By Daniel Marco | @DanielMarco1995
Sports Capital Journalism Program
HOUSTON — Purdue junior center Zach Edey has been named the winner of the 2023 Oscar Robertson Trophy as the National Player of the Year, as voted on by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
Edey, an imposing 7-foot 4-inch, 295-pound big man from Toronto, Canada, averaged 22.3 points and 12.9 rebounds in helping Purdue to its 25th Big Ten regular season title as well as its second-ever Big Ten Tournament championship.
Some of Edey’s statistical achievements this year are hard to fathom. He led the nation in double-doubles with 27, has scored in double figures in 51 straight games (the longest streak in the country), and became the first player since Navy’s David Robinson to amass 750 points, 450 rebounds and 50 blocked shots in a season.
The USBWA first-team All-American is the first Purdue player to win the award since Glenn Robinson in the 1993-94 season. He led the Boilermakers to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where he put up a 21-point, 15-rebound performance as Purdue fell to 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round.
Throughout the season, Edey made his presence felt on the defensive side of the court. He averaged 2.1 blocks per game, using his large frame to make life difficult on opponents in the paint and was the anchor of a Purdue defense that only allowed 62.7 points per game, best in the Big Ten.
Another thing that made Edey special this year was his efficiency. He shot 60.7 percent on 14 field goal attempts per game and 73 percent from the line, giving him a true shooting percentage of 64 percent, one of the highest marks in Division I, according to basketballreference.com.
Edey knows that he didn’t get here alone, though.
“Without my family, my coaching staff, my teammates, I don’t get here,” Edey said. “I know I’m just the face of this award, but there’s so many people behind me that made it happen. When I first got to Purdue, I was nowhere near the person or player I am now, and I’m forever grateful to them.”
His coaches and teammates also assisted him in developing a stellar work ethic, which he credits in helping him win this award.
“Winning this validates all of the work I’ve put in,” Edey said. “All of those long nights when nobody is watching, staying hours after practice and watching film, it’s just made me want to work harder and see where it can all take me.”
“He’s done some great things for us,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “He’s got a routine for how he practices, and he does all the little things before and after in order to get himself ready.”
Edey’s award is indicative of the continuing influence of international players on the college basketball landscape. Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe, last year’s winner, hails from the Congo, and including Buddy Hield of Oklahoma in 2016, who is Bahaman, there have now been three international winners out of the last eight years.
Edey must now determine whether he wants to return for another season at Purdue with his last year of eligibility or enter the upcoming NBA draft. When asked about his plans, Edey frankly said, “I have no clue.”
The award will be formally accepted by Edey at the College Basketball Awards Dinner on April 12 at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis.
The Oscar Robertson Trophy is voted on by the entire membership of the USBWA, which consists of more than 800 journalists. It is the nation’s oldest award and the only one named after a former player. Oscar Robertson was the USBWA’s first player of the year in 1959 and was the consensus national player of the year as a sophomore in 1958, the year before USBWA started giving its player of the year award. The USBWA renamed the award the Oscar Robertson Trophy in 1998.