week, and while all three games were against overmatched opponents, there is reason to be excited about this team. They are young and, obviously, will go through some growing pains, but the fact that they were able to come back from halftime deficits twice was promising. God’sgift Achiuwa and Moe Harkless have been promising up front and when the Johnnies press is clicking, they are a dangerous team.

Five Thoughts:

The SEC stinks again?: Vanderbilt was supposed to be a Final Four contender this year, but they were manhandled by Cleveland State at home on Sunday. Mississippi State was a team that everyone thought could finally turn the corner this year, but with Renardo Sidney still out of shape — and now injured, apparently — that looks like wishful thinking. The loss to Akron on Wednesday confirms that. Now to be fair, those are the only two league teams that lost this week and Cleveland State and Akron are both legitimate contenders to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid this year. But to get an idea of the significance of two of the league’s top five teams having a mark in the loss column right now, only three other high-major teams do as well — Michigan State (who lost to North Carolina), Oregon (who lost to Vanderbilt) and UCLA (who lost to Loyola Marymount).

Good start for the MVC: Missouri State is in full-on rebuilding mode this year. That’s what happens when you lose six of your seven rotation players and overhaul the coaching staff. But that doesn’t mean the Bears won’t be competitive in the Missouri Valley this year. On the one hand, they bring back Kyle Weems, the reigning MVC player of the year. On the other hand, they opened the season with a 22 point win at Nevada. Making the win even more impressive? Weems had four points on 2-12 shooting. Northern Iowa was impressive as well. Old Dominion is in a bit of a rebuilding year as well, but the Panthers went into Richmond and beat the Monarchs by 17 despite the semi-surprising return of Kent Bazemore. Now if we could only forget about the loss Southern Illinois suffered against (wait for it) Ohio Dominican. Yeah, they’re D-II.

UConn’s strength is their back court?: That’s at least the way that it looks after UConn’s first game against Columbia. Jeremy Lamb lived up to the all-american hype, putting up 30 points on 11-17 shooting, while Shabazz Napier was just as good, finishing with 21 points, eight assists and six boards. The two combined for six steals. Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond, on the other hand, combined for just two points and nine rebounds. Drummond attempted a single shot in 12 minutes. As good as Napier and Lamb looked, they played a 36 and 38 minutes, respectively, against Columbia. The Huskies are going to need more balance — and depth — this season.

Duke and Belmont: Duke has some major issues they need to address this season. Austin Rivers is ridiculously talented but will make plenty of freshman mistakes this year. Seth Curry is a knockdown shooter, as if Andre Dawkins, but the best point guard — and perimeter defender — on the roster is Tyler Thornton. How does Coach K get him into the lineup? Duke’s big men have put up some solid numbers early, but are we ready to assume that the Plumlees are more than just the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly is better than a sixth or seventh man? But more than anything, what you should have taken out of Belmont’s one-point loss to Duke at Cameron Indoor is that the Bruins are going to be a team to reckon with in March. In other words, Belmont is legit. Memphis, you have been warned.

Who is the best team in the Pac-12?: It certainly doesn’t look like UCLA at this point. The Bruins looked awful in a loss to Loyola Marymount, as Josh Smith is clearly not in shape and their guards look better suited to playing at Cal. State Northridge. Arizona is dealing with their fair share of issues as well. They struggled against Valparaiso and Duquense before having to come back from a double digit deficit against Ball State. The Wildcats lack an interior presence and are trying to identify their go-to scorer and starting point guard; Josiah Turner lost his starting job after missing a shootaround and didn’t play on Sunday against Ball State. Oregon’s loss at Vanderbilt looks worse after Vandy lost to Cleveland State, and Washington has struggled against two inferior opponents. That leaves Cal. So are the Bears really the favorite in the Pac-12?

Matchups of the Week (all times eastern):

– 11/14 7:00 pm: UCF @ Florida State
– 11/14 8:00 pm: Oakland @ Alabama
– 11/14 9:00 pm: Detroit @ Notre Dame
– 11/14 10:00 pm: Nevada @ UNLV
– 11/15 12:00 am: Washington State @ Gonzaga
– 11/15 12:00 pm: Belmont @ Memphis
– 11/15 2:00 pm: SDSU @ Baylor
– 11/15 7:00 pm: Champions Classic — Duke vs. Michigan State and Kansas vs. Kentucky
– 11/15 8:00 pm: Florida @ Ohio State
– 11/15 8:00 pm: Bucknell @ Vanderbilt
– 11/16 9:00 pm: Long Beach State @ Pitt
– 11/17 1:00 pm: Purdue vs. Iona
– 11/17 7:00 pm: Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State
– 11/19 2:00 pm: Louisville @ Butler
– 11/19 6:30 pm: Vanderbilt vs. NC State

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Clark, Iowa end perfect South Carolina season in Final Four

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS – Caitlin Clark overwhelmed the reigning champions with another sensational game, scoring 41 points to help Iowa spoil South Carolina’s perfect season with a 77-73 victory on Friday night in the Final Four.

The spectacular junior guard set a record for the highest-scoring semifinal game and became the first women’s player to post back-to-back 40-point games in the NCAA Tournament. She now has the Hawkeyes in a spot they’ve never been in before – one victory away from a national championship.

They’ll have to beat another SEC team to do that as Iowa (31-6) will face LSU in the title game on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers beat Virginia Tech in the other national semifinal.

It’s the Tigers’ first appearance in the title game as Kim Mulkey became the second coach to take two different teams to the championship game.

Thanks to the spectacular play of Clark and the historic year by South Carolina, this was one of the most talked about and highly anticipated matchups in women’s Final Four history,

The game lived up to the hype surrounding it- the best player vs. the best team – much to the delight of the sellout crowd of over 19,000 fans.

Coach Dawn Staley and South Carolina (36-1) had won 42 in a row, including last year’s championship game.

This was Iowa’s first appearance in the Final Four in 30 years. The last time the Hawkeyes advanced this far was 1993 and C. Vivian Stringer was the coach of that team that lost to Ohio State in overtime.

Clark wowed the crowd that included Harper Stribe, a young fan of the team who has been battling cancer. She was featured in a surprise video that informed the Hawkeyes’ star that she was the AP Player of the Year.

Trailing 59-55 entering the fourth quarter, South Carolina scored the first five points to take the lead. Clark answered right back with two deep 3-pointers and an assist to Monika Czinano to give the Hawkeyes a 67-62 lead.

South Carolina got within 69-68 on Raven Johnson’s 3-pointer before Clark got a steal for a layup with 3:32 left. Neither team scored again until star Aliyah Boston was fouled with 1:37 left. She made the second of two free throws.

Clark then scored another layup on the other end out of a timeout to make it a four-point game. After a layup by Zia Cooke made it a two-point game with 58 seconds left, the Hawkeyes ran the clock down with McKenna Warnock grabbing a huge offensive rebound off a Clark miss with 18 seconds remaining.

Clark hit two free throws after South Carolina fouled her with 13.5 seconds left. They were her 38th and 39th point, moving her past Nneka Ogwumike for the most points scored in a Final Four semifinal game.

After a putback by Johnson with 9.9 seconds left got the Gamecocks within 75-73, Clark sealed the game with two more free throws.

As the final seconds went off the clock Clark threw the ball high in the air and galloped around the court.

The loss ended a spectacular season for the defending champion Gamecocks, who were trying to become the 10th team to go through a season unbeaten.

Cooke led the Gamecocks with 24 points. Slowed by foul trouble, Boston had just eight points and 10 rebounds as the Hawkeyes packed the paint, daring South Carolina to shoot from the outside.

The Gamecocks finished 4-for-20 from behind the 3-point line and couldn’t take advantage of their 49-25 advantage on the boards that included 26 offensive rebounds.

Mulkey, LSU women rally in Final Four, reach first title game

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS – Kim Mulkey is back in another national championship game, this time taking the flagship university from her home state there for the first time.

It took LSU only two seasons to get there with the feisty and flamboyantly dressed coach, and a big comeback in the national semifinal game that was quite an undercard Friday night.

Alexis Morris scored 27 points and had two of her misses in the fourth quarter turned into putback baskets by Angel Reese in a big run as LSU rallied to beat top-seeded Virginia Tech 79-72 in the first semifinal game.

“I’m never satisfied. I’m super-excited that we won, but I’m hungry,” said Morris, who jumped on a courtside table and fired up LSU fans after the game. “Like, I’m greedy. I want to win it all so I can complete the story.”

Reese finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds for LSU (33-2), which will play in the national title game Sunday against the winner of the highly anticipated matchup between Southeastern Conference foe South Carolina or Iowa in the other semifinal.

“It’s like a dream. It still hasn’t hit me that I’m at the Final Four,” said Reese, the transfer from Maryland who carries the nickname, ”Bayou Barbie.” “I’m just not even believing this right now. It’s crazy how much my life has changed in one year.”

Mulkey – in a carnation pink top this time – won three national titles in four Final Four appearances over her 21 seasons at Baylor. She is only the second coach to take two different teams to the national championship game. The other is C. Vivian Stringer, who did it with Cheyney in the inaugural 1982 women’s tournament and Rutgers in 2007.

“I came home for lots of reasons,” Mulkey said. “One, to some day hang a championship banner in the PMAC (Pete Maravich Assembly Center). Never, ever do you think you’re going to do something like this in two years.”

LSU made five national semifinal games in a row from 2004-08 – the only times the Tigers had made it this far. They lost each of those years.

The Tigers had to dig deep for this one, with neither team backing down.

Trailing 59-50 after three quarters, LSU went ahead with a 15-0 run over a five-minute span. The Tigers led for the first time since late in the first half when Falu’jae Johnson had a steal and drove for a layup to make it 64-62.

Reese had six points in that game-turning spurt, including a basket after Morris’ attempted 3-pointer clanked off the front rim. Reese had a second-effort follow of her own miss after rebounding another shot by Morris.

Elizabeth Kitley, the 6-foot-6 senior, had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Virginia Tech (31-5), the Atlantic Coast Conference champion that was in the Final Four for the first time. Georgia Amoore and Kayana Traylor each had 17 points, while Cayla King had 14.

Amoore set a record for the most 3-pointers in a single NCAA Tournament with 24, though she had a tough night shooting – 4 of 17 overall, including 4 of 15 from beyond the arc. She passed Kia Nurse’s record 22 set in the 2017 tourney for UConn, which lost in the national semifinals on the same court. Arizona’s Aari McDonald had 22 in six NCAA tourney games two years ago.

The big run for LSU came right after Amoore made her last 3-pointer with 7:52 left for a 62-57 lead. The Hokies didn’t make another basket until King’s 3 with 1:19 left.

“I think we had a few crucial turnovers as well as missed box-outs where they scored on second-chance opportunities,” Traylor said. “I think that’s just what it came down to really.”

Morris had opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer for LSU, then had a driving layup before Reese had a layup after a steal by Johnson. That quick 7-0 run prompted a timeout by Hokies coach Kenny Brooks.

“They hit a couple of shots, gave them a little bit of momentum. They hit a 3 right off the bat … kind of changed the momentum,” Brooks said. “They were aggressive in the passing lanes. But they also were a little bit more aggressive down low.”

Virginia Tech had ended the first half with its own 11-0 run to lead for the first time, at 34-32 on Traylor’s driving layup with 53 seconds left.

But it was the Tigers who led for 17:55 of the first half with the Hokies getting off to a slow start shooting – they missed eight of their first nine shots – that an LSU cheerleader had an assist even before they officially had a shot.

King was charged with a turnover on a ball that hit the rim and bounced over the top of the backboard and got stuck there. With encouragement from officials and others at that end, a male cheerleader lifted up a female cheerleader, who knocked the ball down.

Gradey Dick to leave Kansas for NBA draft after one season

Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas sharpshooter Gradey Dick is entering the NBA draft after one season with the Jayhawks.

The 6-foot-8 guard announced his decision in a social media post Friday.

Dick started all 36 games for the Jayhawks and averaged 14.1 points while shooting better than 40% from 3-point range. He made 83 3-pointers, a program record for a freshman.

Kansas lost to Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, with Dick scoring just seven points in his finale.

Marquette’s Shaka Smart voted men’s AP coach of the year

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Shaka Smart has packed an entire career’s worth of experiences into 14 years as a college head coach. He led VCU to an improbable Final Four as a 30-something wunderkind in 2011, guided mighty Texas to a Big 12 Tournament title during six otherwise tepid years in Austin, and now has turned Marquette into a Big East beast.

It’s sometimes easy to forget he’s still just 45 years old.

Yet his work with the Golden Eagles this season might have been his best: Picked ninth in the 11-team league by its coaches, they won the regular-season title going away, then beat Xavier to win their first Big East Tournament championship.

That earned Smart the AP coach of the year award Friday. He garnered 24 of 58 votes from a national media panel to edge Kansas State’s Jerome Tang, who received 13 votes before guiding the Wildcats to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, and Houston’s Kelvin Sampson, who earned 10 before taking the Cougars to the Sweet 16.

Voting opened after the regular season and closed at the start of the NCAA Tournament, where the No. 2 seed Golden Eagles were knocked out in the second round by Michigan State and Smart’s longtime mentor, Tom Izzo.

“I’m very grateful to win this award,” said Smart, the second Marquette coach to take it home after Hall of Famer Al McGuire in 1971, “but obviously it always comes back to the guys you have on your team.

“Early on,” Smart said, “we had a real sense the guys had genuine care and concern for one another, and we had a very good foundation for relationships that we could continue to build on. And over the course of seasons, you go through so many different experiences as a team. And those experiences either bring you closer together or further apart. Our guys did a great job, even through adverse experiences, even through challenges, becoming closer together.”

It’s hardly surprising such cohesion is what Smart would choose to remember most from a most memorable season.

The native of Madison, Wisconsin, who holds a master’s degree in social science from California University of Pennsylvania, long ago earned a reputation for building close bonds with players and a tight-knit camaraderie within his teams.

No matter how high or low the Golden Eagles were this season, those traits carried them through.

“Everything that we go through, whether it be the retreat that we went on before the season, all the workouts in the summer, he’s preaching his culture,” said Tyler Kolek, a third-team All-American. “And he’s showing his leadership every single day, and just trying to impart that on us, and kind of put it in our DNA. Because it’s definitely in his DNA.”

That’s reflected in the way Smart, who accepted the Marquette job two years ago after an often bumpy tenure at Texas, has rebuilt the Golden Eagles program after it had begun to languish under Steve Wojciechowski.

Sure, Smart landed his share of transfers – Kolek among them – in an era in which the portal has become so prevalent. But he largely built a team that finished 29-7 this season around high school recruits, eschewing a quick fix in the hopes of long-term stability. Among those prospects were Kam Jones, their leading scorer, and do-everything forward David Joplin.

“He teaches us lots of things about the importance of each other,” Joplin said. “He lets us know, time and time again, that we can’t do anything without each other, but together we can do anything.”

That sounds like a decidedly old-school approach to building a college basketball program.

One embraced by a still-youthful head coach.

“I think being a head coach has never been more complicated, never been more nuanced, and never more all-encompassing,” Smart told the AP in a wide-ranging interview last week. “Does that mean it’s harder? You could say that.

“What makes your job less hard,” Smart said, “is having a captive audience in your players, and guys that truly understand and own what goes into winning, and that’s what we had this past year. But those things just don’t happen. There are a lot of steps that have to occur on the part of a lot of people, not just the coach, to get to where you have a winning environment.”

Purdue’s Zach Edey named AP men’s player of the year

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Zach Edey spent the days following Purdue’s historic NCAA Tournament loss lying low, his phone turned off, along with the rest of the outside world.

The disappointing finish did little to diminish the season the Boilermakers big man had.

Dominating at both ends of the floor during the regular season, Edey was a near-unanimous choice as The Associated Press men’s college basketball player of the year. Edey received all but one vote from a 58-person media panel, with Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis getting the other.

“The season ended in disappointment, which really sucks, but it’s always nice to win individual accolades,” Edey said. “It kind of validates your work a little bit. The last three years I’ve played here, I’ve seen my game grow every year. AP player of the year is a great feeling, it just kind of stinks the way the season ended.”

That ending came in the NCAA Tournament’s first round, when Purdue lost to Fairleigh Dickinson, joining Virginia in 2018 as the only No. 1 seeds to lose to a No. 16.

Before that, Edey dominated.

The 7-foot-4 Canadian was named a unanimous AP All-American and the Big Ten player of the year after finishing sixth nationally in scoring (22.3), second in rebounding (12.8) and first in double-doubles (26).

Edey also shot 62% from the floor and averaged 2.1 blocked shots per game while leading Purdue to its first outright Big Ten regular-season title since 2017. He is the first player since Navy’s David Robinson in 1985-86 to have at least 750 points, 450 rebounds and 50 blocked shots in a season.

“He’s kind of a one of a kind,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “I’ve never played with someone like him, probably never will again.”

And to think, Edey didn’t want to play basketball when he was younger.

A hockey and baseball player growing up in Toronto, Edey resisted basketball at first. He was 6-2 by the sixth grade and the natural inclination by the adults was to push him toward basketball, where his size would be a massive advantage.

“It was something I kind avoided all my life.,” Edey said. “I didn’t like people telling me what I should be doing with my life and it felt like that’s what people were doing with basketball. When I started playing competitively, that’s when I really fell in love with the sport.”

Edey developed his game quickly. He played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and proved himself against some of the nation’s best high school players, drawing attention from college coaches. He ended up at Purdue, where coach Matt Painter had a proven track record of developing big men.

Edey had a limited role as a freshman, then averaged 14.4 points and 7.7 rebounds last season on a team that had talented big man Trevion Williams and future NBA lottery pick Jaden Ivey.

Already a tireless worker, Edey put in even more time during the offseason, spending extra time after practice and taking better care of his body. His already solid footwork got better, he added quickness and developed more patience with the constant double teams he faced – not to mention the barrage of physical play teams tried to employ against him.

“There’s not really any kind of cool, sexy answer,” Edey said. “I came in every day, I worked hard, I stayed after practice – stayed a long time after practice. I took care of my body and was able to steadily improve. There was nothing revolutionary I did. I just worked hard.”

It certainly paid off, even if the season ended with a huge disappointment.