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Aussie connections take centre stage in NBA draft

From a potential AFL career with the GWS Giants to the NBA draft and a chance of teaming up with fellow Australian Joe Ingles – Josh Green’s journey from Sydney schoolboy to the word’s best basketball league is almost complete. Green is on track to be picked up in Thursday’s NBA draft, with the latest…

From a potential AFL career with the GWS Giants to the NBA draft and a chance of teaming up with fellow Australian Joe Ingles – Josh Green’s journey from Sydney schoolboy to the word’s best basketball league is almost complete.

Green is on track to be picked up in Thursday’s NBA draft, with the latest mock drafts having the guard going as the 23rd pick to the Utah Jazz, where he would join Boomers star Ingles.

There is also a belief, though, that he could land anywhere between picks 14 to 30.

He is anticipated to be a first-round pick after an impressive freshman college season with the Arizona Wildcats where he averaged 12.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Since June, he has been training full time at IMPACT Basketball in Las Vegas under veteran NBA trainer Joe Abunassar.

Regardless of where he falls, there is no denying Green has the ability and finesse to excel with an NBA franchise.

The former King’s School student, who represented the NSW under 16 team at age 13 in 2004, is considered one of the best young ballers in America.

Green’s rapid rise in basketball is remarkable when you consider it was only five years ago when he accepted a development academy position with the Giants.

He had every intention of committing to Australian rules football, but he was forced to quit in 2014 when his family relocated to Phoenix for the children to focus on basketball.

Now Green has his sights set on joining fellow Australians like Ingles, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova in the NBA.

His former Penrith and NSW Metro junior coach in the under 16s, Curtis Sardi, had no doubts the sharpshooter would fulfil his basketball dreams, even when the AFL was circling.

“I’ve known Josh since he was a baby, and he has played everything from soccer, basketball and AFL, and he always kept his options open around the 14 age group,” Sardi said.

“That is when he started to experiment with AFL, starting with the PSSA school system, and that is when the Giants moved in with some Academy stuff.

“Josh loved both basketball and AFL and couldn’t decide, but his dream was always to play in the NBA, and I think everything fell into place when he moved to America with his family.

“That is where he pursued basketball and one door after another kept opening for him.

“We all knew he was good enough to make it, he was one of the best players in the country at 14, but his rise to the NBA is a credit to who he is as a person. He has always been a hardworking kid that does extra training, so I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

NBL pathway players LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton are also set to leap from the Australian league to the big time with first-round selections.

Several mock drafts, including ESPN, are predicting Ball to be selected in the top three after he averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists for the Illawarra Hawks last season and won the NBL’s Rookie of the Year award.

The highest drafted player from the NBL to the NBA is Chris Anstey, who was selected with the 18th pick in the 1997 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.

Anstey believes Ball and Hampton have helped put the Australian league on the global basketball map.

“I think what LaMelo and RJ have done is legitimise the NBL and shine a light for people not here in Australia about how good the league is,” Anstey said.

“We’ve seen the NBA take steps with developing G League teams to try and keep some of their best high school prospects who don’t go to college.

“The NBL has become a genuine threat and by having these high-level kids playing in Australia, more NBA scouts have their eye on our league.

“That gives other players around the league the opportunity to be seen, like Will Magnay at Brisbane.”

A host of other NBL players are draft eligible, including current Next Star Justinian Jessup (The Hawks), Kouat Noi (Cairns Taipans), John Mooney (Perth Wildcats), Sam Froling (The Hawks), Yanni Wetzell (South East Melbourne Phoenix) and Terry Armstrong, who was a Next Star with the Phoenix last season.

Anstey holds hope for any player to make the NBA, even if they don’t follow the traditional path.

“The one thing that I’ve always told people (is) that I’m naive enough to think you can go whatever pathway you want to make the NBA,” he said.

“Myself, CJ Bruton, Ben Pepper and Paul Rogers all got drafted out of the NBL back in 1997.

“We didn’t have to go to college to do that, and in more recent times Joe Ingles got picked up out of Europe and so did Dave Andersen.

“So, there are so many ways to get to the NBA.”

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