The path to a temperate Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium started several states away and nearly three months ago for Zed Key.
Now a four-star prospect in the Rivals.com rankings, Key was selected to take part in the NBAPA Top 100 camp held on campus at the University of Virginia in mid-June. There, against some of the other top members of the 2020 and 2021 classes, the 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward cemented his spot on the radar of multiple high-major recruiting boards.
That included Ohio State, which was one of multiple schools to offer him a scholarship in the days after the camp. That led to an official visit this past weekend that saw Key and his parents take in a football game, watch a basketball workout, meet two of the program’s most prestigious alumni and otherwise familiarize themselves with the campus.
“The trip was great,” Key’s father, Zed Key Sr., told The Dispatch. “We all had a good time. It was very informative. We got to learn a lot about the school, the program. We were able to see more so what Ohio State’s academics were about, because that’s very important, and just what the basketball program was about, and we learned about the coaches.”
While on campus, Key spent time with D’Angelo Russell and Evan Turner, two No. 2 NBA draft picks who remain close with the program. The three were part of a group that took in the pregame football festivities and also included three other Ohioans in the class of 2022 on unofficial visits: forward Josiah Harris from Canton (Ohio) GlenOak, shooting guard Bowen Hardman from Cincinnati Princeton and point guard Sonny Johnson Jr. from Garfield Heights.
Three members of the current team were on hand as well: junior CJ Walker, sophomore Duane Washington Jr. and freshman E.J. Liddell.
Key posted a photo to Twitter of himself with Russell.
“I know what stood out to me was just of course the football game, the atmosphere, the pep rally (Skull Session) was huge,” his father said. “It was crazy. The atmosphere in there was insane. Of course the football game, 104,000 people in attendance is another level. Meeting with Evan Turner and D’Angelo and listening to them and talking about the program and how it’s helped them become successful. Listening to the coaches and how they feel that Zed fits in with the program. Also speaking with the academic advisor was great, how she will make sure that his work is up to par and he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing.”
Key plans to major in business, likely focusing on either finance or sports marketing.
The Ohio State visit was Key’s first official visit and two others are on the calendar: he will visit Marquette during the weekend of September 21 and then Florida the following weekend. He has not identified a list of top schools, and his father said that he remains wide open right now with an eye on cutting down his list soon.
Style of play will be a key component to his decision.
“He has to be in a program that fits his style, that actually does use the big man,” his dad said. “He can play multiple positions, he can run the floor, but it has to be a team concept. That’s what he’s used to. That’s how he plays the game. He’s not a ‘black hole’ when he gets the ball. It’s not like it doesn’t come back out. He wants to play in a team concept, one where everyone gets along, like a family atmosphere. That’s what we’re looking for, somewhere that he’s comfortable.”
Rivals.com ranks Key as a four-star recruit, the No. 115 national prospect and the No. 24 small forward in the country. According to the 247Sports.com composite database, Key is the No. 157 recruit in the nation and the No. 31 small forward. His father described him as a versatile player, which is one of the things Ohio State likes about him.
“Of course they like his personality, his style of play,” his father said. “He’s your hard-hat worker kind of player. He will get in there, do the dirty work, grab rebounds. He’s not afraid to guard anyone. He’s just basically a really strong player and he’ll do whatever the coach needs him to do, whatever the team needs him to do, to get a win.
“They really also loved his versatility that he is able to, if needed, take someone down in the post or also post someone out and can make shots from the three-point (line) and anywhere in between.
Key Sr. said there’s no rush to pick a school.
“The plan is to take (all of) the visits,” he said. “We don’t want to rush into a decision because this is probably as of right now one of the biggest decisions that he has to make as a 17-year-old. This is where he’s going to be for four years, so we don’t want him to rush into anything and then possibly be unhappy later on. We’re going to see how everything works out and see what comes up with the visits after Florida.”