One of March Madness' top players is a 7'4" giant from Toronto
If Canadians are looking for a team to bandwagon this March Madness, look no further than the Purdue Boilermakers.
Led by Toronto-born, 7-foot-4 junior centre Zach Edey, Purdue has been labelled all season as one of the top contenders at this year’s men’s NCAA tournament.
A former standout at Toronto’s Leaside High School before transferring to Florida’s IMG Academy, Edey is the driving force behind one of the country’s top college teams.
Purdue is 29-5 on the year, with Edey putting up 22.3 points and 12.8 rebounds per game this season, with his 26 double-doubles the most in the NCAA.
Purdue gets their action going Friday afternoon, ranked No. 1 in the East Region as they take on 16th-seed Fairleigh Dickinson (FDU) Knights, with tipoff set for 6:50 pm ET.
Knock on wood, but Edey’s first tournament game this year shouldn’t be much of a challenge, with a No. 16 seed having beaten a No. 1 seed just once in March Madness history, with UMBC knocking off Virginia back in 2018.
Not a single player on the FDU roster measures above 6’7″, creating an automatic mismatch with just about every possible matchup on both ends of the floor.
One of Edey’s supporters is Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who spent some time with him last summer as part of the senior men’s national team program, where Nurse also serves as that team’s head coach.
“He looks like he continues to get better,” Nurse said in a question asked by Daily Hive at his pregame press conference on Thursday. “I mean, I think that’s just natural. His body looks great. You know, his legs are really strong. He’s fit.”
Listed at 7-foot-4, 305 pounds, Nurse said he’s extremely impressed with the fitness level of one of well, the largest basketball players anywhere in the world.
“He told me never gets tired. And I kind of chuckled, and he was like… ‘I’m serious’. He’s really in shape,” Nurse added.
Edey made his national team debut last July in Hamilton, in a 95-75 FIBA World Cup qualifier win over the Dominican Republic. In a lineup full of pro talent, Edey earned just over four minutes of floor time, while putting up 23:53 in a 106-56 blowout of Panama last August.
“We’re trying to figure out how to put him in the right places defensively and offensively and use his God-given talent,” Nurse said following his national team debut. “He’s a serious player that’s improving a lot and I think he gives us a unique factor. Now we’ve got to build that up. That was his first time out there. We kind of got a game plan for how we’re going to use him. We’ll continue to build it, and hopefully, it becomes a factor that really helps our team someday down the road.”
Nurse referenced a recent quote from Purdue coach Matt Painter about how challenging it is for opposing defenses to deal with a player as physically imposing as Edey.
“If they call the by the rulebook, they blow the whistle every time he touches it,” Nurse paraphrased from Painter. “There’s somebody hanging on him or touching him every single time. So he’s, he’s got a physical feisty presence down there. I think he loves the competition, he loves the challenge. He’s got a little bit of a mean streak in him.”
Having already earned Big Ten Player of the Year and Sporting News National Player of the Year, Edey seems to be the x-factor to see if Purdue can make their first Final Four since 1980. Projected by most sources to be selected in the second round of this year’s NBA draft, the time is now for Edey to make his name known across the country.
“He just continues to mature and with all the experience and all the touches and everything he sees, I think it just makes him better and better as he goes here,” Nurse added.
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