FDU’s Ansley Almonor ready for Purdue’s 7-foot-4 challenge

COLUMBUS, Ohio. — David, meet Goliath.

Ansley Almonor, meet Zach Edey.

Almonor is tiny FDU’s top “big man’’ at 6-foot-6, 219 pounds.

He’ll face a task he never imagined facing when the 16th-seeded Knights play No. 1 seed Purdue in the NCAA Tournament first-round game at 6:50 p.m. Friday at Nationwide Arena.

That task is guarding Edey, Purdue’s 7-4, 305-pound center, who averages 22.3 points and 12.8 rebounds per game and looks like a Godzilla towering over opponents on the basketball court.

“This is something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid, to play on this stage against the best players in the country,’’ Almonor said. “I get to show everyone in the country what I can do.’’

He’ll have to do that against Edey, who’s 10 inches taller and some 90 pounds heavier.

“He’s very tall,’’ Almonor, a native of Spring Valley, said. “I don’t think it’s going to hit me until Friday when I actually see him on the court because I’ve never seen anyone that tall. I don’t think I’m going to realize how tall he is until I actually get into the game and really see him.’’

Fairleigh Dickinson’s Ansley Almonor (5) celebrates after hitting a 3-point shot against Texas Southern during the First Four of the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Zach Edey #15 of the Purdue Boilermakers reacts after scoring against the Ohio State Buckeyes
Purdue’s Zach Edey towers over opponents — and his own teammates.
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Almonor said he’s watched Edey play and “you can see on TV he’s looking over double-teams with 6-8, 6-9 guys on him. He’s probably going to be looking over me, too, but we’ve got to figure out a way to slow him down.’’

One potential element to this matchup not to be overlooked is the offensive advantage Almonor might have on Edey, because he’s a strong outside shooter, having led FDU with 23 points in Wednesday night’s First Four win over Texas Southern.

Almonor was 5 of 8 from 3-point range, showing the kind of shooting threat that will lure Edey outside of his comfort zone as a rim protector underneath the basket.

“He’s not going to want to leave that paint,’’ Almonor said. “He’s usually playing against guys who stay in the paint. I don’t think he’s guarded somebody who can shoot the ball and move like me. So, we’ll see how they counter that.’’

Ansley Almonor was the Northeast Conference's Most Improved Player for the 2022-23 season,  averaging 14.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
Ansley Almonor was the Northeast Conference’s Most Improved Player for the 2022-23 season, averaging 14.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Almonor said his plan against Edey will be to try to “get into his legs a little bit because tall guys don’t like when people get into their legs.’’

However, Purdue coach Matt Painter revealed on Thursday that Edey won’t be guarding Almonor.

“I’m not giving up any secrets,’’ Painter said. “Anybody that has a face-up 5 like that, we get Zach on the other guy and he guards him. We’ve done that all year. We’ve done that ever since Zach got here.

“Almonor is a great player. That’s what you normally make changes for. You make changes because someone’s a great player. And he hit five 3s in the game [Wednesday night]. He can really stretch it, but he can also drive the basketball.’’