Zach Edey has gotten the attention of Nick Nurse

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse discusses what has stood out about 19-year-old centre Zach Edey ahead of Canada's game vs. Dominican Republic in the 2023 World Cup qualifiers.

Video Transcript

- These guys have made this commitment, so you probably got the most to learn and--

NICK NURSE: Yeah. Well, yeah. I'm certainly excited. I think that, kind of, from the first few days that I had him with us, I think the wheels started turning about his uniqueness and kind of speciality that he could bring to the team and give us another piece to make us flexible, right?

If there's something we need a big, and we do some things and, well, he's big bright and can go in there. And it seems to be a factor in FIBA basketball-- size and physicality and rim protection. I mean, it is in general but you guys know what I mean. It's a little different.

So yeah, I think it's kind of like, I mean, he's a young player. I certainly want to see what we got in the short term here, where he can kind of contribute now. But I'm kind of thinking, where does this lead us to as we go here with him? So I am looking forward to it. Yeah.

- He-- and obviously he's enormous. But what qualities give him a chance to be impactful as the game's changing, right? [INAUDIBLE].

NICK NURSE: Yeah, well, the one thing that I noticed this time around that I maybe have not noticed before is he's doing a lot of little things that aren't that easy to notice.

So example, last night we're coming down in the scrimmage. It's kind of a transition situation. He throws it in gear and keeps on running. He's probably not really going to be in the play. It ends up being a perimeter shot. He keeps running down the lane to offensive rebound and he doesn't get it because they've used three guys to try to block him out. And Tommy Scrub picked it up.

So, you wouldn't have notice that Zach really did anything there but he did. But he, and, you know, like, he did a great screen. He rolls. They just seem to gravitate to him. Trey Bell hits a corner 3. We ran up ran a play where he was a screen setter, and the guy tried to shoot the gap, and Zach moved it up and made him take a longer route. And it's another corner 3.

So, like, things that you're not saying, well, it wasn't a rebound, or it wasn't bucket, or it wasn't a blocked shot, or wasn't anything, but it's little things that contribute to winning. So go back to the other stuff he does, which is he's a he's a problem on the offensive glass. He's a little bit of a problem posting up. You got to use some people.

When he does get the ball whatever fashion, usually takes more than one to guard him. So that gives you some spacing. And then, hopefully, the rim protection is going to be a factor as well.

- And then the stuff you're referring to, the little things, like, those all speak to IQ. And just speaking with the guys, it's not like your average 19-year-old.

NICK NURSE: Well, I think he's got a good IQ. And he's also, I like to complement that, which is another good thing, he's got he's got a great work ethic. Like, he is a hard worker. He has some, like, rigid things that he believes in that he does.

Like, he's not leaving the gym until he does his X amount of jump hooks with both hands on front, the side, the side. You know? Like, he just literally nothing's taking him out of the gym till he does some things. He starts and ends each practice and each workout in a certain way and he's just kind of religious to that, right?

- Of the players, like I think of the four that made the commitment--

NICK NURSE: Yes.

- I believe Zach might be the only one who is not professional.

NICK NURSE: Yeah, probably.

- Were there any other, like, I guess, non-professionals you may have considered? That the program may have considered?

NICK NURSE: Uh, whoa. I don't think so. I have to, like, really dig in and think about it, I mean, but I don't-- to answer your question semi quickly here, I don't think so.

- So then, like, you answered it somewhat. But what about Zach? What, like, what about him as a college player? [INAUDIBLE] he can play professional.

NICK NURSE: Yeah. Yes. I mean, like, so for me, like, the progress is this. Hey, we're getting ready to go to camp in a few months, and have you seen this kid Zach Edey at Purdue? This is a couple, few, years ago.

And I said, well, no, but so I get some tape and I look at him. And I'm kind of like, I thought he was kind of interesting, right? Like, you know, he's not bad. I, like I thought I saw him doing some, like, really competitive/aggressive things, you know. Like, dunking on people and, like, staring them down. And I was like, I kind of liked it, right? but still didn't know.

And then when we got him in camp, like is typical for a young guy, like, day one he was like his eyes were big the whole time. And I was like, oh, uh-oh, right? You know? Like, uh-oh, he's a little young to be here maybe. But and then after that, like, day two, three, four he was a problem. Like, our guys couldn't keep him off the glass.

They couldn't-- you know what mean? It was just like all of a sudden you were seeing he's blocking shots. You were seeing, like, this guy's become a problem for our senior guys here out there in these scrimmage sessions. So that's when I kind of started saying, let's see if we maybe could find a spot for him.

But then it's kind of progressed. He played well for the under-18s. He's certainly improving at Purdue. It seems like no matter whatever ends up happening, we always seem to be a little light at the five. And you probably always need three fives in this kind of competition. So kind of all that stuff adding up together.

- Has the rawness kind of gone away?

NICK NURSE: What's that?

- Has the rawness kind of gone away?

NICK NURSE: Yeah.

- Yeah.

NICK NURSE: I would think so.

- Yeah.

NICK NURSE: I think he's more comfortable. He's better. He's in tremendous shape and condition. I think the guys get used to him, too. You know, and he's one of those guys-- you know, Michael said it, too-- he's one of those guys everybody is rooting for all the time it seems like.

He's got that personality that, even when we're doing nothing, you know, like, three-on-zero offense and Zach dunks one you can hear a few more, yeah, Zach or whatever going on. So he's got a good-- he fits in good with the crew.

- Where is he in the defensive progress? I mean that's what everybody actually thinks, right?

NICK NURSE: Yep.

- How their lateral movement, and where he can pump, how versatile he can be. Where's that?

NICK NURSE: Well, so, there there's the challenge that you end up with as a coach. So, how are you going to play with him out there? What are you going to do? And like for me, his super strength is his size and his rim protection. So I got to conjure up as many things as I can so that he gets to use those, right?

And then it's up to us to coach him on exactly how to kind of finesse those things, right? Like when it's coming at the rim, maybe it's two on one. Like, what are you doing? You are there and it's making the guy score over you, which is going to be hard for him to do. And then if they dump it off, you've got to make one more move and try to make that guy score over you.

Like, so, it's D and by that time it should be done. So just making multiple efforts and staying in there. Don't get antsy to come out. We probably live with some 8, 10, 12-foot floaters. If they make those and that's not a high-percentage shot, and if somebody gets hot with him, we'll make an adjustment. But really, really just focus in on protecting the rim.

- Translate to the NBA in your experience? Like, what have you seen, whether it was back with Kyle and DeMar when they went to Team USA and won gold, what have you seen, like, NBA players do and then come to the NBA? And what changes, I guess?

NICK NURSE: Well, here's what I would say. That you get in a pretty serious, focused group of games, or weeks of practice, or whatever it is, and that's a pretty big departure nowadays for what guys do in the summer, right? And I just feel like, you know, I think all the anytime you're doing like high level, high intensity, high conditioning, strategic film watching, preparing versus just go and to your workout for the summer, that's going to make you better, right?

And I just think that, like, everybody benefits from that what I can tell-- Kyle DeMar, Wiggins, you know, whoever it is. Yeah.

- Your job is obviously to win and qualify for all that.

NICK NURSE: Yes.

- But, like, do you think about you got some young guys on your team who are obviously still trying to get better, bigger roles in the NBA. Do you think about that and how you can kind of help them along, too?

NICK NURSE: For sure. I mean, probably two answers to that question. One is it's not unlike, like, the Raptors where there's certainly the sure every night to win. Right? Like, that's what we're about. That's what we stand for. That's what this business is.

But you're also always got one eye or some thoughts on the overall future of the organization, or the program, or the culture, or whatever that you're trying to build. So that's one answer I would give you. And it's kind of get good practice with the Raptors that you can bring to here.

And the second part is that's it's always been, like, for me, what a coach should be is trying to get guys better, and improve, and build their confidence, get them to believe, to get them to become more than maybe they even think they can become, and open up some thoughts or some freedom or some avenues for them to just, like, go to another level. like, to help them go to another level.

And if we can build confidence here and they can take that with them back to their pro teams that's certainly what a big part of what we try to achieve here.

- Any idea on who the starting five was going to be for tomorrow or would you like to share that with us?

NICK NURSE: I have a pretty good idea, but I'm not 100% on it. And I would love to share that with you but I'm not going-- but I'm not. But I'm not going to let you in this particular time if that's OK.

- Got to ask these questions.

NICK NURSE: Yeah, that's OK. That's OK.

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