Zed Key: 7 things to know about the newest Flyer

Ohio State transfer played at UD Arena in October and once faced Dayton star DaRon Holmes II in high school

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

The Flyer Faithful experienced a whirlwind of emotions — not an uncommon occurrence for fans of the Dayton Flyers — on Monday as they celebrated the addition of Zed Key and mourned the departure of Koby Brea.

One fan wrote, “The transfer portal giveth and taketh away,” and many more thought it.

Brea represented Dayton on “The One Shining” moment video on CBS after the national championship game earlier this month. Now he’ll likely play his final season of college basketball for a national powerhouse. Two-time defending champion Connecticut, Kansas, Duke, Kentucky and many other programs have contacted Brea, according to reports.

While Dayton coaches have work to do in the portal if they want to replace Brea and Kobe Elvis, two guards who were key parts of the rotation last season, they took the first step toward replacing DaRon Holmes II, assuming he leaves for the NBA, by picking up Key — not that any one player could replace an All-American.

What should fans know about Key, a 6-foot-8 forward who spent the last four seasons at Ohio State? Here are seven things:

1. Key’s best season at Ohio State was his third season: He averaged 10.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in 25 games in the 2022-23 season. He started 23 games.

A shoulder injury affected Key early that season and then ended his season. He first suffered the injury in a game against Duke on Nov. 30, 2022. He played through pain but then re-injured the shoulder on Jan. 5 during a game against Purdue.

In 13 games before the second shoulder injury, Key averaged 13.4 points. After the Iowa game, he averaged 8.8 points. He underwent season-ending surgery in February and did not play in the last nine games.

“Zed took real strides, in particular, before his injury,” coach Chris Holtmann told reporters then about Key’s season. “He took real strides in terms of his overall play.”

2. Holtmann once called Key “the most interesting man in college basketball:” In a 2022 Columbus Dispatch story by Adam Jardy, Key talked about owning a ball python named 7. The snake has its own Instagram account, though it hasn’t been updated in two years.

The story mentioned Key’s tradition of “raising the roof” with both hands in the air after dunks, a celebration Ryan Mikesell popularized at Dayton, and shooting finger guns after 3-pointers.

Key also talked about his love of cars in the story.

“I do a lot outside of basketball,” Key said. “I like cars. I’m really mechanically inclined. I put up TVs in my teammates’ apartments sometimes. I do a lot. You don’t see a lot of other basketball players doing that.

3. Key transformed his body between his third and fourth seasons: In the offseason a year ago, Key dropped 18 pounds. Ohio State listed him at 230 pounds.

“I was at 253 last year,” Key said in September, “and losing this much weight, I feel better on the court. It definitely has helped me for the better. I still feel strong. I didn’t lose muscle, I just moved it around basically, moved the fat around and put it to muscle.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

4. Key played at UD Arena in November: In Ohio State’s 78-70 exhibition game victory against Dayton, Key had three points and four rebounds in 20 minutes.

5. Key’s playing time fell in his fourth season: Key backed up center Felix Okpara last season, averaging 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 36 games. After averaging 24.8 minutes per game in his third season, he averaged 15.4 minutes.

Key spent most of the offseason before the 2023-24 season rehabbing his shoulder. He was cleared for full-contact workouts when preseason practices began.

6. Key was one of four Buckeyes to enter the transfer portal after the season: Scotty Middleton, Roddy Gayle Jr., and Bowen Hardman joined Key in the portal.

The Buckeyes finished 22-14 but built momentum with an 8-3 record under Jon Diebler, who took over as interim coach after Holtmann was fired. Diebler was then named head coach in March.

7. Key played against Dayton star DaRon Holmes II in high school: In December 2019, Holmes, then a junior at Millenium High School in Arizona, played against Key, who was then a senior at Long Island Lutheran. The game took place at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Key had 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Holmes had six points on 2-of-11 shooting. Long Island Lutheran won 66-41.

“This baller was a big-time headache to defend,” DaRon Holmes Sr., the father of the UD forward, wrote on X on Monday. “Good get for Dayton.”

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