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Magette Finds Best Environment with JackJumpers in 10-Year Career

Written for nbl.com.au by Chris Pike

It's been quite the few days for the history-making Tasmania JackJumpers but celebration mode has quickly turned to focus on the finals task at hand and point guard Josh Magette sees no reason to put a ceiling on what's possible.

And why should the JackJumpers put a ceiling on what's possible. This time last year they had never played an NBL game. They then started their first NBL season losing six of their first eight games and soon after their marquee signing Will Magnay was done for the rest of #NBL22.

There was a feeling they might become that underdog team everyone admired but too many wins might not come their way, but then things changed and it's all because of the culture and chemistry they had built since coming together in the pre-season.

Once they found their feet as a team on the court and found that their trademark could become playing high pressure, hounding defence for 40 minutes, pushing the pace, shooting the three ball and just making themselves damn hard to play against, then things started to click.

In the end, they won 10 of their last 12 games, and 15 of the last 20 to remarkably make the finals in their first NBL season and now be preparing to take on Melbourne United in a semi-final series starting Thursday night at John Cain Arena.

At the forefront of everything the JackJumpers have been doing is their point guard Magette.

The 32-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama, might have a decade of professional basketball experience, but it was still a learning curve for him to find his feet in the NBL and at the JackJumpers.

However, he's done that tremendously now to be an outstanding leader and floor general on this team as they put the excitement of making the finals behind them now to focus on the job at hand.

"Yeah, there's a lot of excitement from the top down with everyone this week," Magette said.

"Everyone is very pumped and there's been a lot of energy to the build up to these last few games, and to have everything to fall our way and for us to take care of business this past weekend, everyone just showed up ready to go on Monday morning. 

"There's a lot of energy and a lot of excitement in our building right now."

What a weekend it was for the JackJumpers to get into the playoffs. They firstly had to hope the Illawarra Hawks won for the third time in 25 attempts at RAC Arena against the Perth Wildcats on Friday, and they did.

Tasmania themselves then had to beat Melbourne at MyState Bank Arena on Saturday night to stay alive, and they did. But still it came down to whether the Wildcats beat the South East Melbourne Phoenix or not in Perth on Sunday.

It took until overtime, but eventually the Phoenix won and the remarkable Wildcats' finals streak ended and the beneficiaries were the JackJumpers who finished fourth with a 17-11 record to reach the post-season in their inaugural NBL season.

It was quite the eventual Sunday night for Magette and his JackJumpers teammates.

"I was with about seven or eight of the other guys at someone's apartment and you were kind of living and dying with every possession during that game," Magette said.

"Obviously for the result to come through our way was a special moment and just to be able to share it together with our teammates was awesome. The group chat was going off with a lot of jokes being made, and us all sharing in that experience. 

"But it changes real fast from enjoying the night and pulling for South East to help us out to going into preparation mode. It kind of changes gears real quick for you."

Arriving in the NBL to be part of a start up franchise in Tasmania had Magette totally unsure of what he was getting himself into after a career that had seen him ply his trade all over the world after coming out of the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

His professional journey to end up in Tasmania has seen him play in the G-League and stints in the NBA at the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic along with playing in the Netherlands, Greece, Croatia, Spain and Turkey.

But nowhere previously has he found a club environment from the top down that has everyone pulling so much in the same direction, and he couldn’t be happier to have been part of the whole experience.

"This is my 10th year as a professional and especially when you get everyone talking the talk in the pre-season about doing the right thing and being the right kind of teammate, but so often when you get to the second half of the year everyone can change their focus," Magette said. 

"Everybody can start worrying about their next job, what they're going to do in the summer and guys can lose focus real quick, but that hasn’t been the case here at all obviously. 

"We're very lucky and it speaks to what Scott has established and what was important for him coming into the season, and it speaks to the 12 guys we have in the locker room and the kind of people they are. 

"Guys have been worrying about the right things by just wanting to win, do things the right way and representing Tassie the best we can."

Just because things this season have ended on such a positive for Magette and the JackJumpers doesn’t mean there weren’t challenges early on.

As a team, they lost six of the first eight matches, and as a team averaged just 74.8 points a game and shooting 38.5 per cent from the field and 26.8 per cent from deep. In that time, Magette averaged 13.5 points and 5.8 assists but shot 30.0 per cent overall and 24.1 per cent from beyond the arc.

Then over the last 20 games of which Tasmania won 15, as a team they improved to score 81.6 points while shooting 41.3 per cent from the field and 34.2 per cent from downtown.

Magette was a catalyst to that ending up averaging 12.9 points and 5.9 assists with his shooting improving to 37.2 per cent and 31.6 per cent from three-point land in last 20 matches.

Magette admits to some early challenges, but couldn’t be happier with how it's all come together.

"I think it's definitely fair to say there was an adjustment process. Maybe I was trying to do a little too much early in the year and I think just growing in our system, and really settling in helped," he said. 

"We were obviously behind the eight ball to start with just not having previous years of experience to fall back on as a team, and just growing as a team and learning as we go where guys like the ball, what position they like the ball in and things of that nature. 

"Obviously that's helped our team out and has opened up the game for everyone, myself included."

While reaching the finals in their first season is something nobody associated with the JackJumpers will ever forget, just the fact they were able to win 17 games no matter how it turned out is something Magette would rightfully have been proud of.

That's because of what he has seen grow and develop since he arrived, and what was already put in place before he first got to Tasmania to get ready for the season ahead.

"I think regardless of us making the finals or not that finishing 17-11 and to go on the run we had to finish the season winning 16 of our last 21 that defines special to me," Magette said.

"Whether that ended up in a finals appearance or not was kind of secondary to what we were able to accomplish. We just wanted to control what we could control every single time we went out there, and the rest took care of itself.

"It started from day one from the moment my family landed here. The organisation and front office from the top down, Scott included, and then obviously all the guys have been tremendous. Everyone's focus has just been on winning. 

"Obviously starting 2-6 will absolutely humble you and it was just a growth process for our group to be able to come together, and continue to do the work every single day and continue to grow and improve. 

"The group has been focused on one thing and one thing only, and that's trying to win basketball games. There's absolutely no egos, no one is worrying about the wrong thing, everyone is focused on the task at hand and we're kind of a forward thinking team."

It didn’t take long for the JackJumpers to get over the high of their own win on Saturday and then seeing the Phoenix beat the Wildcats before they focused on the job at hand again.

Magette and nobody else at the JackJumpers is now satisfied with just being there in the finals though.

"I guess for both teams it's kind of an advantage of playing each other in the last round so we've had a bit of preparation for each other in the books, and kind of fresh in the minds," he said.

"But obviously there's going to be some adjustments made when it comes to playoff basketball. But we definitely enjoyed Sunday night and it was a special moment to enjoy together.

"The fact that we came from being 2-6 makes it that much more special to make the finals even though it's not anything we're satisfied with. We're just excited to get out there on Thursday night now."

It's a packed in semi-final schedule now with the JackJumpers playing in Melbourne on Saturday, then hosting Game 2 in Hobart and if needed, Game 3 will be Monday back at John Cain Arena.

It doesn’t matter what Magette feels about it, it is what it is, and he's looking forward to the challenge that awaits from the defending champion United.

"The schedule is what it is and complaining about it won't do anything, but I'm good with it. It will keep the passion and the energy inside the series, and guys will have a lot of carry over from one game to the next. We'll know each other really well by the end of it," Magette said.

"They're the defending champs and they've got all of our respect, and they are the defending champs and the No. 1 seeds for a reason. 

"Obviously we're still going to go in there with a ton of confidence, and I know that if we go in there and play the way we're capable of playing and do the things that are on the scouting report then we can go in with nothing less than the expectation to win. 

"We'll see what happens on Thursday night and Saturday, and possibly Monday but we're absolutely going in there to win."

As for the overall experience for Magette and his young family, they couldn’t be happier than what they've found for themselves in Hobart and Tasmania in general, and they don't want it to end.

"It's been absolutely phenomenal. It doesn’t hurt that it's your summer down here when all our friends and family are freezing back in the States so that's a lot of fun," Magette said.

"It's a change from the rest of my career in that sense. But having my wife and daughter here knowing if you have a bad day at the office or a bad practice, or if the game doesn’t go your way, I know that when I walk in that door my daughter will have a smile on her face.

"So does my wife most of the time. It just gives you that perspective of what's really important and why you do it for."

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