Josh Green: Australia's latest basketball star headed for Arizona

It is winter, and a far cry from the balmy weather of Bradenton, Florida. There's a buzz building already, seven hours before the nationally televised showdown between IMG Academy (Florida) and fellow high school powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (Virginia), but Australia's Josh Green is pretty relaxed.

"Does it always get this cold up here?" the five-star guard asks, walking into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Green, a senior, and his IMG Academy teammates have some media obligations to finish before heading back to the hotel and getting ready for their game, but there's also a Slam Magazine lounge for the players to hang out in while they wait to conduct interviews. He passes the time by playing NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, appearing pretty loose.

The five IMG starters are summoned into a separate room for a roundtable-type interview. It's laid-back and full of jokes. When the topic turns to that night's game against Oak Hill, the attitude doesn't really change. Junior guard Jaden Springer says IMG is going to "put on a show" and his teammates appear to agree.

Green doesn't say much.

While Springer was correct -- IMG would beat a Cole Anthony-less Oak Hill 72-67 on ESPN that night -- it's not really in Green's DNA to talk trash.

"I barely talk back," Green told ESPN while walking around the Hall of Fame that day. "I think no words is better than any words."

This fall, the 6-foot-6 Green will head to the University of Arizona. He will team with best friend Nico Mannion, ESPN's No. 9-ranked high school player in the country. The two became fast friends playing in the Arizona prep circuit before Green transferred to IMG. He and Mannion, also a five-star recruit, teamed up at the 2018 Nike Hoop Summit and then again at the 2019 Summit, where Mannion went off for 30 points.

One would be hard-pressed to find a pair of more quiet and unassuming players.

"We met in the seventh or eighth grade when I first moved from Australia [to Arizona]; we always used to play against each other," Green said. "But then we got to know each other and started Snapchatting and texting after that."

"He's pretty much like a brother to me now," Mannion said. "We do basically everything together."

Green's lack of ego isn't something new. It started back in Australia, when he was younger. His parents, Delmas and Cahla, were both professional basketball players and made sure they instilled in Josh at an early age not to get a big head.

"My parents always used to tell me to stay humble no matter what I do," said Green, who's 18. "I was never a loud talker or anything like that. I was never really into trash talking, or even off-the-court-wise, I've always been laid-back and just a chill person to be around. I want to continue to do that. I don't feel like it's necessary for me to be out of character."

Part of it is what his parents would tell him. But the other part, according to his mother, Cahla, is that it's simply not part of the culture in Australia. When the family was still back in Sydney, Green's maturity and soft-spoken personality weren't as noticeable. It was par for the course over there.

In America, though, where teenage basketball stars are showered with attention and accolades from the time they enter high school, Green's parents made sure he didn't change.

"From a young age, Australians don't go around talking trash," Green said. "When we came over here, it's more of an American type of thing. I wasn't used to it at all, people talking trash to me. No matter what sport, I never had to talk trash."

"When we came here, we noticed that people tend to blow up kids and their heads, and I didn't want Josh to be like that," Cahla added. "And I don't think he is, personality-wise. I thought it was important not to hype himself up. He's just focused."

It stands out among his peers. Green is relatively quiet, whether it's dealing with the media after a game, handling people in his ear during games or seeing fans on the road. For someone with his talent and notoriety in the basketball world -- top-10 recruit, signed to play at Arizona, projected lottery pick in the 2020 NBA draft -- you wouldn't notice it if you saw him walking into a gym.

It's a quiet confidence more than a boisterous ego.

"He's one of the most humble players I've ever played with on my team," IMG teammate and five-star North Carolina signee Armando Bacot said. "He's just humble. He doesn't let stuff like that get to his head. He's not bigheaded."

Bacot first noticed Green's lack of ego on IMG's first road trip to North Carolina. After the game, the team was being crowded by fans looking to get a photo or selfie with the players.

While some of the other players were overwhelmed by it, Green didn't seem fazed.

"It was the way he dealt with the fans," Bacot said. "After every game, we're getting ambushed by a bunch of fans and he takes the time to talk to a bunch of different kids. He gives away shoes, shooting sleeves, something like that."

That maturity is twofold. Yes, it's a staple of Australian sport culture. But Green is also aware of how he's viewed and looked at as a rising basketball star.

For the Green family, the key word in that sentence is "rising." As in, he's not there yet.

"We also discuss how he wants to be perceived, with the goals and everything he has," Cahla said. "I don't feel like he has a big head or thinks he's great. His attitude is, he's nowhere near where he wants to be. He's working hard, but he's not there. It's not like he's reached the end and he's a superstar and all the rest. I think his attitude is more focused and calm. I don't think he feels he's bigheaded or can talk trash. I think he feels very fortunate."

While Green has excelled on the hardwood since coming over to the United States, basketball wasn't always his one-and-only love. He played a number of sports growing up in Australia: Aside from basketball, there were swimming, track and field, soccer -- and most importantly, Australian football. Green loved Australian football and still misses it.

While his parents were professional basketball players, they didn't push him into it. Australian football was a legitimate option.

"That was the biggest debate with my family," Green said. "I don't know if I would still be playing basketball if I was still in Australia. I might have chosen to play Australian football. I was really good at it and I loved it."

When the Green family decided to come to the United States, though, the choice was essentially made for Green: There's no Australian football in America. But there is basketball.

Focused fully on basketball, Green began to rise up the ranks in America. During his first two years in the U.S. in Arizona - before he headed east to IMG -- Green also played for the West Coast Elite grassroots program, participating on the Under Armour Association circuit. He also was a star performer at the NBA's annual Basketball Without Borders camp in February 2018.

What some people might not know, however, is that because Green has dual citizenship through his father, who was born in Louisiana, there was a push a couple of years ago by USA Basketball to bring Green into its system. After USA Basketball found out Green was Australian, it changed its mind.

Not that Green would have ever chosen the United States over Australia.

"I'm going to choose Australia 100 times out of 100," he said. "My goal is to put on a green and gold jersey. That's where I was raised. USA wouldn't really be a choice for me."

Green has had his opportunities to participate in Australian national team events, including as recently as November, but he was recovering from a torn labrum that kept him out for most of last year's July recruiting period. (In April, Green underwent surgery to clean up the shoulder.) He's confident his time will come, though.

"When the moment's right," Green said. "The hardest thing of all was I haven't been back [to Australia] since I moved. Just to be able to go back to Australia and play in front of the Australian fans, I would've loved it. But I feel like it won't be my last opportunity. Do what I do, and that's represent Australia in the green and gold."

While he's carving his own path in basketball, Green has talked to some of the Australian basketball stars who came before him. Matthew Dellavedova direct-messaged him on social media once, but Green is closest with Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons.

The comparisons are there. Simmons came over from Australia for high school basketball, much like Green. Simmons went to an elite basketball school in Florida, much like Green. And Simmons spent one year in college before he was selected early in the NBA draft -- a possibility for Green.

"Ben Simmons has been a really good role model for him," Cahla said. "I know that he reached out to Josh, if he ever needs help. Josh has had questions, and [Ben] has helped him out and given his opinion on things. He's been great for Josh. I think it's also great for Josh that he's prepared to help out and make time for the younger kids and help him out whenever he can. I know it's meant a lot to Josh as well."

In January's showdown against Oak Hill, Green came out on a tear. He ended up with 19 points and nine rebounds in just 21 minutes, shooting 7-for-11 from the field.

Bacot had a feeling his classmate was going to have a big night.

"He really wanted to go out there and put on a show," he said. "The first half, he came out ballin'."

IMG would go on to post a 31-1 record and win the GEICO national championship in April, the first in the school's history. Green finished the season averaging 16.2 points per game.

Bacot also let us in on a little secret. While Green doesn't show much emotion during games, Bacot said Green is one of the most competitive players behind closed doors during practice. And it's in those settings that he'll talk trash.

Not during games, though.

On the court, Green is quiet, focused -- and motivated to be the next great basketball star from Australia. Excited for next season at Arizona, then hopefully the NBA after his time in Tucson.

But while he's always looking toward the future, Green keeps one eye on his past.

"I always want to do my thing for Australia," he said. "There are a lot of kids back home that would love to be in the situation I'm in right now. My goal is to be able to show them that nothing's impossible. No dream is too big. Four years ago, I would've dreamed of a situation like this. To be able to help kids back in Australia, it means a lot to me. My goal was just to represent Australia as well as I can.

"I might have been over here for about four years now, but no matter what I do, I'm always going to be Australian and always going to make sure I represent the country well."