Zach Edey focused on next season, not NBA draft

LAFAYETTE WEST – Why would Zach Edey want to spend his summer training for the shuttle instead of improving his free throw?

Why would Purdue’s returning center — a preseason All-Big Ten first-team lock — would rather work on his lane agility time than become a better rim protector for the Boilermakers?

Granted, the shuttle run and moving down the lane at a faster pace helps the 7-foot-4 Edey individually, but that doesn’t really prepare him for next season with coach Matt Painter’s team.

This has always been Edey’s goal.

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“I felt like I was going to come back to Purdue no matter what, even if I went through the process,” Edey said. “I thought, ‘What’s the point?’ Going through the process shortens your offseason quite a bit. You have to prepare for the repechage with a different type of training than the preparation for next season.

“I wanted to focus on next season. I wanted to focus on being as ready as possible for next season. I want to work on basketball.

Unless you’re still unclear, Edey said it this way.

“I don’t want to get good at the shuttle; I want to get good at running on the pitch,” he said.

All of that doesn’t mean Edey hasn’t received comments regarding his NBA Draft stock. Painter said Edey got information through the proper NBA channels without bouncing from town to town practicing in front of coaches, scouts and general managers.

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Purdue and Edey spoke with agents, people associated with the NBA “and got an accurate assessment of his whereabouts,” Painter said.

One team declared Edey a candidate for a late first-round pick. The others had him rated in the 50s. That alone set Edey on the path to motivation.

“I’m taking it a bit personally. I’m going to work in the offseason,” he said.

If Edey jumped into the draft, Painter said the worst-case scenario would have been a two-way contract and a likely spot in the G-League. For some players that situation works, but Painter said Edey needs to play and not sit on the bench.

Purdue center Zach Edey (15) goes up for a layup during the second half of an NCAA men's basketball game Saturday, March 5, 2022 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.

“The fact that he’s the 13th or 14th man and he’s barely playing and training on his own is not what’s best for him,” Painter said. “He has to come out and play and he has to play more than he has played this year for us.

“He felt that playing games at Purdue was better for his development than playing in the G-League. He would have gotten NBA money or money both ways, but he would have mostly been in the G-league and rightly so. He needs to compete, he needs to play against other guys.

Edey’s off-season work is well underway.

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The Boilermakers held their first summer practice last week, but nearly half of the team’s scholarship players are sidelined with a variety of rosters. Caleb Furst, Braden Smith and Brian Waddell are recovering from surgeries. Junior Brandon Newman and freshman Cam Heide did not participate, although Heide did participate in limited shooting practice at the end of practice.

Edey has been heavily involved, battling Swedish freshman center William Berg, who gives the Boilermakers two humans over 7 feet on the roster.

“It’s nice to be able to look someone in the eye once in a while,” Edey said with a chuckle.

Zach Edey of Purdue slams Hassan Drame of Saint Peter in the first half of the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Tournament at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on March 25, 2022.

While his focus doesn’t seem flashy, that’s where Edey needs to improve. He was solid from the line as a rookie (71.4) but his percentage dropped last season to 64.9. From a defensive point of view, there is still work to be done.

Edey shot 64.8% from the field, but that number can certainly increase with the extra minutes he will play now, he won’t be splitting his time with Trevion Williams, who is preparing for the NBA draft.

“Everyone wants me to work on my 3-pointer, and I will, but a lot of things won’t be super flashy and noticeable next year, but you’ll see the impact in the game,” said Edey, who averaged 14.4 points and 7.7 rebounds last season.

The minutes are going to be there for Edey. He averaged 18.9 last season, down from 14.6 in his freshman year. Painter thinks the 25-30 minute goal is realistic for the Toronto native.

“He doesn’t have some of the fatigue issues that some of our big guys have had,” Painter said. “I think anywhere between 25 and 30 would be my handicap, but he’ll have to earn it.”

Edey will gain additional experience later this summer as a member of Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team program ahead of FIBA ​​World Cup qualifying. He is one of the top 14 players in the country who has pledged to represent Canada by the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s a big deal,” Edey said. “Everyone wants to play for their country on the national stage, especially with Canada in a position to compete for a medal.

“Three years ago I was cut from the U18 team and now I’m here and part of the senior national team. It’s crazy to think of it like that but it’s really cool.

And you know what else is cool? Edey is hungry for another season with the Boilermakers.

“I love Purdue. I’m excited for next season. I think it’s going to be a great year,” he said.

Mike Carmine covers Purdue sports for the Journal & Courier. Email mcarmin@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @carmin_jc

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