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March Madness: Zach Edey calls out Tennessee's Rick Barnes among his doubters: 'Can't do that anymore'

Purdue's run to the Final Four is a journey marked by redemption.

For the Boilermakers, it means moving on from the demons of 2023 and rewriting the narrative that's been squarely focused on their historic loss to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson in last year's NCAA tournament.

For Zach Edey, there's more. The All-America center and presumptive two-time consensus National Player of the Year arrived at Purdue in 2020 with little fanfare. He was a three-star recruit with a handful of scholarship offers. He remembers those coaches who overlooked him.

Tennessee's Rick Barnes is among them. After Edey led Purdue past Barnes' Volunteers in Sunday's Midwest regional final, he called Barnes out by name.

"There were so many coaches that looked over me," Edey told reporters, with the net around his neck representing Purdue's trip to the Final Four. "You could name a program, I can name a coach that looked over me. Tennessee — Rick Barnes is a great coach. But he was in a bunch of our practices, looked over me.

"It's kind of been the story of my life. People have doubted me, people have looked past me. Can't do that anymore."

Zach Edey was a three-star recruit with limited offers. How was the 7-4 All-American overlooked? (Jamie Sabau/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Zach Edey was a three-star recruit with limited offers. How was the 7-4 All-American overlooked? (Jamie Sabau/NCAA Photos via Getty Images) (Jamie Sabau via Getty Images)

How was Edey overlooked?

So why wasn't Edey a coveted recruit out of high school? Given the hindsight of his NPOY status and his 7-foot-4 frame that presents a matchup nightmare in every single game that he plays, it seems that coaches should have been knocking down his door.

Instead, per Rivals, he received offers from Baylor, Minnesota, Western Kentucky and Tulane in addition to Purdue. USA Today reports that he also received offers from Seton Hall and Santa Clara. There were no blue bloods in sight.

Edey's late arrival to the game certainly played a factor in the relative lack of interest. A Toronto native, Edey focused on hockey and baseball in his youth. Per the Indianapolis Star, he resisted playing basketball until high school. When he did, he caught the attention of the IMG Academy, which helped put him on the radar as a three-star recruit.

Edey's game is also famously not that of a modern big man. In the NBA world of position-less basketball, Edey's traditional post game is a liability. He doesn't have the nimble feet, playmaking prowess or shooting range of modern post greats like Nikola Jokić and Joel Embiid. With his college career coming to an end, the lingering question remains: How does his game translate to the pros?

But that's a question for the NBA. Edey's game undoubtedly translates to the college game, much to Purdue's advantage. It was on full display on Sunday in a 40-point, 16-rebound effort that Tennessee was helpless to stop.

And Edey — now two wins away from a national championship — is happy to remind those who overlooked him.