As the basketball offseason continues and we move into the fall, Land-Grant Holy Land will put out our basketball player and team previews. There will be two previews per week leading all the way into the start of the season, starting with player previews.
We only have two player previews left. First up is Zed Key, and the final one will be Justice Sueing.
Name: Zed Key
Weight: 255 pounds
High School: Long Island Lutheran
2021-22 stats: 7.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.5 APG, .562 FG%, .551 FT%
Coming into this season, Zed Key will be one of the most valuable Buckeyes, and his development will be paramount to their success. Key averaged 7.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season, but was inconsistent on offense and was dealing with a nagging injury throughout conference play and the postseason that hampered his growth. However, there were plenty of moments and games that showed just how productive Key can be on the court and for the Buckeyes.
He is only one of two returning players that played minutes last season (along with Eugene Brown) and is ready to embrace the challenge of being a leader on the new team.
“This team is great, a lot of laughs,” Key said at media day. “The chemistry is great, especially on the floor it feels like we’ve been playing for a long time together, even though there is a lot of new faces.”
Key averaged 5.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a freshman. Last season, Key started in 23 games and played in 29 overall. He shot an efficient 56.2 percent from the field for the Buckeyes.
Key mentioned to Adam Jardy that the loss to Villanova in the NCAA Tournament and especially the way that they lost has been a motivation factor to him in the offseason.
“I was upset after (that) he said,” Key told Jardy about Villanova. “We came crawling back against Villanova and I thought we had it, but we just couldn’t get over the hump. I was upset. Took some time off. Needed it. It’s fuel for the fire. We lost to Villanova in the second round so we just come back looking for more.”
Key is also notably slimmer coming into this season, following a similar path that former Ohio State center Kaleb Wesson took with his on-court fitness.
“I’ve watched what I’ve been eating and stuff and even playing here (in the Kingdom Summer League), keep running and sweating and getting in better shape,” Key told Jardy. “My conditioning, it’s OK right now but it can obviously get better. It’s nowhere near in-season shape right now.
“Last year I was one of the younger ones on the team and now I’m one of the veterans,” Key told Jardy. “It’s definitely a big step that I have to take.”
Key had one of his bigger games last season against Duke at home, and he is excited to try and duplicate that performance at Cameron Indoor this season. He scored a career-high 20 points in the Duke win last season.
“I’m very excited for Duke,” he said. “That’s crazy it’s at their place now. It should be at our place but I’m not gonna say nothing. Yeah, I’m excited.”
Key has been very vocal about the steps he has taken this offseason to become stronger, faster, and smarter on the court. The raw talent for Key has always been evident since he was a freshman. Now a junior and one of the grizzled veterans, Key will have to be able to stay on the court, stay out of foul trouble and produce for the Buckeyes.
He can be one of the better centers in the conference with the volume of play he is going to get and the role he will have. He went head to head with guys like Mark Williams of Duke and Zach Edey of Purdue, and not only held his own, but arguably outplayed them.
Consistency and health will be his two main focuses.
Key is going to be asked to be one of the top contributors on the team and will likely be a captain when those are named. There are only two centers on the team, and even though Felix Okpara has an extremely high ceiling, he is still a freshman. Key can be expected to hold a significant number of minutes at the center position.
I would expect him to be an every game starter and to play 25-30 minutes per game, unless Okpara’s development goes faster than expected.