Everybody knows Purdue big man Zach Edey is tall, and that naturally includes PSU HC Micah Shrewsberry.
“Big deal.” Some may respond.
Indeed, plenty of basketball players are tall.
But hardly any are 7-foot-4, and not many are capable of averaging more than 21 points and 13 rebounds through 14 games, especially playing at a Big Ten school.
Edey, in his third season at Purdue, has gone from a useful player known primarily for his height to arguably the best in college basketball. This would be obvious by looking at the Edey’s stats over his two-plus seasons.
Points per game
This season (11 games): 21.3
Rebounds per game
This year: 13.2
Anybody can see that Edey’s gotten better since coming to Purdue, and that certainly includes Big Ten coaches.
But Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry is unique in that he’s the only Big Ten head coach— besides Purdue boss Matt Painter, of course— to have worked with Edey. Before Shrewsberry became the man in Happy Valley, he assisted Painter at Purdue for two stints, first from 2011-13 and then from 2019-21.
Shrewsbwerry’s last season in West Lafayette was Edey’s first.
Often, tall people play basketball because they’re tall, and that alone is a big advantage, literally and figuratively.
Shrewsberry told reporters in his press conference Thursday that this wasn’t the case with Edey.
“Some of them (players) might just be playing basketball just because they’re big,” Shrewsberry said. “When they were young, they said, ‘here, go play basketball because you’re bigger than everybody else.’ Zach, I guess, didn’t really do that until he was at a different age for him to start playing.”
For Shrewsberry, something that separates Edey from other bigs is that he’s “big, but he’s nasty.”
“He doesn’t mind contact,” Shrewsberry said. “He actually likes contact. Where you find some big guys that like to shy away from it a little bit, but he’s a dude that constantly works. He’s a great example for a lot of people. He was never proclaimed to be a good player. He made himself a good player.”
Coming out of high school, Edey was thought to be a respectable, but not highly-acclaimed recruit.
Playing at Florida’s famous IMG Academy, Edey was a three-star recruit according to 247Sports’ Composite ratings and the No. 76 center from his class.
Now, he’s the No. 1 center in America, and that can be attributed to work.
Shrewsberry saw Edey’s work ethic first hand. He remembers Edey staying after practice to work on his “jump hooks, touch, free-throws” and other aspects of his game. After that, Edey would shower, eat and then go up to Purdue assistant coach Brandon Brantley’s office and watch film of himself from both practices and games.
“That’s pretty rare,” Shrewsberry said. “Not (just) for a big guy; it’s rare for guards. It’s rare for anybody in college basketball. This dude loves the game. He loves to get better, and that’s the biggest compliment to him.”
Shrewsberry said he caught up with Edey at this year’s Penn State-Purdue football game in West Lafayette.
PSU won that night, and as much love as Shrewsberry has for Edey and his former players, he’d love nothing more than to beat Purdue Sunday in Philly.
“We’re going to go after it,” he said. “I’m going to yell at him from the sideline. We’re going to foul him, we’re going to get physical, we’re going to play, and after the game, we’ll be cool again.”