Giant hole to fill for Canada as Edey makes 'difficult' decision to skip Olympics

Canada’s biggest player pulls out of roster contention for Paris Games

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Canada’s biggest player will not be playing at this year’s Olympics in Paris.

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Zach Edey, the 7-foot-4 native of Toronto, pulled himself out of contention on Sunday afternoon just days after being drafted ninth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies. Edey had said during the pre-draft workout process that he was definitely going to be at Canada’s camp, but it’s rare for incoming NBA rookies to get clearance from their new teams for a variety of reasons.

A disappointed Edey termed the decision “difficult,” saying he needs to focus on getting ready for his first season.

“I have made the difficult decision of pulling myself out of the process to compete for a spot at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games with Canada,” Edey said in the statement released by Canada Basketball. “Since last summer, I have been training and competing nonstop to achieve my goals of winning a national championship at Purdue and making it to the NBA. I have a duty now to properly prepare for all that is coming my way with being drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies. The work I put in this summer on my body and my game is critical for me to be the best version of myself.

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“Thank you to Canada Basketball and all the fans for your support and understanding. Representing Canada in the Olympics remains a lifelong dream of mine, but for now, I look forward to being the team’s biggest fan from this side of the Atlantic.”

Edey would have given Canada a unique option with his size, skill and strength. He was a bit player on last year’s World Cup team, which won a bronze medal, but improved significantly over the last year and won a second straight NCAA player of the year award and took Purdue to the national championship. One of Canada’s weaknesses is a lack of size. Veteran Khem Birch is now healthy, though, and has played well for Canada in the past.

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“Canada Basketball was recently notified by Zach of his intention to remove himself from consideration to represent Canada at this summer’s Olympic Games. While we were optimistic about having Zach join us in training camp, we understand and support him in this difficult decision,” Canada Basketball senior men’s general manager Rowan Barrett said in a statement.

“On behalf of Canada Basketball, I would like to congratulate him on being drafted into the NBA. We look forward to welcoming him to a future training camp and wish him the best of luck preparing for next season.”

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Canada lost potential starter Andrew Wiggins on the eve of camp after he had been expected to play. Canada Basketball said the Golden State Warriors told them Wiggins wouldn’t be playing.

“Well, for us, Andrew was fine. We were talking to him consistently. He’s been training for weeks and weeks getting ready for this. And then I got a call from Golden State a day or two before camp saying that they’re holding him out,” Barrett said. “So, from what I see, this is not an Andrew decision. This is from the team. And so he won’t be with us.”

The Warriors told Postmedia in a statement that day that the decision was “mutual” and that they “couldn’t preclude (Wiggins) from playing.”

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