Five years after the NBA Global Academy opened its doors,
Australian swingman Josh Giddey is set to become the
first graduate selected in an NBA Draft on Thursday night.
“I give a lot of credit to the NBA Academy,” Giddey said at his
pre-draft media availability. “They got me in there at an early
age, when I personally thought that I didn’t have a big future in
basketball. They got me in and they believed in me when I didn’t
necessarily believe in myself. I was there for 18 months and they
worked with me every day, so I give ‘em a lot of credit.
“They developed me and pushed me in the right direction and set
me up to where I am today, essentially. So, the NBA Academy was big
for me. It allowed for me to go overseas and get the exposure that
I wouldn’t have gotten if I stayed back home in Melbourne. It’s a
big honor and it makes me pretty happy to be the first NBA-Academy
player to be drafted.”
Chris Ebersole, the NBA's senior director of international
basketball operations, worked closely with Giddey during his time
at the NBA Academy and Basketball Without Borders (BWB), and he's
watched as the son of two professional basketball players went from
an off-the-radar prospect to a top-10 projected pick in rapid
Ebersole knew Giddey from an early age through Marty Clarke and
members of the Academy's coaching staff. (Clarke was actually
teammates with Giddey's father, Warrick, in the NBL.) Having shown
promise at BWB Asia, Giddey found his way to the Academy in
When Giddey arrived in Canberra, Australia, he was around
6-foot-5 with a good amount of potential. When he left, he was a
6-foot-8 sensation who was highly coveted by NBA decision-makers.
Even Ebersole couldn’t predict that his ascent would happen this
“To be completely honest, I don't think any of us had
potential lottery pick in the 2021 draft in our sights for
Josh at the outset,” Ebersole told BasketballNews.com in a phone
To be fair, Giddey didn't see this coming either.
“Up until I moved to the Academy, I was a good player, but
nothing special,” Giddey told our Matt Babcock back in
March. “I was challenged every day by my teammates and my
coaches, and at times, I struggled early on and didn't enjoy
myself. But as I grew into it, I fell in love with wanting to get
better, and my coaches never took it easy on me – and that was a
massive part of my development.”
Giddey didn’t make an Australian junior national team until he
played for the U18 club. But as he grew literally, Giddey also grew
skillfully. Between sprouting three inches to 6-foot-8, developing
his perimeter skills, improving as a playmaker and asserting
himself as a lead ball-handler, it was clear that his ceiling was
rising as a player -- and that was before any draft buzz.
“I think from that point [of making the U-18 squad], that was
maybe when a switch sort of went off that he had a chance to be
special in basketball,” Ebersole said. “I think it's always been a
dream for him, but the fact that he went through some of that
adversity at a young age and the disappointment of not making some
of those teams probably fueled him. And by the time he was 18, he
was not only making a state team, but he was excelling on it and
leading those teams.
“In basketball terms, in relative terms, you could sort of label
him as a late-bloomer in terms of how quickly his stock has risen.
I think a lot of those traits have been there the whole time, but a
lot of times it's confidence, it's putting it all together on the
court, and I think that's the part that's really blossomed.”
It’s not just his size that stood out, either.
“Beyond that, he's also developed his game, and that part is
really the key. There are not a lot of 6-foot-8 people out there
who are able to do what Josh can do on the court,” Ebersole said.
“I mean the size certainly helps, but the development of his game
in terms of growing into such a rare level of passer and leader of
an offense on the court, I think that's the part that catches most
people's attention – just how advanced he is in those areas of his
The Academy traveled to different tournaments and took on
varying levels of competition. Ebersole recalls the 2020 Torneo
Junior Ciutat L’Hospitalet, a tournament that featured the top
junior teams around Europe. Giddey led the Academy to a win in Spain
over the local FC Barcelona club and earned MVP honors after
averaging 11.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.
Giddey saved his best performance for last, contributing 15
points, 11 rebounds and three assists in the tournament final.
“He was never fazed,” Ebersole said. “He elevated his game... He
makes those jaw-dropping plays look routine. Just an interesting
part of his game is that he's able to make passes that no one else
on the court, or watching the games, could see [coming]. And so,
he'll make a pass and you're almost wondering where the ball is
going, and it'll end up in the hand of his teammate right under the
hoop. He does that multiple times a game (laughs). He can throw all
different types of passes with both hands from any angle, and so he
actually ends up making these extraordinary plays look very routine
in his game.
“There have been countless examples of that just watching him,
whether it's games at some of our events [in the] States or
overseas; you see him make those types of passes and you just kinda
look at each other on the sidelines and you sorta shake your head.
It's so advanced, it's so rare to see a player of his age with that
understanding of all the moving pieces on the court.”
Just two months later, instead of coming to the United States to
prepare for the NBA via college or the G League Ignite, Giddey
elected to sign with the Adelaide 36ers of the National Basketball
League as a part of its Next Stars program (just like LaMelo Ball
and R.J. Hampton). It turned out to be a brilliant choice, as
Giddey boosted his stock even further.
With the 36ers, Giddey won the NBL Rookie of the Year Award. He
averaged the most assists in the league (7.6), and led Adelaide in
rebounds per game (7.3). Giddey also scored the fourth-most points
per game (10.9) on the team, while playing the second-most minutes
per contest (32.1). The 18-year-old also became the youngest player
in NBL history to record a triple-double (taking the record from
LaMelo). Then, he did it again the very next night, making him
the only Australian to have
triple-doubles in consecutive games.
“Obviously, his time in the NBL [was] a huge factor in
developing his confidence,” Ebersole said. "He was handed the keys
in a lot of ways when he got to Adelaide. The fact that he was able
to translate all those skills in a league of that caliber... the
NBL is a league of grown men and really talented players. For him
to go in and showcase his skills at that level and translate them
so quickly at that level, I think, is a huge boost for his
confidence. I think at each level, he's able to now realize that he
can impact these games and he's not out of place and he can hold
"Great kid, very nice," Giddey's 36ers teammate and former NBA
pro Brandon Paul told BasketballNews.com. "I think he's more mature
than his years the way he carries himself on and off the court, and
he's just someone who's got a crazy ceiling."
Giddey’s stint with the 36ers ended on May 16, when both parties
agreed to allow him to begin preparing for the 2021 NBA Draft. He
carried over the momentum from the NBL into this summer, joining
the Australian team’s pre-Olympic training camp as one of 24
invitees and giving him a chance to play with some fellow Aussies
whom he'd looked up to. Many NBA scouts and executives were in
attendance to observe the practices and exhibitions.
“He's definitely garnering significant attention throughout this
whole process,” said Ebersole, who was present with Giddey in Las
Vegas. “And of course with his time in Adelaide in the NBL –
although there was maybe some limitation on how many scouts could
get there to see him just given some of the restrictions on travel
– it was clear the buzz around him was picking up during that time
frame... I think he's gotten somewhat used to it.”
Even though the Boomers left Giddey off their Olympic roster,
they did name him as a replacement player and the experience was
“It was fun. Obviously, it sucks I didn’t make that team, but I
still got to be around the guys and be able to train and compete
against them every day right up until they left,” Giddey said. "So
for me, it was great because I got to compete against guys like
[Matthew Dellavedova], Patty Mills, Joe Ingles – and then learn and
train against them every day. So it was such a beneficial kinda
month, two months for me, being able to learn from those
“And then, it’s such a good environment to me. I think for me
going forward, it’s gonna be critical to get this early taste of it
because hopefully [in] the next 12-15 years, I’m gonna have a long
career playing with the national team.”
Ebersole is a California native, and he describes Giddey's
personality as similar to his own: laid-back and self-deprecating.
He says that Giddey is always fun to be around and has great
leadership qualities. He can lead by example, but he's also a good
communicator with both teammates and coaches alike.
"I've seen him interact with people and [he's] always very
welcoming, even when he's being hounded," Paul added.
Ebersole assures that Giddey is a “hooper at heart.” As for his
off-court interests, the young Aussie is a sneakerhead.
When asked what kind of team or situation would be conducive to
Giddey thriving as a rookie, Ebersole confidently said
“I don't think there's necessarily one team or type of team that
sticks out,” Ebersole said. “I think he does have such a versatile
game that he'll be able to have an impact anywhere he goes... He's
sort of proven that he can be that primary ball-handler, lead
operator out of the pick-and-roll. But if he goes to a team where
he's asked to play off the ball and go into some of those secondary
actions, I think he's fully capable of doing that as well. When he
was with our Academy, he played both roles at different points, so
I think he's fully capable offensively playing either
“Defensively, I think that's one part of his game that people
may be questioning. But I think he actually has a chance, just
given his size, to be a multi-positional defender too and be able
to guard multiple positions. He's versatile on both sides of the
ball, and that's gonna allow him to thrive [in] whatever situation
that may be. I think he's got a good chance – whether it's the
primary guy or the secondary ball-handler – to impact offenses and
keep the ball moving, which is his number one NBA skill at this
"I love passing the ball and he loved
shooting the ball"
Ebersole acknowledges that he's impressed with how Giddey has
handled the pre-draft process and the hype surrounding him. The
18-year-old has approached it with humility, staying grounded and
true to himself while “keeping those blinders on.”
“I don't think it's easy for a young person to have this amount
of pressure and success and expectation placed upon them in such a
short amount of time, especially in Josh's case – where only a few
years ago, he was not on anyone's radar in terms of the NBA-draft
potential,” Ebersole said. “[It] speaks to the type of worker he
is, the type of focus he has.
"And that, of course, bodes well for his future – because once
he gets to the NBA, that noise only grows. The fact that he's been
able to sort of stay on course through all of this and not get
side-tracked or distracted, I think, speaks to that character he
In a day’s time, Giddey will hear his name called by NBA
Commissioner Adam Silver.
“It's a dream come true for him to be drafted, and I think even
for him growing up, this was obviously a dream, but only in the
last two years has it really accelerated and evolved into reality,”
Ebersole said. “I think for him, it's somewhat surreal – but I know
he's really excited and probably somewhat anxious to figure out
where he's going to end up, as is the case, I think, with every
prospect in the draft. But I think he's just beyond excited to
finally realize his dream.”
And the moment that Silver utters those words, Ebersole will not
only be happy for Giddey, but for those who will come after him in
the NBA Global Academy.
“We're definitely proud of him, obviously. To have our first
graduate to be drafted be somebody like Josh – who's a selfless
player, who has just a great approach to the game and approach to
life – I think it makes it that much more special,” Ebersole said.
"I think it opens the doors to future breakthroughs.
"Our first draft pick in the 2021 draft will likely be Josh, and
then you turn around and look at the door that’s gonna open. In
2022, we expect to have multiple draft picks coming out of the NBA
Academy program. We've now had NBA-Academy alumni in each of the
first two years of the G League Ignite program (Princepal Singh and
Dyson Daniels) and expect that to continue to grow... It's going to
inspire future generations. There's a generation of young
Australian players who are looking up to Dyson Daniels, young
Argentinian players looking up to Francisco [Caffaro], young Indian
players looking up to Princepal Singh. All of these individual
successes are great in their own right, but they also open up the
possibilities to so many others, so that's the part that really
gets us excited. It's much bigger than any one player.”
Giddey echoes those sentiments, and is honored to be a part of a
global movement in basketball that is only getting stronger.
“On the international scale, you see how big the game’s growing
worldwide, outside of America. I think it’s good for players all
around the world because they can look at role models in their
countries and see how well they’re doing, and it allows the next
generation to come through," Giddey said. "So, it’s exciting times
for basketball all around the world. And I think it’s evident now,
with countries beating the States – when 10 years ago, it was
America just dominating on a world stage. So, it’s really good to
BasketballNews.com's Senior NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babcock
has Josh Giddey projected to go No. 7 overall to the Golden State
Warriors in his latest 2021 NBA Mock