We are officially just days away from the start of the July recruiting period, and as we get closer, Kentucky fans are starting to get a better sense for what their 2019 class might look like. The class is already off to a strong start with the commitments of Tyrese Maxey and D.J. Jeffries, but could become historic if James Wiseman, Cole Anthony, Vernon Carey (or some combination of the three) head to Lexington.
Still, there are other players who are quickly moving up the Wildcats’ radar and one name to keep an eye on heading into July is Josh Green. The combo guard who is originally from Australia and now plays at IMG Academy has had a monster six months, and after viewing him at the Nike Hoops Summit in April (where he scored 11 points as one of the youngest players in the event) I mentioned that I expected Kentucky to get into the mix before the summer was done. That appears to be the case as Rivals.com’s Corey Evans recently reported that in addition to the schools that were already recruiting him (Arizona, UCLA, USC, Virginia, Kansas) two blue bloods, Kentucky and North Carolina had begun to show interest. That interest coincides with Green rising into the Top 10 national rankings for both Rivals and ESPN’s recruiting services.
So what do Wildcats fans need to know about Green? We spoke to Justin Downer, one of Green’s coaches with West Coast Elite, the Under Armour AAU team club he has played with the last several summers. And while Green’s mix tapes show a diverse athlete, able to throw down monstrous dunks, what separates him according to Downer is his ability to do everything else.
“What’s not on the highlight tape is the kind of defender he is,” Downer said. “He can lock down on the ball, and cut off passing lanes, block shots, he’s a really, really high-level defender. He’s [also] a willing passer.”
“He’s always understood the team concept,” he said. “He’s always understood the team game, he’s always understood how to win.”
Downer credits Green’s upbringing for shaping his unique skill-set. His father Delmas Green played college basketball here in the United States and then eventually spent a few years playing professionally overseas, so Green and his older brother (who now plays at UNLV) always had a good base of knowledge and genetics to work off of. The fact that he grew up in Australia – where fundamentals are emphasized over actual game play – helped too. It also allowed him to slowly develop into the player he is today.
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“The thing about Josh is that he has always been a freak competitor,” Downer said. “He always plays so hard. So everything else kind of caught up with him. His shot has gotten better every year. He’s an improved ball-handler. That’s why people now see him as more of a combo guard instead of a wing.”
Downer’s comments align with Green skyrocketing up the recruiting rankings in the last few years. After a strong summer playing for West Coast Elite last year, Green was a consensus Top 40 recruit, before he blew up even further thanks to great showings at both the “Basketball Without Borders” event at NBA All-Star weekend and the Nike Hoops Summit. Both are events where some of the best high school players in the world participated, and despite being one of the youngest players at each event, Green shined. He has parlayed that play into a strong spring these past few months with West Coast Elite, where he has averaged 20 points per game as one of the top players on the Under Armour circuit. His team also is sitting near the top of the standings with a 9-1 overall record.
Add it all together and Green is now one of the hottest commodities on the recruiting trail. As mentioned up top, he is now ranked in the Top 10 in the 2019 recruiting rankings by both ESPN and Rivals.com.
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And as Green’s profile has continued to grow, so too has interest from colleges. At the Nike Hoops Summit, Green told KSR that he was hearing primarily from schools like UCLA, Kansas, USC and Virginia, but went out of his way to specify that no one school led in his recruitment. According to Downer that is still the case as some of the biggest names in college basketball – Kentucky and North Carolina specifically – have begun to call.
“I think he’s in a place where he really wants to focus on July,” Downer said. “He really wants to finish this thing strong. He doesn’t think he can make any sort of list until the end of July because he loves a lot of schools on the list, but also wants to look at the new ones coming in.”
While recruiting will pick up heading into the fall, it looks more and more like Green’s sole focus right now is becoming the best player in high school basketball.
“He’s ready to keep climbing, and keep pushing so that his hard work pays off,” Downer said. “He’s going to make sure he doesn’t take his foot off the gas.”