By emulating the Greek Freak, can Edi Daniel be Korea's next superstar?
SEOUL (Korea) - At a younger age, Edi Daniel Ipanichuku enjoyed the art of the home run, watching as the baseball smacked off the bat and soared through the skies across the fence. This is common for youths in Korea where baseball is widely recognized as the second biggest sport behind football.
However, as Edi grew up in both age and height, he started to feel that baseball was no longer pumping enough adrenaline through his veins.
"I think [I play like] Giannis Antetokounmpo."
"The first sport that I played was baseball. I felt that home runs were cool," said the 15-year-old. "But then, I was bored because the game time was too long, and I quit because I thought I didn't like baseball anymore."
He took up football as well for a period of time, but that still wasn't enough. All of that changed when Edi was introduced to basketball and he's been a fan of the game since.
"In baseball, you have to wait until your turn at bat and even when you are defending, you have to wait for the ball to come," he explained, as per Jumpball in an interview from 2019. "There aren't many chances to touch the ball either in football."
"But in basketball, the ball keeps coming, and I have to keep doing something."
Taking the time to learn and love
Edi is a fan of sports, which is the reason why he has ventured through playing baseball, football, and basketball at such a young age. It was because of his size (1.81M at 12 years old) that he was recruited to play basketball.
However, the game of basketball didn't come easy immediately for the promising prospect.
"Everything was hard because I didn't know how to play during the game," he said.
When he first started playing, Edi said that he was humiliated while playing in his first national championship and that, at the time, he had no attachment with the team and had no desire to win.
"But, I fell in love with basketball when I realized that I was spending a lot of time playing basketball," he said.
Edi also noted that he had become close with his teammates through their times on the court with each other, and with that closeness, came the joy of playing the game.
Korean Freak in the making?
As the youngsters do, Edi heads to Youtube to study basketball clips, games, and plays. In his search for the best, Edi started looking for Michael Jordan's highlights. This lead him to Chicago Bulls highlights, which then pointed towards a game between the Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks.
And that's when he first watched Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek superstar that Edi Daniel lists as a basketball idol that he looks up to. The two have some similarities such as taking up basketball later than most stars do and their diverse cultural background. Edi was born and raised in Korea, and while his mother is Korean, his father is British.
With all these factors combined, Edi decided that's the kind of player that he'd like to emulate.
"[Like Giannis] I want to grow to be an all-round player who can rebound, pass, dribble, and shoot. I want to go to the NBA and stand on the court together. If Giannis plays like LeBron James until he is in his mid-30s, it would be possible," said Edi, as reported by Donga in 2019.
Over the years, Edi has utilized that mindset and developed to become one of the best young talents in Korea, as evident by his callup to this U16 national team. When asked about who he thinks he plays like in terms of style, the young gun isn't shy to reply.
"I think [I play like] Giannis Antetokounmpo."
Still, Edi is not only focused on following the footsteps of a global superstar like Giannis. There are plenty of high-level talents in Korea and young Edi looks up to his seniors as well whenever they suit up for the national team and in the domestic Korean Basketball League (KBL).
One player that he looks up to and names as a player he'd like to share the court with on the senior national team at some point is Choi Jun-Yong.
"[I want to play with him] because he's my role model and idol," said Edi of the all-around forward who is a national team regular.
Another Korean player Edi looks up to is Lee HyunJung who, like Edi, also had an early start playing for the national team at the U16 Asian Championship back in 2015. Lee developed to become one of the best players at the collegiate level in the US and is now hoping to hear his name called on NBA Draft Day soon.
"I feel proud of him and I hope that I can follow him."
For the upcoming FIBA U16 Asian Championship in Doha, Qatar which will be played from July 12-19, Edi Daniel will be taking a step closer to his idols. He will be putting on the national team jersey for the first time, representing the country at the international level.
"I'm proud of myself, and I'm looking forward to it. But, I feel pressure of represent my country."
Edi knows that this could be the start of something big for his future, if he plays his cards right. He sees the goal, has his eyes set and is determined to make it happen.
"[My main goal in basketball is] representing my country at the senior level and getting a medal in a big event."
"To play for the country at the senior national team level, I bet I'd get the feeling of flying in the sky."