This season, Purdue center Zach Edey is looking to become the first consensus, back-to-back National Player of the Year since UCLA (and Deadhead Nation)’s Bill Walton did it in 1971-72 and 1972-73. Virginia’s Ralph Sampson achieved this honor during a three season span, from 1981 to 1983, but was only named consensus NPOY in 1982.
He was named a 2023 first-team preseason All-American by every outlet possible this summer, and in June he was named a finalist for the top Male College Athlete ESPY award by ESPN. In other words, Zach Edey is easily the favorite to win the Wooden and Naismith Awards again this term, no doubt.
So he isn’t just an alpha dog, he’s an alpha dog among alpha dogs, and this kind of thing is a tradition in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers are known for having individual players who are not dominant, but display dominance to an extreme level.
Zach Edey keeps a long running Purdue tradition of ultra alpha dogs going. Here are five more you know and love.
Let’s reflect on some of the best examples of this. Click where highlighted for more on the respective player.
Got to start with the man nicknamed The Big Dog, a guy who embodies this idea more than anybody else. If you can’t hang with the big alpha dogs, stay on the porch!
In 1993-94, Robinson averaged 30.3 points and 11.2 rebounds a game, becoming the first player to lead the Big Ten in both categories in 16 years.
He also won the Wooden and Naismith Awards, unanimously, the first national player of the year Boilermaker since John Wooden himself did it in 1932 (who also wore the jersey #13).
A common thread here is Boilers who began their careers as role players, became a second banana, and then grew into the alpha dog role. Cuonzo waited and bided his time and stepped into the leadership role once Big Dog departed.
He left WL as the school all-time leader in 3pt percentage (451%) and consecutive games played (137). As a coach he has struggled to find success. Missouri fired him last season after he went 78-77 there over the course of five seasons. Martin has excelled at winning recruiting battles, but he falls short in winning games; especially in March.
A tremendous recruiter, however, he’ll land somewhere again, as he’s just figuring out what he wants to do next.
A Jerry West Award (nation’s best shooting guard) winner in 2018, and a consensus second team All-American in 2019, his 23.4 points per game won him the Big Ten scoring title. That made him the third Boilermaker over a nine-year span to lead the Big Ten in scoring (JaJuan Johnson in 2011 (20.7) and Caleb Swanigan in 2017 (18.9).
He led the team on a run to the Elite Eight that season, putting together some games of pure dominance during March. Seriously, when Edwards was on, man oh man he was like a player in the video game NBA Jam Session, in the “he’s on fire” zone.
#RIP Biggie who passed away from natural causes at the age of 25 this past June.
Swanigan struggled with his weight for much of his life, infamously weighing over 360 pounds as a teenager. A 2017 first-team consensus All-American, Big Ten Player of the Year and member of a conference championship team, he was also the No. 26 pick by the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA Draft that year.
During his very brief NBA career, Swanigan worked extensively with Portland-area youth and FoodCorps to promote healthy eating habits in schools and eliminate child hunger.
Batman and Robin: JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore
These guys essentially took turns being the alpha dog, depending on how the flow of the game was, and whether Purdue was going to find their advantage, given the schematics, in the interior or on the perimeter.
They were a phenomenal inside-outside combination, and when you have both elements going, you can be tough to beat. It was common, for those who knock Purdue, to describe Purdue as a “one man team” when some of these guys were around; except here, where the derisive term was “two-man team.”
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now, while writing for the International Baseball Writers Association of America. You can follow the website on Twitter.