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'He ain't just tall' Purdue's Zach Edey continues to dominate competition

WEST LAFAYETTE − Zach Edey isn't just tall.

Purdue's 7-4 center has the T-shirt to prove it.

Last year, on a road trip to Iowa, the "Canadian Crew," a group of six friends of the Edey family, wore black Big Maple T-shirts, emblazoned with a photo of Edey.

Now the group, who says if Edey is the Big Maple, they are Team Maple, has added to those shirts, putting text on the back, "He ain't just tall eh?!" a rebuttal to the narrative Edey is only good at basketball because he's tall.

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Matt Painter has tried to squash that belief, but try as he might, there are those who look at a 7-4 behemoth of a human and form opinions about his skillset, mostly stereotypical.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo isn't one of those people.

Not after the Spartans coach watched Edey score a career-high 32 points with 17 rebounds on Jan. 16, then outdo himself with a new high of 38 points and 13 boards in the top-ranked Boilermakers' 77-61 victory over the Spartans on Sunday at Mackey Arena.

More:Zach Edey dominant as No. 1 Purdue basketball throttles Michigan State

Afterwards, Bill Raftery was interviewing Edey, who continues to become a college basketball phenomenon now with five 30-plus point games this season, when Edey's mother Julia came down from her seat.

She handed her son the T-shirt and Edey turned to the camera to show it to a national audience on CBS.

Edey then wore it to a postgame news conference where he was peppered with questions about why he's so good against Michigan State.

It's not how Edey answered, but the true answer this season is quite simple.

Zach Edey has been good against everybody.

He's averaging 22.1 points and 13 rebounds per game. He has nearly as many blocks (46) as turnovers (49) and is shooting 61.2% from the field.

Purdue Boilermakers center Zach Edey (15) celebrates after making a basket during the NCAA men’s basketball game against the Michigan State Spartans, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue won 77-61.
Purdue Boilermakers center Zach Edey (15) celebrates after making a basket during the NCAA men’s basketball game against the Michigan State Spartans, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue won 77-61.

But specifically in regards to Michigan State, Edey says it's the physicality of the Spartans defensively.

"They play super physical and they kind of foul every time and that kind of gets me going," Edey said. "I like playing physical."

David Jenkins Jr., the sixth-year senior transfer from Utah who supplied 11 points off the bench Sunday, challenged Edey on Thursday night when he was matched up against Michigan's 7-1 Hunter Dickinson.

Edey had 19 points, including Purdue's first seven while backing down Dickinson on four possessions, scoring three times and drawing a foul.

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"He destroyed him," Jenkins Jr. said after Sunday's win against the Spartans. "After the game, I am like, 'Man, you are real.'

"He’s one of a kind. I’ve never played with someone like this and probably never will. Credit to him and all the work he’s put in."

That's what Purdue sees that outsiders don't.

Edey didn't accidentally stumble on some newfound talent because he's tall.

Painter has pushed that Edey has worked extremely hard to get where he's at. It showed Sunday, not just in the 38 points on 15-of-24 shooting, but with the three assists, three steals, blocked shot and multiple deflections on the defensive end, disrupting how Michigan State planned to attack.

"When people start to stereotypically evaluate him, they say, well he stinks at ball screen defense," Painter said. "He used to stink at ball screen defense. He doesn’t anymore."

That goes for every other facet of Edey's game.

And it's been evident since the summer, when Purdue freshman guard Fletcher Loyer got his first up close glimpse of what it's like having Edey as a teammate.

"This summer, watching him play, I am like, this guy is the best player in the country," Loyer said.

Right now, Edey is.

Tall? Yes.

Only the best player in the country because he's tall?

Not even close.

Loyer realizes how special Edey is and knows he may only have months left as his teammate and, at most, one more season.

"You’re not going to have someone like that every single year," Loyer said. "When you have someone down low who is that dominant and that unselfish, too, it’s great to play with and I feel bad for the other teams because it’s hard to stop."

Sam King covers sports for the Journal & Courier. Email him at sking@jconline.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @samueltking.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Purdue basketball's Zach Edey dominates again: 'He ain't just tall'