Zach Edey waited until nearly the last second to decide whether he should leave for the NBA or return to Purdue for another season.
Not completely sure what he wanted to do, the reigning national player of the year picked up the phone to talk with his mother and agent. Their response: do what’s going to make you the happiest.
“It was a no-brainer that I’d come back to Purdue at that point,” Edey said. “I get to come back to great teammates, a university that loves me, to compete for every championship that’s out there. That’s something you don’t get very often and something I didn’t want to pass up.”
Edey’s decision made it easy for Associated Press Top 25 men’s basketball poll voters who picked the preseason All-America team.
The Boilermakers’ towering center was the lone unanimous pick by a 60-person media panel on the team released Monday. Edey was joined by Marquette guard Tyler Kolek, Kansas center Hunter Dickinson, Duke big man Kyle Filipowski and North Carolina forward Armando Bacot.
Edey had a dominating 2022-23 season to sweep all the major national player of the year awards, including AP. The 7-foot-4, 300-pound center averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 60.7% from the field.
Edey’s return was a big reason Purdue is ranked No. 3 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll. The extra year gives him more time to improve his NBA Draft stock, but also perhaps get a bit of redemption after the Boilermakers became just the second No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 in the NCAA Tournament with last spring’s loss to Fairleigh Dickinson.
Edey is the second straight AP player of the year to return for another season, following Kentucky’s Oscar Tschiebwe in 2021-22.
“He is an NBA player, but he has to prove that. He has to knock down that threshold,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “It’s no different than buying a house. There’s just not a lot of comps out there for him. Normally when you buy a house, you find the five comps and get to your price. That’s how they kind of gauge that. Well, he doesn’t have that.”
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Kolek had a dynamic second season at Marquette after transferring from George Mason. The 6-3 guard was the Big East player of the year after averaging 12.9 points, 7.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds while shooting nearly 40% from 3-point range.
A third-team AP All-American after last season, Kolek was limited in the NCAA Tournament due to a thumb injury suffered in the first round, but his return helped the Golden Eagles earn a No. 5 ranking in the AP preseason poll.
“I feel like I’m always evolving, I can always get better,” Kolek said. “It’s just taking the next steps, seeing the game the way I want to see it, having the game slow down for me.”
Few transfers have made a bigger splash in recent years than Dickinson.
He was an honorable mention AP All-American last season after averaging 18.5 points and 9.0 rebounds at Michigan. The agile 7-footer immediately added to already-lofty expectations at Kansas, which earned the preseason No. 1 ranking with Dickinson anchoring the middle.
“From a shooting, aggressiveness, passing, playing out of doubles, he probably is as advanced as anybody I’ve ever been around, and he is without question the most equipped to have a big year for a first-year player,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
A highly touted recruit, Filipowski lived up to expectations his first season at Duke, becoming the fourth ACC player to earn rookie of the year and conference tournament MVP honors in the same season.
The 7-footer led all freshmen with 16 doubles last season and topped the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.1 points and 8.9 rebounds. His return and another stellar recruiting class landed Duke at No. 2 in the preseason poll.
Just down the road in Chapel Hill, Bacot has been one of the nation’s most consistent players, averaging double figures scoring and rebounding each of the past two seasons.
The 6-10 forward was the first player in college basketball history with six double-doubles in one NCAA Tournament while leading the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game. He averaged 13.7 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 56% from the floor last season to earn third-team AP All-America honors.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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