As the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship gets underway on Thursday, Zach Edey and the Purdue Boilermakers will be watching. Set to face off against 14-seeded Yale on Friday at 2 p.m. ET, the third-seeded Boilermakers are in Milwaukee and ready to go.
“Everyone’s excited because the tournament is what we’ve been working our entire season for,” Zach Edey, Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center said. The Toronto native enters the tournament averaging 14.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game on 66 percent shooting for the Boilermakers this year. He was named an honorable mention on the Associated Press shortlist for All-American this week after his solid play helped Purdue finish with a 27-7 record heading into the tournament.
A day before his own March Madness will begin, Edey is feeling confident.
“For the most part, I’m pretty happy with the way I’ve played this season,” he said. “In terms of on the court, I think it kind of shows what type of player I am. I play inside, I try to dominate inside the paint. I’m trying to get every rebound possible, trying to get as many easy shots as close to the rim as possible, trying to get fouled.”
Edey credits some of his sophomore season success to the experience he gained representing Canada at the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup in Latvia this past summer. Canada placed third in the event, earning a bronze medal after falling to the USA in the semifinals, where Edey finished with a 16-point, 16-rebound double-double.
“I think the summer gave me a lot of confidence going into the season and going into the offseason,” he said. “When you're playing 23 and 24 year olds all the time in college, then you come back down and play people my age, like 19 years old, it’s a big difference.It definitely gives you confidence to take the steps to moving in the right direction and it was a big boost for me going into my offseason.”
The tight scheduling format of the U19 format also served as a teacher for Edey.
“I think [that tournament] prepared me for situations like the Big Ten tournament, situations like March Madness, situations where you have to play with minimal rest,” he said. “In Latvia, we were playing every day, basically for a week. We barely had any off days. Playing in a situation like that required me to make sure I'm taking care of my body, doing the right things. Staying off my feet, ice baths, different recovery techniques like that to really push my self recovery. You can’t let your body self recover.you have to really help it a lot.”
Edey has always been conscientious about taking care of his body. While many young players skip out on icing or stretching because they can get away with it, Edey understands the importance in both preparation and recovery.
“My mom's always been really big into doing stuff like that,” he said. “Before I had access to [practice] facilities for ice baths and stuff like that, she used to build ice baths for me, she’d put down ice water and ice for me.”
Edey played baseball growing up and he says icing has been part of his routine as long as he can remember.
“I think baseball has helped me a lot with that, because I was a pitcher and you always have to ice your arm,” he said. “You have to really take care of your arm after you're done throwing, you always go out for a run like lactic acid moving and stuff like that.”
Edey is hoping all of that careful preparation and attention to detail will help in his quest to make some new basketball memories with Purdue in the next few weeks. He considers one of the highlights of his career thus far to be from last summer’s tournament, where he was named to the all-tournament team in addition to medalling for Canada.
“I think my favourite moment with Canada Basketball, obviously, was winning that bronze in Latvia and getting to stand on that podium as one of the top five players in the tournament team,” he said. “That was really cool for me. Obviously, it’s really an honour to be a part of that team. I wouldn’t have been able to do that myself. There were great players, Caleb Houstan, Bennedict Mathurin, Ryan Nembhard, there were a bunch of really good people on that team that helped me a lot. It was really cool to be able to say that I won my country’s second ever medal or podium finish in that event. That was one of my favourite moments.”
This year’s men’s and women’s tournaments will feature 50 Canadians suiting up for their respective teams. Edey is proud to be one of them.
It’s a big source of pride for me, the fact that I can be in America, representing Canada,” he said. “It's definitely a big motivator for me. It’s really neat. For example, when they're playing the national anthem for America [before the game], I always sing theCanadian anthem in my head to motivate myself.
“It’s really cool when I go into the scouting report and I say, ‘Oh, I know the guy’ or ‘I used to play against him in Canada,’ stuff like that. It’s really cool to look at scouting reports and see other Canadians on there. It’s definitely a source of pride for me.”