From the Hills District to the Dallas Mavericks: Josh Green’s NBA draft success was a lifetime in the making

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From the Hills District to the Dallas Mavericks: Josh Green's NBA draft success was a lifetime in the making

A young man sits on his couch dressed in a light blue suit, surrounded by family and friends in the US state of Arizona, an Australian flag hanging on the wall.

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The camera remains focused on him as music booms and the announcer’s voice pipes up.

In the split-screen, NBA commissioner Adam Silver strides to the lectern, in a TV studio on the other side of the country.

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He pauses, then come the words the family on the couch has been waiting for: “With the 18th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks select Josh Green from Sydney, Australia.”

Green stands slowly, adjusts his crumpled suit and hugs his mother, then his brother and then his father, as a Mavericks cap is produced by his young sister.

Former Sydneysider Josh Green has made it to basketball’s big time.

Green’s “starstruck moment”, as he described it afterwards, marks the end of a long journey for him and his family, who relocated from Western Sydney to the USA in 2014 — but it all could have been very different if he had followed his childhood goal of becoming an AFL player.

Julianne Stanton (right) said that Josh Green (second from left) was an exceptional athlete.(Supplied: Hills Hornets)

Julianne Stanton was Green’s basketball coach during his two years at The King’s School in Parramatta and also when he played for his local team, the Hills Hornets. She said he was always a superb all-round athlete.

“He was the sort of kid that could have had a future in any sport,” Stanton said.

“He never talked himself up, he was always very humble and was always a good teammate for those around him. He lifted others by his example.”

Stanton said despite Green’s clear AFL talent, growing up in a basketball family (both his parents played at a high level, with his father Delmas working as a professional coach) meant he was never far from a basketball court.

The next step

Josh Green bends forward with both hands on a basketball preparing to shoot
Josh Green’s journey has taken him from Sydney to the United States.(Supplied: Impact Basketball)

After his family moved to the US when his father pursued a work opportunity, Green decided it was time to focus on basketball.

He shone at Mountain Ridge High School, in Arizona, before transferring to IMG Academy in Florida, a high performance sports school.

It was there that Green led IMG to a national championship victory and was named MVP of the championship game.

By this stage the young shooting guard was starting to turn heads, with various US sports websites rating him as an NBA prospect.

He was offered opportunities to play college basketball across the country, but ended up accepting an offer at the University of Arizona, close to his family.

Josh Green dribbles a basketball in his left hand in front of a man wearing a black singlet
Josh Green played college basketball for the Arizona State Wildcats.(Arizona Athletics: Mike Christy)

Despite battling pre-season injury, his freshman year at the Wildcats was a success at both ends of the court, averaging 12 points and 4.6 rebounds a game.

As the season concluded and as COVID-19 set in across the United States, Green took a punt and declared himself ready for the 2020 NBA draft.

In June he headed to work with experienced trainer Joe Abunassar at Impact Basketball for a pre-draft training program.

But what would normally be a six-week program at the Las Vegas facility, turned into a near six-month marathon due to the delayed draft.

Abunassar, who has trained NBA champions like Kevin Garnett and Kyle Lowry, got to know Green both on and off the court.

Two men sit on black metal chairs
Joe Abunassar (left) said Josh Green was an “elite athlete”.(Supplied: Impact Basketball)

He describes him as an “elite athlete”, different in his style of play to other Australians in the NBA, like Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum and Ben Simmons.

“He’s six foot five-and-a-half tall (1.97 metres), but he has a six-foot, 11-inch (2.11m) wingspan. Why that is important in the NBA is that, defensively, if he’s got his arms out he’s going to be much more difficult to get around,” Abunassar said.

“What I would say about Josh is that he covers ground on the basketball court, unbelievably, better or as good as anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Abunassar expects Green to mainly feature in a defensive role at the Dallas Mavericks initially, when the season begins on December 22, in part because the team is well covered in the scoring department with Slovenian Luka Donkic and Latvian Kristaps Porzingis.

He hopes that, in time, Green will get more of a chance to show his attacking side too.

“Josh is very explosive and powerful,” Abunassar said.

“We can train that to some extent, but some of that is just in his genes.”

Keeping it physical

Josh Green slams a basketball through a hoop with one hand
Josh Green averaged 12 points per game for Arizona.(Arizona Athletics: Mike Christy)

Green’s college coach at Arizona, Sean Miller, also thinks that the 20-year-old’s style of play is well suited to the NBA, perhaps thanks to his junior football days.

“He just has a natural way of being very physical,” Miller said.

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“That may stem from growing up in Australia and playing different sports or a different type of sport, but he has no problem being physical.

Green himself says he wants to bring a hard-working, competitive approach to his first season at the Mavericks.

He also wants to learn as much as he can from the older players and plans to “bring it, every day, on the defensive end”.

But when quizzed straight after the draft about his pathway from Australia to the NBA, Green seemed to draw a bit of a blank.

Maybe he’s still trying to come to terms with how far he has come, from those days playing at the Hills Hornets.

“For me to be in this situation now, I don’t even know how to put it,” he said.

“It’s crazy, unrealistic, it’s crazy. Words can’t describe it.”

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