In the NCAA, not all teams have the luxury of recruiting some of the very best high school students in the country each season, as do, for example, Duke and Kentucky, which have long been factories for future NBA stars and standard bearers of the ” one-and-done”.
Therefore, when a program like Purduereferenced nationally for the quality of its game and its results but far from being a juggernaut of recruitment like the Blue Devils and the Wildcats, loses in the Draft Jaden Iveyhis major player of the 2021/22 season, it is logical to think that the coming season will be complicated.
On paper, during the offseason, it was in any case the most sensible scenario, since the Boilermakers had lost the current rookie of the Pistons, therefore, but also the point guard Eric Hunter Jr, a very useful “role player”, and the interior Trevion Williams, pillar of the paint for four seasons (10.8 points and 7 rebounds over his entire university career).
In the arrivals department: only two “freshmen”, Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer, solid leaders in high school but both ranked outside the Top 100 of the best high school students of the class of 2022…
In short, at first glance, the Purdue version 2022/23 clearly seemed a step below the 2021/22 version. And yet…
The “Phil Knight Legacy”, revealing truths
And yet, after three weeks in this new exercise, the squad of Matt Painter undoubtedly gives the opposite feeling: six victories in as many games to start the season.
It is particularly the last three outings of the Boilermakers that impress. Three games played as part of the “Phil Knight Legacy”, a tournament in honor of Phil Knight, the creator of Nike, held from Thursday to Sunday and organized in Portland, where the brand’s headquarters are located in Swoosh.
But above all, a tournament that Purdue won, on the night of Sunday to Monday.
First there was a sober and controlled introduction against West Virginia in the first round (80-68), then two breathtaking collective performances, in the face of much greater adversity: Gonzaga (#6 of the Top 25) in semi -final and Duke (#8) in the final. A final gap of 18 points against the band of Drew Timme (84-66), and 19 points against the Blue Devils (75-56)…
Simply put, Matt Painter and his men stomped on two top-ten ranked teams in the nation. A finding that forces us to ask ourselves a question that was absolutely unthinkable a month ago: would Purdue be better this season, despite a less talented workforce and significant losses during the off-season?
Looking at the program’s performance in Portland this weekend, the answer is definitely yes. In any case, the cap this season seems higher than last season. Pretty incredible when you remember that the 2021/22 version team had still won 29 of its 37 games, and reached the “Sweet Sixteen” during the NCAA tournament.
” This year, we share the ball very well. Our workforce is dense. Before the season, there were a lot of questions about us. But I think we are very strong this season » soberly declared pivot Zach Edeybasic man of the group this season, after the victory of the tournament.
Zach Edey, the best player in the country?
Exactly, let’s come to Zach Edey.
After a discreet “freshman” season (8.7 points and 4.4 rebounds) and a “sophomore” season in the shadow of Jaden Ivey (14.4 points and 7.7 rebounds), the immense Canadian (2m22) is this season the undisputed boss of the attack of his team. After six games, he is at 21.7 points and 12 rebounds per game, while giving the feeling of being the most dominant player in the country today.
However, the one who could be seen in his best light during the U19 World Cup in the summer of 2021 (15.1 points and 14.1 rebounds on average) did not receive the same “hype” as other university pivots during the off-season. Like for example Drew Timme obviously, but also Oscar Tshiebwe from Kentucky and Armando Bacot from North Carolina. But after almost a month in this 2022/23 season, one thing is clear: he easily outclasses the competition in his position. We would even venture to say that he is more broadly the best player in the country since the start of the season.
” Yes I noticed » he said, for example, when The Athletic asked him about the media’s lack of consideration for him during the offseason, compared to other players in his position. ” But I don’t care. In the end, everyone says and thinks what they want, and I go out there and play hard. What people think of me, how they perceive me, I don’t really care. Only the land matters. »
In Portland, Zach Edey was logically elected MVP of the tournament, with averages of 22.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in three games. Facing teams at the top of the table, he left a grandiose visual impression, causing carnage in the paint by taking advantage of his size and power.
” It’s a hell of a piece recognized Drew Timme, jostled at the low post by the native of Toronto. ” He is powerful, knows how to use his body to his advantage. He has this little ‘hook’ that he masters, and [avec sa taille] just pray he misses. He’s a great player, I take my hat off to him. »
The Canadian simply embodies a game plan that revolves around him, within an attack that has reinvented itself this season. Because last year, Edey not only played with another interior in the paint, Trevion Williams, but he also had to make room for Jaden Ivey, a ball carrier attracted to the circle. His role was therefore above all to make himself available on “pick-and-roll”.
This season, Williams and Ivey gone, it is now the others who adapt to him and his qualities. His main one being to be absolutely indefensible at the low post. Around him, therefore, there are four exteriors, capable of drawing from afar and moving away from the leather to offer him alternatives. A system close to that of NBA teams, finally.
” I have more space to find my rhythm. It helps me get into my match faster concluded Zach Edey.