COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and outside the The Schottenstein Center three Ohio State men’s basketball players are surrounding a dark red truck. One, Justin Ahrens, is sitting in the passenger seat staring at his phone. A second, Kyle Young, the car owner, is standing with his arms resting on the covered truck bed occasionally looking at his phone, and at other times looking up to check in on what’s happening in the driver’s seat.
And right there sits the third teammate, Zed Key, assessing a situation with the driver’s side window.
“Let me get my tools,” Key says as he walks a row away in the parking lot to his car, returning with an item in his hand.
“My handy-dandy screwdriver here!” he says holding it up for all to see.
He uses the screwdriver, which he just keep with him, to take apart the driver’s side door paneling. Young looks up concerned. Ahrens continues to stare at his phone like this is just a normal, everyday occurrence.
“Zed is a whole other anomaly,” Ohio State guard Jimmy Sotos says. “What, is he 19 years old? I’m telling you, he’s 40 at heart. I tell ya, he’s a 40-year-old technician.”
If Julius Irving coined the nickname “Doctor J” because he operated in the paint, maybe Key’s should be “The Technician” for doing the dirty, yet essential work for his team both on and off the court.
“I just know that I have somebody there when I need it,” said junior EJ Liddell.
Key’s reputation started to grow last year, bringing toughness to the post position for the Buckeyes, and for posting up TV’s for those same teammates.
“That’s my dad’s business,” Key said. “So, I have learned to do stuff like that.”
“He just mounted my TV the other day!” Liddell said. “I bought him food.”
That is Key’s favorite form of payment, but he prefers a sit-down meal.
“Yeah I’m just running around the planet hanging people’s TVs!” he said with a laugh.
This year, as a sophomore, Key is hoping to expand his basketball game and his time on the court. He worked hard in the offseason to drop 10 pounds off his frame, and to improve his endurance so he can play more minutes. Plus, he’s worked on having a larger shot portfolio.
“I worked on my jump shot a lot,” he said.
And accordingly, his off-court portfolio has expanded as well.
“I woke up one morning and I had a dent in the front part of my car,” said Jimmy Sotos. “I told everybody what happened, next thing I know after practice I go outside and I see Z working on my car. I didn’t even say anything and I was like, ‘What’s going on over there?’ He’s like, ‘I fixed your car!’ Checked it out, [it looks] brand new.”
“With cars it’s been around with me and my dad and grandfather. We’ve always loved to work on cars and fix our own cars at home,” Key said simply.
So, it’s not surprising the Buckeyes key to keeping their cars in shape is Zed Key.
“I trust him. He knows what he’s doing,” Young says as he watches Key disassemble the entire inside of the driver-side door.
While Key’s tinkering is clearly a talent, it’s also a window into what makes him special on the court: dexterity, detail and determination to finish the job.
“Figured it out!” he exclaims as the window rolls up and down with ease at the press of a button. He then puts the door panel back on, fixes the arm rest wiring with all the switches and after a shrug adds, “Just needs some grease.”