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Making the Right Play: Josh Magette Is Ready For NBL22

Written for nbl.com.au by Tom Hersz

 

As the youngest of three kids, Josh Magette was always chasing his older brother and sister around. When your siblings are eight and nine years older than you, tagging along becomes a big part of your childhood and Magette spent a lot of time going to basketball games, baseball games and other sporting events that his siblings were playing in.

Seeing how much they enjoyed playing sports, but especially basketball, made Magette want to be like them and that’s how he fell in love with the game.

Magette dedicated himself to the sport, however, not blessed with exceptional size or strength to be a big-time scorer, he had to find another way to stand out on the court. Over the years, he discovered he had a knack for passing and as time went on and he got to play in the right systems and with the right coaches, Magette began to flourish as a playmaker. 

“That’s kind of something that I’ve grown into,” Magette told NBL Media on Wednesday. 

“It’s always just been natural for me; I was never a big scorer in peewee league or middle school or high school or anything. I was just the guy that made the right play. 

“And I developed, really my sophomore year of College. My College Coach, Lennie Acuff and I, we were like kindred spirits. I don’t know how we ended up together, but it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me as a person and as a basketball player. Just the way he saw the game and the offence that we ran was perfect for how I like to play and what I was good at; it just matched my game so well.”

Magette, who will join the Tasmania JackJumpers later this month, became a pass-first guy; a high-volume assist guy. Coming out of a Division II school, he had to find his niche to succeed as a pro.

And while that style of play has almost become a rarity in today’s brand of basketball, where traditional positions matter less and a well-rounded skillset is coveted, that focus on making the right play and setting the table for others is what Magette has built his professional career on.

 

 

He’s averaged just under 9 assists per game in five seasons in the G League and had a similar impact in stops in Europe. Now he’s going to be bringing that skillset to the JackJumpers where he’ll be their inaugural starting point guard. Playmaking is a talent that Magette knows is a point of difference for him and one he has always embraced.

“Yeah, it’s different and that’s what I’ve prided myself on,” he explained. 

“You know, I don’t look like most professional basketball players either and I kind of play a little different than most point guards. I will shoot the ball every now and then, but I pride myself on our team getting the best shot possible every time down the court, whether it is me shooting or finding somebody else. 

“But, I’d always embraced being different and I’ve taken on that role ever since becoming a professional. It’s just how can I distinguish myself from other guys and other point guards that I’m playing against or in the leagues that I’m playing in.”

It’s worked. Magette’s ability to run a team and make his teammates better has seen him earn several great opportunities since turning pro.

He signed a two-way contract with the Atlanta Hawks for the 2017-18 season, playing 18 games. He had another stint with the Orlando Magic in 2019-20, albeit with limited minutes.

However, Magette’s game has continued to grow and while he’s going to be 32 years old not long after NBL22 starts, he’s still getting recognition of that growth. Magette represented the United States in 2020 in some qualifying games against Puerto Rico, teaming with former Breaker Levi Randolph, but that experience was topped when he was named to the USA Select Team this year.

 

 

Magette was on the squad that practiced with the USA Olympic team in Las Vegas ahead of Tokyo, getting to play in their warm-up game against Argentina. He was also lucky enough to be one of three players from the USA Select Team to travel to Tokyo with the Olympic team to help them in practice and be an emergency player in the event of an injury before the games started.

That he was afforded that opportunity says a lot about the way Magette conducts himself, how hard he works, how he keeps improving and his basketball IQ.

“It was an amazing opportunity first and foremost,” Magette acknowledged. 

“I’m very grateful to USA Basketball for giving me that chance. But I think it just speaks to who I am as a person on and off the court. I’m somebody that’s going to do the right thing, make the right play, be a good practice player – not just show up for games. It just speaks to my professionalism; getting in early, staying late, doing that kind of thing. 

“I’ve said it many times this summer, I’m 31 about to turn 32 in a few months, but I still feel like I’m on the rise. I don’t feel like I’ve peaked or even plateaued at all. I had my best year as a pro two years ago, I had a good year last year, my body feels good, so I don’t feel like I’m just riding it out. I still have ambitions and goals I want to accomplish.”

So, while most incoming NBL imports were at home working out, enjoying the US summertime and just trying to stay in shape, Magette was in Las Vegas and then Tokyo going head-to-head in practice with Damian Lillard, Jrue Holiday, Zach LaVine and Devin Booker.

He was also being drilled by some of the best coaches in the world, headlined by Spurs legend Gregg Popovich and Warriors Head Coach, Steve Kerr. Those two coaches have won eight NBA Championships and four NBA Coach of the Year awards between them. Kerr also won five titles as a player.

Needless to say, it was an amazing experience and Magette made the most of it.

“I tried to just be a sponge as much as possible,” Magette said. 

“Being around Coach Popovich and Coach Kerr and Jay Wright and Coach [Lloyd] Pierce every day, it’s just like an encyclopedia of basketball knowledge every time we got together as a team. So, I was just trying to listen and watch and observe; especially the guys at my position like Damian Lillard or Zach LaVine. 

“I know we might have different physical attributes and limitations for myself, but just asking them questions and trying to take in as much as possible.”

Magette will arrive in Australia early next week with his wife and young daughter. They’ll begin their 14-day quarantine before he flies down to Hobart to join Scott Roth and the rest of the JackJumpers squad.

It’s another exciting chapter in Magette’s career. He’ll be leading the NBL’s newest franchise in a league he has a lot of respect for. So when he started talking to Roth about a potential match, the more they talked, the more Magette knew it was the right fit.

“I talked to Coach Roth a bunch before signing,” he explained. 

“Just the familiarity of what he had with me and he knew who I was as a player and how I like to play, having coached against me in the G League in the past. I think the opportunity to establish something new is what really drew me into the team. 

“I’ve long watched the NBL and how much it’s growing and it’s getting better every year. And the players that’ve gone down there, I’ve always respected who they are and the careers that they’ve had, so I jumped at the opportunity to get to the NBL. 

“And then when it came to be the expansion team, I looked at it as a huge positive to be able to establish a culture, set new expectations and create our own history.”

Roth plans to lean heavily on Magette to help in that process of establishing a team-first culture. Having a point guard who prides himself on making the right plays, whether it’s for himself or his teammates, will help set the tone for how they want to play.

In fact, when announcing Magette’s signing, Roth likened him to one of the most unselfish players to ever lace them up. 

“Josh has been a target of mine for a while and I’m so excited to have him with us,” said Roth. 

“I was fortunate to play with NBA legend John Stockton in Utah and Josh has lots of traits that remind me of John.

“Playing the point guard position, Josh will provide the JackJumpers with great leadership and brings a team first attitude to the court. He is one of the smartest players I have seen, and his high IQ makes him a terrific passer and a player his teammates will love.”

What does Magette think of that comparison and why does he think Roth made it?

“That’s a very lofty, ambitious comparison, but if he wants to say it, I’m not going to dispute it,” Magette chuckled. 

“But I think just touching back on what I said earlier, whether it’s me shooting the ball or getting others involved, I think it’s just making the right play. 

“Kind of being the extension of Coach Roth on the floor; making sure guys are in the right spot, guys are in the place where they’re most likely to succeed and places where they’re comfortable, and setting people up. And when the time comes, being ready and able to score and make the play.”

 

 

Stockton is someone Magette has watched and studied, along with another great NBA point guard.

“Yeah absolutely,” he affirmed. 

“I was still pretty young when he [Stockton] was finishing up, but I have gone back and watched highlights. I was more of a Steve Nash [fan]; you know that was the guy I tried to mould my game after I would say.”

It’s always a challenging process to start an expansion club. It takes time to develop a culture, build chemistry, and to find the right pieces to establish a winning team. 

In their inaugural season, Magette thinks this team will mostly be out to prove the doubters wrong. 

“We haven’t really had a chance to sit down as a team and establish goals,” he explained. 

“But I know that just talking to Coach Roth, I’ve heard that the expectations for us around the league are not too high, so I think we’re all going to use that as motivation and guys want to prove people wrong. 

“I know we have a few guys that were having good years in NBL1, so hopefully we’ll be able to carry some momentum and build off of that.”

Joining Magette as JackJumpers’ imports will be Josh Adams and MiKyle McIntosh. Magette has not played with either before but he’s looking forward to establishing a rapport with them when preseason begins and building on that before the season starts in late November.

“I’ve played against Josh, I’m familiar with his game,” Magette said of Adams. 

“I played against him in Summer League a few years ago so I’m familiar with how he likes to play. He’s a great player, super athletic and can play in pick and roll and score, and we’re going to need all of that. 

“But I’m not really too familiar with MiKyle. I’ve watched his film since we signed him, so he’ll be a great addition as well being able to bring some physicality and scoring to the team.” 

As for personal goals, the obvious one for the Magette would be to lead the NBL in assists. He did it four times in the G League. 

Josh Giddey, last year’s assist leader, is gone. Scott Machado needed to shoulder more of a scoring load last season after leading the league in dimes in NBL20. So, there’s certainly an opportunity for someone like Magette to take that honour.

“Haha. I haven’t thought about that, [but] I like the sound of that,” he smirked. 

“But I haven’t written anything down. I’d like for us to win. I think making the final four as an expansion team would be a really cool thing and something I think we can accomplish. 

“I’m here to win; I’m in year ten of my professional career and haven’t won a championship yet, so that’s always the goal I start out with every year.”

Working towards that goal will start in earnest in a few weeks for Magette. Once he gets out of quarantine and makes his way to Tasmania, he’ll be all business as we begin to get a sense of what this JackJumpers roster could look like on the floor.

 

 

Magette is excited to be coming to Australia for a number of reasons. It’s a chance to play in a great league, live in a beautiful part of the world with his young family and help to build something new. But the thing he’s looking forward to most, is the new fans he’ll meet and play in front of.

“I’ve seen the clips on YouTube and social media, but it looks like just an awesome league that continues to grow,” said Magette. 

“And the fans in the arenas look really, really fun to play in front of every night. So, I think the lifestyle, traveling with my wife and daughter and a new place to live, and a breath of new energy in our lives. You know getting down there and getting through the quarantine and then being able to enjoy our lives. 

“I think it’s just going to be a lot of fun and there’s a lot of positive energy going.”

If he keeps making the right plays, Magette will quickly become a fan favourite.

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