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Who is Zach Edey? The 7-foot-4 Chinese Canadian player is heading to the Sweet 16

At 7-foot-4, Zach Edey towers over the competition. On the court he’s hard to miss, but who is Purdue’s star center?

Edey was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. His mother, who is 6-foot-3, is the daughter of Chinese immigrants and grew up playing basketball, CBS Sports reports. As a kid, Edey played basketball, baseball and ice hockey.

The 21-year-old has been playing for Purdue since 2020 and is now in his senior season. After the end of his junior season, he was named the Big Ten Player of the Year.

On Sunday, Edey and Purdue University earned a decisive victory over the Utah State Aggies, 106-67, in the second round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Edey had 23 points, 14 rebounds and three assists on the day. Those are great numbers for some players, but a few commentators believe that for Edey, they’re just a reflection of his height.

Candace Buckner, a sportswriter for The Washington Post, recently wrote a column about this particular criticism: Is Edey good, or is he just tall?

The column noted that commentators like Dan Le Batard don’t believe Edey will have a successful NBA career. Buckner herself admitted she also isn’t sure how he’ll fare.

Its analysis that Edey appears to be familiar with. As a child, Edey focused on hockey and baseball before he even started playing basketball. According to CBS Sports, he avoided basketball for a long time because people continually insisted a tall kid like him should be basketball player.

“Sports are something special to me, sports are something that I choose to do,” Edey said in an interview with CBS Sports. “I didn’t want people to force me into a certain sport where I didn’t feel like I was making the decision. I don’t think I would have been able to commit the way I have been able to commit if I had played as a 6-year-old.”

Edey began playing gradually but, according to CBS Sports, became bored of dunking over all the other kids. One day he showed up to a practice for a local team with no scrimmaging just dribbling and conditioning drills. It was challenging and exhausting and Edey was hooked.

Edey is also proud to be Chinese Canadian. He’s talked openly in interviews about the racism he’s experienced. In a 2023 interview with The Ringer, he mentioned that people in his homogenous, middle-class neighborhood would shout “Hey, Yao Ming!” at him when he was a child. This was before he was even playing basketball.

He also experienced racism from Purdue fans.

“When we lost to Maryland [in February], someone called me a ‘stupid chink’ in my DMs,” he said in a 2023 interview with The Ringer. “There’s a lot of insensitive stuff … all the coronavirus jokes.”

At just 21 years old, he’s also ready to be a role-model for Asian kids who want to play basketball.

“You can probably count on your fingers how many Asian people there are in our conference, so that’s something I take a lot of pride in,” he said in an interview with The Ringer. “I’m proud that I can represent our culture.”

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