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Player Spotlight: Zed Key’s strong start, entertaining personality

With the losses of Duane Washington Jr. and C.J. Walker, Zed Key has stepped up big this season to help lead Team 123.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Ohio State’s men’s basketball team lost a couple of key players following last season in Duane Washington Jr. and C.J. Walker. Therefore, a couple of new guys had to step in and fill their shoes. E.J. Liddell emerged as the star of the team last year, and was the clear No. 1 option beginning this season. Through the first 10 games of the 2021-22 season, arguably the second most important player (and possibly the most entertaining) on Team 123 has been second-year center Zed Key.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

But before we get into that, let’s back it up to last season. Key was a freshman averaging 5.2 points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game playing around 12 minutes per contest. He was a steady contributor when called upon, but he quickly became a fan favorite as a result of his positive and goofy personality. His famous “finger guns” after drawing a foul on a made shot and “raising the roof” after a dunk quickly made him extremely popular with Buckeye Nation.

However, after being a rotational role-player last season, Key has stepped up big in the first month of the season. He has solidified himself as the team’s main center and second-leading scorer. He has also proved himself to be clutch in big moments.

In a shockingly tight game against Akron, it looked like the Buckeyes might lose in the final seconds, but Key was not going to let that happen, hitting a layup with 0.3 seconds left. In arguably the biggest game of the season, Key was the leading scorer with 20 points against Duke, a night when the majority of the other starters weren’t on their A-game.

Key has seemingly become a go-to guy this season, behind only Liddell in terms of reliability. He is aggressive in the paint, averaging 5.4 boards per game. Both defensively and offensively, he is not afraid to go for the ball, even when surrounded by the opposing team’s players, but it’s his scoring ability that has been the most impressive thus far. Key has improved his jump shot, allowing him to be a threat from more than just the paint, and he’s doubled his scoring average from last year to 10.4 ppg.

Off the court, not only is Key well-liked by fans, but his teammates love him, too; he just seems like an all-around likable guy. The player’s TikToks and other social media posts always show them laughing and having a good time with Key. Don’t forget to check out his pet snake on Instagram (@7thesnake) for some quality content, too.

Key has emerged as the strong No. 2 on both ends of the floor for this year’s Buckeye team. His large frame enables him to grab rebounds, but he’s also become a surprisingly effective shooter as well. And what’s also become obvious through 10 games is that he never lets the moment — no matter how big — overwhelm him. And perhaps most importantly, he just seems to have so much fun while he is doing all of this. What’s not to like about Zed Key?