Zach Edey [600x400]
Zach Edey [600x400] (Credit: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK -- Zach Edey is taking his 7-foot-4 frame to Memphis to start his NBA career.

Edey, the former Purdue center who became the first player in more than 40 years to win The Associated Press' men's college basketball player of the year award in back-to-back seasons, was taken by the Grizzlies with the ninth pick in Wednesday's NBA draft.

"Zach Edey is a particularly special fit [for the franchise]," Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman said after the draft's first round. "In getting to know him, we are talking about someone whose competitiveness is through the roof, care factor is through the roof. No ego, just wants to win."

And so begins the process of seeing how his game translates to the next level. Edey will be one of the tallest players in the NBA this coming season; in 2023-24, only San Antonio's Rookie of the Year Victor Wembanyama, Houston's Boban Marjanovic and Phoenix's Bol Bol were listed at 7-foot-3 or taller.

Edey averaged 22.3 points and 12.9 rebounds as a junior, then 25.2 points and 12.2 rebounds during a senior season in which he led Purdue to the NCAA title game against Connecticut. The steady growth in his game was part of Memphis' attraction to his potential.

"This is a dream come true," Edey said in a statement issued by Purdue. "Memphis has such a great core, and I am really excited to get down there and work."

The Grizzlies finished 27-55 last season in a campaign marred by injuries to key players such as Ja Morant and Desmond Bane, along with reserves Marcus Smart and Brandon Clarke. The Grizzlies dressed 33 different players during the season, and the results were a far cry from the previous two seasons when Memphis made the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

Edey is one of only six players to have won the AP player of the year award, which dates to the 1960-61 season, on multiple occasions. The others: Ohio State's Jerry Lucas, UCLA's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, North Carolina State's David Thompson and Virginia's Ralph Sampson. Lucas, Abdul-Jabbar, Walton, Thompson and Edey were all two-time winners; Sampson was a three-time AP award winner.

"We could not be more thrilled to land him in this draft," Kleiman said. "Let's just say, this is exactly what we were hoping would happen."

That is contrary to some reports and expectations that the Grizzlies actually were looking to move up from the ninth pick and target UConn big man Donovan Clingan.

Asked if the team was initially focused on Clingan -- taken by Portland with the seventh pick -- Kleiman replied: "I haven't seen that reported anywhere." Pressed further about moving up, he said: "I'm saying this is how we wanted the draft to play out."

Kleiman said he believes there are misconceptions about Edey's defense. The center was such a force for the Boilermakers that he was told to avoid fouling. He said Edey will be allowed to be more aggressive in the NBA. Edey will be the anchor in drop coverage and benefit from having Jaren Jackson Jr., a former Defensive Player of the Year, beside him on the front line.

"We have options now," Kleiman said. "... In our frontcourt now, there's a lot of different ways we can play."

He later added: "We now have -- from a size standpoint, from a physicality standpoint -- that's something that other teams are going to have to grapple with. We want to have looks that we can throw out there that give us the advantage. Let them figure out how to deal with us."