Zach Edey is excited for the rare opportunity to play at home in front of family who haven't seen him play live before.
The Toronto native leads the No. 4-ranked Purdue Boilermakers men's basketball team into its Hall of Fame Series game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Toronto's Coca-Cola Coliseum Saturday. Edey only got into basketball in grade 10 and played his last two years of high school at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., before joining Purdue.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun," the 21-year-old Edey told reporters Wednesday on Zoom. "I came into basketball pretty late so I have a lot of aunts and uncles that have just never seen me play.
"So being able to play in front of a lot of them, being able to show them what I can do is going to be a lot of fun, as well as my friends. … A lot of my friends haven’t seen me play live in a long, long time.
"I’m glad that Purdue’s doing this for me.”
The seven-foot-four senior centre is coming off a breakout 2022-23 NCAA season, where he was the consensus national player of the year, among many other awards. He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game, with his scoring and rebounding numbers good for sixth and second in the country, respectively.
Purdue entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 3 team in the country and the top-ranked squad in the East Region. However, the Boilermakers fell 63-58 to Fairleigh Dickinson to become the second top seed to lose to a No. 16 seed since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
“Obviously that loss was really tough," he said. "It took me a little while to get over. I didn’t really speak to anyone that night, I didn’t speak to anyone the next day. Then the following day, you kind of open up.
"Attacking this season, that’s the more important thing now. … Everyone’s happy, everyone’s obviously determined, everyone knows what we got to do this year.”
Edey declared for the NBA draft in April but withdrew his name at the May 31 deadline to maintain his last year of college eligibility, a decision he called "tough."
Later in the summer, he played for the Canadian national team at the FIBA World Cup, where Canada earned bronze, its first-ever medal at the event in Manila, Philippines in September.
“It was a lot of fun with Team Canada," he said. "Obviously, high, high talent on that team. Got to play in the tournament with some of the best players in the world.
"I think every year doing that has kind of helped me make jumps in my productivity in college.”
Making another leap is exactly what he worked toward in the off-season as he eyes a chance to help Purdue win its first-ever NCAA national title.
“It was harped on to me a lot this off-season about the defence," said Edey, who currently boasts averages of 23.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks across nine games this year. "That’s something I really wanted to do and really wanted to work on.
"If it’s going to help Purdue win — I’m going to get doubled a lot, that’s just how teams play me. I don’t get single coverage very often, so being a good passer was very important for me. Being able to stay on the floor at the end of games for defence, it was very important to me. Being able to stay in games for free throws is very important to me."
However, he isn't thinking of the NBA and shaping his game around what's wanted at the next level.
“That’s not something I’m really concerned about," Edey said. "I think, at the end of the day, the only thing I’m concerned about is helping Purdue win basketball games. I made my commitment to Purdue, I made my commitment to coach (Matt) Painter.
"I’m not really trying to mould my game for the NBA. I’ll focus on that when the time comes and obviously the NBA is the end goal. I want to be in the league for a long time but right now, the only thing I’m really focused on is helping Purdue win.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2023.
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press