Josh Giddey on the NBL, and how Colorado's loss became Adelaide's gain

17 year old phenom Josh Giddey is Adelaide-bound, as an NBL Next Star for the 2020-21 season. The 6'8 point guard initially showed interest in playing college basketball, and received offers from schools such as Arizona, Baylor and Colorado. In a recent Q&A with The Pick and Roll, Giddey confirmed that Colorado was the frontrunner before he decided to turn pro. There is an Aussie connection with the University of Colorado-Boulder - former Melbourne United guard Nate Tomlinson happens a member of their coaching staff.

“In the end, it was either going to be playing in the NBL or going to Colorado. I spoke to a few clubs, but the big thing with Adelaide was opportunity – that was the main reason I went there. [I was interested in] the playing opportunity I will get and the opportunity I will get to grow and develop as a basketball player,” Giddey shared.

The Melbourne native added that Colorado was the only school he visited, before his ultimate decision to join the 36ers. “I went on one visit [to Colorado] and that was my only one,” he said. Giddey was initially expected to make additional college visits, but ultimately opted to turn professional in the NBL.

The 17 year old has made a name for himself in the past year. He was named MVP of the 2020 Torneo Junior Ciutat de L'Hospitalet, a prestigious junior tournament held in Spain. This feat catapulted Giddey onto the international stage, as he caught the attention of heavyweight scouts such as ESPN's Jonathan Givony. Giddey was also named an all-star at the 2020 Basketball Without Borders (BWB) camp in Chicago.

The coronavirus impact

Given his meteoric rise, the Victorian may have been in line to represent Australia at the 2020 Nike Hoop Summit. This is purely speculative however, as the Hoop Summit was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. Fellow Australian Makur Maker received an early invitation to represent the World Select team, but the full squad was yet to be announced. Giddey confirmed he was in the dark, and that the event was cancelled before all invites were handed out.

“I actually don’t know. The majority [of invitations] were going to come out after the camp in Chicago, so we never found out. It got cancelled straight after,” he said.

The coronavirus outbreak has halted basketball around the world. However, Giddey has managed to continue his training despite the challenges of isolation and social distancing. The 17 year old has made strength and conditioning a priority in these uncertain times.

“My mate has got a gym in his house, so I’ve been going over there like four times a week. I’m lifting, getting my body right and doing all those things to get ready for the season,” Giddey said.

Future plans

Giddey was a standout at the 2019 FIBA Under-17 Oceania Championships, and later made his senior Boomers debut in February of 2020. In 2021 we may see him represent Australia at a World Championship event for the first time, but there's a catch. The 2021 FIBA Under-19 World Championships may clash with the 2021 NBA draft, where Giddey will be eligible for selection.

The Melbourne native has signalled his interest to participate in the Under-19 World Championships, but it's an impossible commitment to make at this stage. In the past, prospects such as Ben Simmons and Josh Green have skipped this event, and understandably so.

Nonetheless, if Giddey were to put on the green and gold, he could be part of an exciting age group with teammates such as Tamuri Wigness and Blake Jones. Mojave King is currently in the process of obtaining Australian citizenship, and could be another key player on this team. Like Giddey however, King is eligible for the 2021 NBA draft, so his availability for the Under-19 World Championships would be far from certain.

“I spoke to my agent about that – if they [ultimately] clash. I do want to play in the World Championships. That’s a big thing for me, but next year’s [NBA] draft is also a[n] [important] thing,” Giddey shared.

The 6'8 point guard is perhaps best known for his passing ability. When asked if his playmaking is what stands out from his game, Giddey was quick to agree. His combination of size and court vision is reminiscent of players such as Joe Ingles.

“I think that’s a big thing for me – it’s kind of what stands out to other people. As a tall guard, it’s kind of an advantage, being able to pick the defence apart and see over defenders. I love getting teammates involved, [and] scoring when I have to – they are probably the two big things for me, that I kind of try to do when I am playing.”

Given the drama surrounding the 2020/21 NBL season, regarding salary restrictions and reduced rosters, the development of Josh Giddey could be a bright spot for fans. In an interesting twist in a league that has focused on overseas imports as star recruits, the NBL has continued the Next Stars program with home-grown talent. All eyes will be on Melbourne native Giddey and Queenslander Mojave King when the next NBL season tips off.