Venky Jois leaving the nest on NBA quest

Venky Jois was integral in helping Eastern Washington become relevant in the Big Sky Conference across his 4 years as an Eagle. He is now ready to leave the nest and embark on his professional career that could well lead to the NBA.

Venky Jois | Credit Eastern Washington Athletics

Jois arrived in Cheney, Washington in 2012 after earning the under 20 Australian Championships title and MVP with Victoria, and South East Australia Basketball League (SEABL) Youth Player of the Year Award with Dandenong. However despite all that success in Australia, Jois himself acknowledges that he did not quite know what to expect as he make the big move from Australia to the US to pursue his love of basketball.

"I did not expect too much coming in besides having a crack at Division I basketball," shared Jois in speaking with The Pick and Roll.

"In some ways it has been surreal, but in other ways challenging, but also life changing. If any athlete was considering it [playing college basketball], I would highly recommend it."

Eastern Washington managed to land more than just an extremely talented player from Australia; he is also a quality person. Not only did Jois put in the hard yards in training, but he would lead by example on and off the court, studying pre-medicine in his time in Eastern Washington.

Soaring like an Eagle

Jois delivered for the Eagles in more ways than one. As an incoming freshman, he made an immediate impact in recording a league high 9 double-doubles in averaging 12.3 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2.4 blocks per game. He was duly named 2013 Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year whilst also receiving an All-Conference honorable mention. The 6'8 forward enjoyed a very good sophomore year, but the Eagles were still unable to earn post-season action. Jois craved on-court success, and it all came together in the following 2014/15 season.

In his Junior year, Jois put both Eastern Washington and himself on the national radar, earning Big Sky First Team selection. Jois himself spoke fondly of the season that saw the Eagles win the Big Sky Conference Tournament and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

Venky Jois helped lead the Eagles to an upset against Indiana - Credit Joe Eke via Eastern Washington Athletics

"Playing Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament with Reggie Miller and other famous faces in the crowd was also amazing," recalled Jois. "They were all there in front of you, talking to you and about you. It was surreal. That game was tough; they [Hoyas] shot significantly better than normal for them and that was all the difference."

Jois was named to the Big Sky First Team had a number of big performances that season, recording back-to-back 38 point explosions in wins against Eastern Oregon and Seattle. However it was the Eagles win against Indiana at Assembly Hall in which Jois piled on 20 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks and 2 steals, and the Big Sky Tournament championship victory, that Jois recalled as some of his most memorable moments.

"Beating Indiana in Indiana and winning the [Big Sky] tournament over Montana definitely stand out," added Jois. "It was tough to lead a very young team, yet we had a red-hot offence and shot at a very high percentage."

Changes to the roster saw the Eagles unable to return to the NCAA tournament in 2016, however they still took part in the CBI Tournament before being eliminated in the quarterfinals. Jois posted near identical numbers to that of his junior year, earning Big Sky First Team selection for the second straight year. He led the Big Sky Conference and ranked second across the nation in field goal percentage (67.9%), and was also 5th in the Big Sky in rebounding (8.7), second in blocked shots (1.75) and 10th in scoring (16.4). Throw in 1 steal per game and Jois really did have a great season despite battling an illness early on.

“Venky is a threat to have a double-double every night out. He plays with great passion and energy, and is a captain of our team. Venky has been a foundation in the building of our program -- he is an outstanding student, a great leader, and committed to developing into the best basketball player he can be." - head coach, Jim Hayford

Jois is a dynamic and versatile forward who does his best work in the paint at both ends and is a threat to record a double-double every game. Offensively he is a dunking machine, possessing a variety of post moves, while also being able to beat taller opponents off the dribble. Defensively, he is able to change and block shots. To highlight his on-court success over the past 4 years, Jois has pulled down 1,015 rebounds (3rd in school, 5th in conference history) and racked up 240 blocked shots (school record, 2nd in conference history). He also departs the Eagles as the school’s career leader in blocked shots per game (2.0).

However his final year did not end as he would have liked, succumbing to an untimely knee injury and missing the post-season action.

"I'm still not too sure what happened with the knee," Jois explained. "Whatever happened caused a lot of discomfort - it kept on locking and popping. Thankfully it has come good now and not causing any issue at all."

That is good news for Jois, as he looks to complete his studies before embarking on a professional career, one that he still hopes will lead to the NBA.

Embarking on a professional career

Jois is looking forward to finally making a living as a professional basketballer, but is focused on completing his studies first before having a crack at making the NBA.

"I'm currently studying in the last quarter and on track to finish June 10," outlined Jois. "I then head over to Irvine, California where my agent is based to work out and prepare."

"The NBA is still an option for me, and I will have pre-draft workouts. I finish school a bit later [June] than most others who finish in May. I will have to fly in and out to do workouts during school time."

Should the NBA not come calling immediately, Jois has plenty of other playing options to explore both in Europe and back in Australia. He already has a number of offers on the table to consider, something he will do carefully.

"Six NBL teams have made offers already," Jois shared, however he would not elaborate on them further.

"It is pretty awesome to have offers - it is now all becoming real. It has been something you dedicate your life to, and now I am finally looking at making it my actual profession."

"I have also received some interest from Europe as well, but I have not yet discussed that with my agent. My main goal right now is to exhaust every NBA option first – I am aiming high and will see where the cards fall."

"My first couple of contracts are important as it can set up my career. I will carefully consider which team would allow me to contribute in such a way that not only would I be helping them, but also enabling me to best showcase my talents."

Desire to play for Australia

After such an outstanding collegiate career, I found it hard to fathom why Jois had not been included in Australian squads over the past 3 years which has included the World University Games. Jois advised that while he would love to represent his country, he had received little communication from Basketball Australia.

"Besides my freshman year when I was invited and attended a Boomers camp, I have not had anyone [from Basketball Australia] really communicate with me. If they have other guys that fit the team better, then that is fine. I have never represented Australia at any level - I guess I have to prove my worth first, and that is something that I am very happy to do."

In the meantime, Jois is biding his time and focused on translating his collegiate success to the professional stage. Season G MIN FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS 2012-13 28 32.7 49.0% 0.0% 71.2% 9.0 2.0 0.9 2.4 2.5 12.3 2013-14 31 31.8 52.8% 11.1% 52.8% 8.0 2.5 0.9 1.6 2.6 13.4 2014-15 31 31.2 61.0% 30.0% 54.0% 7.7 2.0 1.2 2.2 2.3 16.7 2015-16 32 33.1 67.9% 47.0% 8.7 2.5 1.0 1.8 2.6 16.4 Career 122 32.2 58.3% 18.2% 55.0% 8.3 2.3 1.0 2.0 2.5 14.8