As Olympics loom, Canada’s Zach Edey focused on task at hand with Purdue

Zach Edey made an important discovery at the World Cup.

The 21-year-old from Toronto was part of the Canadian team, alongside the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dillon Brooks, that won bronze and qualified for the Olympics at the tournament last summer.

He said it was “really cool” being surrounded by all that talent.

“You get to see that they’re just human. They’re just guys. You watch on TV and you think this and that and the other thing. At the end of the day, they’re just guys,” Edey said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Edey, the hulking seven-foot-four centre currently in his senior season with Purdue, is hoping to join the majority of his teammates in the NBA next season.

But the Canadian said his focus for now is on his college season, in which the fourth-ranked Boilermakers are hoping to right last year’s wrong, when they became just the second No. 1 seed to ever lose in the first round.

“That loss was really tough, something it took me a little while to get over. I didn’t really speak to anyone that night, didn’t really speak to anyone the next day. And then the following day you kind of open up and you have to accept that it happened,” he said.

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“At the end of the day it’s in my past. I can’t change it. It’s part of me.”

Edey was the national player of the year last season, but it’s the loss that clearly lingers.

Even as he prepares to enter the NBA draft, he is less worried about his professional future and more concentrated on the task at hand.

“Obviously the NBA is the end goal. Like I want to be in that league for a long time. But right now, the only thing I’m really focused on is helping Purdue,” he said.

WATCH | Canada wins World Cup bronze:

Canada wins 1st FIBA World Cup medal by beating U.S. for bronze

The Canadians needed overtime to get by the Americans to secure their best showing at the World Cup.

Still, the upcoming Olympics are lingering in the back of Edey’s mind. He said he maintains occasional communication with head coach Jordi Fernandez and is also in touch with assistant Michael Meeks.

“It’s something that’s obviously great. It’s an honour to call myself the youngest ever Canadian basketball World Cup medallist. It’s a cool thing to be able to do, but I’m not going to try to let that distract me from what I have to do in my college basketball season,” he said.

Family and friends

And Edey should be prepared to play a potentially greater role in Paris than he did at the World Cup.

As the lone true centre on the Canadian roster, he might be Fernandez’s answer if and when the team comes up against the likes of France’s Rudy Gobert, Serbia’s Nikola Milutinov and other seven-footers.

“[Milutinov] is big inside, rebounding, finishing around the rim, finishing strong. I just see a lot of teams have that prototype that I feel like I can fit into, and that prototype doing really well is very encouraging,” Edey said.

And for this week, there is one more focus: Edey’s Boilermakers are in Toronto to take on Alabama in a game on Saturday at Coca-Cola Coliseum.

Since Edey only began playing basketball in high school, much of his family has never seen him play in a high-level game.

“Being able to play in front of a lot of them, being able to kind of show them what I can do, it’s going to be a lot of fun. A lot of my friends haven’t really seen me play live in a long, long time,” he said.

With the NCAA tournament coming in March and the Olympics months later, Edey should be prepared for the spotlight to keep shining.

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