Kentucky basketball assistant Joel Justus is one of the most influential people in college basketball under the age of 40.
The Athletic’s “40 Under 40” list, which features “people in all corners of the sport who are planting in the grass roots, toiling behind the scenes, speaking in front of a camera or efforting at a desk,” highlighted Justus as an individual in line to become a college head coach in the near future.
“In 2014, John Calipari hired Justus to be Kentucky’s director of analytics,” Seth Davis, managing editor of the Athletic, said. “That was a big leap from Justus’ previous job as the coach at Davidson Day High School in North Carolina, but he has continued to elevate. The following year Justus became special assistant to the head coach, and over the past two seasons he has worked as a fulltime assistant. With the summertime departure of Kentucky’s top assistant, Kenny Payne, for the New York Knicks, Justus will have an expanded role for the Wildcats this season. The increased responsibilities and exposure should put him in line to become a college head coach in the near future.”
Justus was also on ESPN’s “40 Under 40” list released over the summer that featured coaches only.
The 38-year-old coach is entering his fifth season as an assistant and seventh with the Kentucky basketball program, where he has quickly become one of the top recruiters in the nation. In terms of on-court coaching, Justus has also been instrumental in the development of players such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, Immanuel Quickley, Tyrese Maxey, and Ashton Hagans, among others.
Prior to his time as an assistant, Justus analyzed large data sets to aid the coaching staff’s scouting reports as well as postgame analysis. He assisted in day-to-day operations of the program, which included coordinating with NBA personnel while assisting in many areas of basketball operations.