At the age of 3, Josh Giddey sat in the bleachers of John Cain Arena watching his father, Warrick, coach as an assistant for the Melbourne Tigers. Warrick’s retired Tigers jersey hangs in the rafters, bearing witness to the journey Josh has taken, from a young fan of the game to a possible first-round pick in the 2021 NBA draft.
The Australian National Basketball League’s (NBL) Rookie of the Year averaged just shy of 11 points, 7.3 rebounds and a league-high 7.6 assists in 32 minutes per game with the Adelaide 36ers. As of presstime, Giddey was No. 11 on ESPN’s Top 100 draft rankings.
His game on the court is naturally unselfish. At 6-9, Giddey easily fills up the stat sheet with jaw-dropping assists and a handful of boards (grabbing the sixth-most rebounds in the NBL this season). He finds joy in the little things, like the seams of the ball lining up perfectly in a shooter’s shot pocket or the gleam on his teammate’s face after receiving a clean pass to the bucket.
Giddey turned heads in April when he became the youngest player since LaMelo Ball to record a triple-double in NBL history, scoring 12 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing 10 assists against the New Zealand Breakers.
His first few games as a pro weren’t so easy, as Giddey struggled with his confidence. As the season continued, his jitters dissipated and he broke out in his fourth game, posting a 12-point double-double, finishing the season with 13 total double-doubles and three triple-doubles.
“I think my whole game kind of went to another level,” Giddey says. “Playing with that swagger and confidence is what I love doing, and when I’m doing that, I think that’s when I’m at my best.”
It’s the first day of the NBA Combine and Giddey is calling from Chicago where he and 69 other young hopefuls are itching for their name to be called on July 29. His morning starts with an early lift, then transitions to a skill development session with former Texas A&M and Melbourne United guard Darryl McDonald. After a break, he heads back to the gym where he gets up hundreds of shots a night.
The one outlier in Giddey’s game is his jump shooting, but the Melbourne native has one person in his corner to help him course correct: Andrew Gaze, arguably the greatest player and shooter in the history of Australian basketball, a seven-time league MVP and 14-time scoring champ.
Josh’s relationship with Gaze started before he was even born, when Warrick and Gaze were teammates on the ’93 and ’97 Melbourne Tigers championship teams. Throughout his career in Australia, “Drewey” to close friends, was an integral part of Giddey’s growth.
“There’s no one really better to learn from and kind of get advice from and be in the gym with this summer,” Giddey says of his summer sessions with Gaze.
As a pass-first point guard, Giddey’s stalky frame is enticing as taller ballhandlers find more success in the League. He’s a gifted passer who thrives in transition with an advanced ability to find the descending big man in pick and roll scenarios.
Armed with a bounty of knowledge and experience from mentors, a year playing professionally and a playmaking bag rivaled by the League’s top guards, Josh Giddey is ready for what he’s been waiting for.
“It’s exciting, because this is the stuff I’ve wanted to do my whole life, and for it to finally be here…it’s coming really quickly. I’m trying to take it day by day. Being around the guys I am, talking with these teams,” he says. “I’m trying to just enjoy the whole process.”
Jared Ebanks is an editorial intern at SLAM and a rising senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Follow him on Twitter @JaredEbanks.
Photos via Getty Images.