Previewing your college hoops weekend


Game of the Weekend: Sat. 1:30 pm: No. 16 Mississippi State @ No. 13 Florida

At the end of the day, the SEC is Kentucky and every body else. That’s not an insult directed at the rest of the league, the Wildcats are just that good. The battle for second place is where the intrigue is going to come into play and, at times, there have been four teams that have looked like they deserved that title. Mississippi State are two of them.

This is an interesting game for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, Florida is at their best when they play inside-out, getting Patric Young touches and allowing him to create opportunities for his talented perimeter players by drawing attention from the defense. But Young is playing on a bad ankle, one that has forced him to come off of the bench, and Mississippi State has one of the best front lines in the country. Arnett Moultrie has a legitimate shot to win SEC player of the year and Wendell Lewis and Renardo Sidney are both capable of posting double-doubles.

But the Gators will have the advantage in the back court. If they go four guards, they should be able to neutralize that size advantage by forcing MSU’s bigs — who aren’t the best defenders to begin with — to come out of defend on the perimeter. Dee Bost has been terrific defensively this year, but can Rodney Hood stay in front of a Mike Rosario or a Kenny Boynton?

I think that Florida pulls this game out. Mississippi State is inconsistent and will be playing on the road and I just think the mismatches end up benefitting Florida more than they do the Bulldogs.

Sat. 1:00 pm: West Virginia @ No. 4 Syracuse: I’m not sure anyone knows who the second best team in the Big East is. Some days, it looks like Georgetown. Others, it looks like UConn or Cincinnati. At one point, the Mountaineers looked like they were that team. And, at times, they probably still can be. But right now, the only place they are getting consistency from is Kevin Jones, who is probably the Big East’s player of the year at this point. Truck Bryant alternates between great and bad, Deniz Kilicli looks like he has the basketball IQ of a river otter and the rest of that team are freshmen. Which ‘Eers team shows up? Perhaps the bigger question, however, is whether or not Fab Melo plays.

Sat. 1:00 pm: Texas @ No. 7 Baylor: Baylor headed into last week with an undefeated record and a chance to solidify themselves, but that backfired. They got drilled by Kansas in the Phog and lost to Missouri at home. Texas is in the midst of that stretch right now, as they have Baylor and Missouri back to back. The Longhorns have dug themselves a bit of a hole, as they have lost four of their first seven Big 12 games. This is the kind of game they have to get if they want a shot at making the NCAA Tournament come Selection Sunday.

Sat. 2:00 pm: Middle Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt: There may not be a team in the country flying as far under the radar as Middle Tennessee State is right now. They are currently sitting at 20-2 overall with wins over Ole Miss, Belmont and UCLA. The Blue Raiders can play. But Vanderbilt has slowly turned into the team that they have the potential to be. The biggest change? On the defensive end, where the addition of Festus Ezeli has and completely changed the complexion of this group. But if they overlook MTSU, they will get upset.

Sat. 7:00 pm: Washington @ Arizona: Washington is starting to look like a team that could take control of the Pac-12. They certainly have the talent to. The issue with Washington has been consistency this season, especially on the road. Will they show up for this game? You’d think with the way that these two programs have performed over the last decade or so would make this into a bit of a rivalry game, one that the Huskies will be motivated for.

Sat. 8:00 pm: No. 21 Virginia @ North Carolina State: Florida State may have struggled early in the season, but after a blowout win over North Carolina and a win at Duke, its pretty safe to say that they are the third best team in the ACC. After that? The answer may like in the winner of this game. NC State, who currently sits at 4-2 in the league, got embarrassed by UNC on Thursday night and could really use a win. But UVA could as well. They needed a late run at home to knock off BC and bounce back from a loss at Virginia Tech.

Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 20 St. Mary’s @ BYU: St. Mary’s looks like they are ready to take control of the WCC regular season race. They are now more than halfway through league play and own a 9-0 record, winning the first matchup with both Gonzaga and BYU. But both of those games took place in Moraga, and while they were fairly dominating victories, its tough to put too much stock in them until the Gaels prove their ability on the road. They made a bit of a statement on Thursday night at Loyola, but the nation will take notice with a win over BYU.

Sat. 9:00 pm: Marshall @ Memphis: Memphis caught a break on Thursday. During an incident in the Tiger’s win over Rice on Wednesday, both Will Barton and Tarik Black left the bench and were subsequently tossed from the game. There was some speculation that they would get suspended for this game, but Marshall had no such luck. They also didn’t have any luck this week, as they lost at home to UAB and followed that up by booting Justin Coleman, a former top 50 recruit, off of the team. The Thundering Herd are currently sitting at 4-2 in the league, a game behind Memphis. Falling two games off the pace would be a tough thing to recover from.

Sun. 1:00 pm: No. 22 Michigan @ No. 3 Ohio State: This is the second best game of the weekend, and it also happens to be the most interesting matchup. For starters, the Wolverines are going to have to figure out a way to deal with Jared Sullinger. As good as Michigan is, they aren’t exactly loaded in their front court, particularly if Jon Horford doesn’t play. That’s not the only interesting matchup, however. Trey Burke has been arguably the biggest surprise freshman in the country, but he will be going up against one of the best on-ball defenders in the country in Aaron Craft. Throw in Michigan’s complicated and unique offensive attack and the quality of Ohio State’s defense (the best in the country), and this has all the making of a classic. Or a blowout.

Sun. 8:30 pm: Stanford @ Cal: The top of the Pac-12 is a disaster. Four teams are tied for first place at 6-2, including Cal, who many believe is the favorite to win the league. Stanford is currently sitting tied for second place at 5-3, but they’ve lost two in a row, both of which came on the road. With the way that the Pac-12 is starting to stack up, every game is going to matter if these teams end up wanting a shot at a league title or an at-large bid.

Who’s getting upset?: Sat. 2:00 pm: No. 5 Kansas @ Iowa State

Call me crazy. Go ahead. Do it. You might be right. Thomas Robinson is the best player in the country. Tyshawn Taylor is in the midst of one of those stretches that make Kansas fans believe he can be one of the best point guards in the country. Jeff Withey is blocking everything in sight. And in the process, the Jayhawks have not only climbed to the top of the Big 12 (a two game lead over both Baylor and Missouri), but to the top five of the national rankings. They are rightfully considered one of the best teams in the country.

But Iowa State has plenty of talent on their roster. As much of a matchup problem as Robinson is going to be for the Cyclones, Royce White is going to cause just as many problems for the Jayhawks. At 6’8″, 270 lb, he leads Fred Hoiberg’s team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks and can play power forward and the point. The key, however, isn’t going to be White. Its going to be Chris Babb, Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson. If they are hitting their threes, the Cyclones have a real chance.

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 18 Marquette @ Villanova: The struggles of the Wildcats have been well documented, but they have been playing much better of late. They hung tough at Cincinnati and at Louisville. They knocked off Seton Hall and St. John’s as well. Over the last four games, Maalik Wayns has turned into exactly the kind of player we expected him to be when he enrolled. The Golden Eagles have gotten back on track after a rough patch in the middle of the season, but they also have a tendency to get off to slow starts. We all know how tough it is to win on the road in league play.

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 1 Kentucky @ LSU: Yeah, I know. This is a stretch. But Kentucky has a habit of starting slow on the road. LSU, on the other hand, is a tough team to beat at home. They knocked off Marquette. They beat Ole Miss by 26. They beat Auburn (I know) in overtime (trust me, I know). The Tigers are a tough, gritty defensive team with a talented big man in Justin Hamilton. If the Wildcats come out half asleep again, the Tigers might be able to steal one.

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 10 Georgetown @ Pitt: Pitt has had a very, very bad start to Big East play. That’s not a secret. But what also isn’t a secret is that they had been playing without Tray Woodall. Well, guess who is back? After struggling in his first game back against Louisville, Woodall had 17 points, nine assists, went 4-4 from three and committed just one turnover in Pitt’s first win in the league against Providence. Is that what the Panthers needed to jump start their season?

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 12 San Diego State @ Colorado State: San Diego State is the best team in the Mountain West. They have a loaded perimeter attack and enough interior presence to hold their own. But Colorado State is a tough team. Where the Rams struggle, however, is on the road. At home, they have been tough. With the amount of travel that the Aztecs have logged this week, might those tired legs and hotel stays be catching up to them?

Mid-major matchup of the Weekend: Fri. 9:00 pm: Boston U. @ Stony Brook

The America East may be way on the national radar, but that doesn’t mean that a game between the two teams tied for first place is irrelevant. After dropping their opener to Vermont, BU has won seven straight games, including a 61-55 win over the Seawolves at home two weeks ago. The loss to BU is the only one that Stony Brook has suffered in league play, however. Keep an eye on Darryl Partin, who is averaging 19.8 ppg.

Fri. 7:00 pm: Fairfield @ Iona: Coming into the season, Fairfield and Iona were the two overwhelming favorites in the MAAC, but their seasons have gone in completely different directions. After a disappointing non-conference schedule, the Stags lost three straight games to start out league play. Iona? If they were capable of protecting an 18 point lead, they would be sitting at 9-0 in the conference with a two game lead on the pack. The truth of the matter is that these two teams have the most talent in the conference, which means that this should be quite an entertaining game.

Fri. 7:00 pm: No. 23 Harvard @ Yale: This game features one of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend. Yale big man Greg Mangano has NBA aspirations and put up 26 points and 15 boards against Patric Young of Florida. But Harvard may have the best front line in the Ivy League with Keith Wright and Kyle Casey. Yale came into this season with a chip on their shoulder with everyone talking about Harvard and Princeton. Now is a chance to prove the doubters wrong.

Sat. 11:00 am: Ohio @ Ball State: If anyone can figure out what is going on in the MAC, feel free to share it with me. After starting the season out on fire, Ohio lost three of four in the middle of the year. They’ve bounced back with three straight wins, but still sit a game behind Akron in the eastern division. They happen to have the same record as Ball State, who is tied for first in the west.

Sat. 2:00 pm: Valparaiso @ Milwaukee: There are four teams sitting within a game at the top of the Horizon League, and these are two of them. The Panthers are at the end of the toughest portion of their schedule, going 1-2 against Youngstown State, Cleveland State and Butler. Valpo, on the other hand, lost their last game at Green Bay, dropping them a game off the pace. Depending on what happens in the Cleveland State game, the loser of this game could end up two games behind first place in the league standings.

Sat. 4:00 pm: VCU @ Georgia State: Georgia State started off league play strong, but they have trailed off of late, losing three of their last four games. VCU came into the season as one of the league favorites, and they have performed that way, sitting at 8-2 in conference play and just one game of the pace set by George Mason. One of those losses came to Georgia State in Richmond. Revenge?

Sat. 4:30 pm: Campbell @ UNC-Asheville: If you haven’t had a chance to see UNC-Asheville play, its worth it. With JP Primm and Matt Dickey, they have one of the most dynamic back courts at the mid-major level. Those two have carried the Bulldogs to first place in the Big South, but Campbell is in the mix. They are led by 6’4″ guard Darren White, a James Madison transfer that is averaging 18.6 ppg, but the guy you have to tune in to see is Eric Griffin, a high-flying, 6’8″ forward capable of some spectacular things on a basketball court.

Sat. 7:05 pm: Cleveland State @ Youngstown State: The Horizon is as muddled as any league in the country. How muddled? Cleveland State is currently sitting in first place in the league. Youngstown State is a game behind them and all alone in fourth place. The Vikings, who are my pick to win the league, won the first matchup between these two at Youngstown State. Will the Penguins get their revenge?

Sat. 8:00 pm: Denver @ Arkansas-Little Rock: Middle Tennessee State has a stranglehold on the eastern division of the Sun Belt, but the western division is wide open. Four of the six teams are within a game of first place. And who is in first place? Denver and UALR. The Pioneers had a strong non-conference schedule, including a win over St. Mary’s, while the Trojans struggled through the early part of the season. That all can be erased, however, with a strong showing in league play.

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

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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.