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Football is where Zach LeDay’s physicality comes from and brought him to Milan


Zach LeDay comes from Texas, a state that has given to Olimpia players like Keith Langford and Curtis Jerrells in the past, but LeDay comes from the homeland of football, he comes from Dallas, although he attended the Skyline High School, where the most famous student was a basketball star, Larry Johnson, the first pick in the 1992 NBA draft, a former Charlotte and New York Knicks superstar. Before his last high school year, he moved to The Colony, the same school attended by Deron Williams, the former Utah and Brooklyn point guard, who also founded a youth program in which Zach himself grew up. “I was raised in Dallas, precisely in Mosquito with my mother and my younger brother, it was the three of us and my grandparents helped a little – he said – Everyone played football, I also played many football games and that’s where my physicality on the basketball court comes from. But I changed in my 8th grade, I grew up and started to become a dominating presence on the court.”

But basketball has not represented an easy path for Zach LeDay: at the end of his high school career, he moved farther east to attend South Florida, where things did not go well. After his second season there, when he averaged just four points per game, and the dismissal of coach Stan Heath, he decided to move, like many other teammates did. Buzz Williams, also a Texan, was appointed the new Virginia Tech coach and he hired Steve Roccaforte as an assistant. Roccaforte had recruited LeDay for South Florida and became a kind of mentor for him. So, the choice was obvious: LeDay went to Blacksburg and his career literally exploded after a year of mandatory stop that he used to improve his body (Virginia Tech is the same college where Malcolm Delaney, in different years, went).

At Tech, the points per game have quadrupled, the minutes doubled. LeDay has become a high-level college player. “Buzz Williams pushed me every day, I always worked hard, but he taught me to understand situations, to develop a better feel for the game,” says LeDay who for a year also had his brother Seth among his teammates (he played in Iceland during the last season). In the second and final year at Tech, he scored 17.0 points per game with 7.6 rebounds. In his last regular season home game against Wake Forest he scored 24 points and went 9-for-10 from the field, but Virginia Tech lost and the party was ruined. Four days later, on the neutral court, in the first round of the ACC Tournament, against the same Wake Forest team, he responded with 31 points and 15 rebounds, seven of them offensive. He only played one game in the NCAA Tournament, against Wisconsin: he had 23 points and was 8-for-10 from the field.

The curious aspect is that despite being the best player on the team, he was mostly coming off the bench. “I liked it, to give the team energy in whatever role I have, I think this helped me in the next steps,” he says. His college career finished with a series of dominating games, but the size was not the typical one of an NBA power forward. Besides, he played a lot at the center position, during his senior season. Predictably, LeDay was not drafted and began his European career in Israel. “When you are an undersized player – he said – you have to have a lot of toughness, otherwise you cannot play at a high level. What I have always brought to my teams is toughness, versatility, energy and on the court I am one who likes to speak a lot,” he says.

At Hapoel Gilboa, he was the second scorer and fifth-best rebounder in the Israeli league, including a memorable 22-point and 20-rebound game. In 2018, he was signed by Olympiacos Piraeus, whose general manager was Christos Stavropoulos. In the 10th round of his first EuroLeague season, LeDay was the MVP of the week with an incredible 42 points of index rating and 28 points scored against Buducnost, in the middle of a streak of eight double-digit games. At the end of the season, he moved to Zalgiris Kaunas where his scoring average rose to 11.8 points, with 4.3 rebounds per game, while showing significant progress in shooting from three-point range (43.3% on 30 attempts), which will be very needed in Milan too.