By Tom Ballato
Josh Boone has been around the world playing professional basketball. He has made stops in China, Philippines, Estonia, Russia, Turkey, and Australia. It been a long journey for Boone playing professionally overseas since his stint in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets, but he has made a home in Australia in the NBL (National Basketball League) for the past three years.
In college, Boone was a member of the University of Connecticut Huskies for three season from 2003-2006. He was part of very talented teams coached by Jim Calhoun. Josh hit the ground running at UConn, starting 37 out of the teams 38 games his freshman year. “It was very rare for a freshman to start. I was fortunate to be on a team that good from top to bottom.” He was a mainstay in the starting lineup during his time in Connecticut. He finished his time at UConn averaging 9.3 points per game and 7 rebounds per game.
Josh declared for the NBA after his junior year. Taking with him from his time in college was a National Championship, which his team won his freshman year and Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2005. When asked about his time at UConn, Boone responded, “It was enjoyable and coach Calhoun showed faith in me, which helped my confidence.”
Boone was taken in the first round with the 23rd pick by the New Jersey Nets in the 2006 NBA Draft. The Huskies had four players selected in the first round which is a record that is shared with Duke (1999) and North Carolina (2005). Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong, Marcus Williams, and Josh Boone were the Huskies that went in the first round that year.
The adjustment to the NBA was huge for Boone. “You go from a kid in school to the real world playing in the NBA. The NBA has access to incredible resources and money.” Josh spent four seasons in New Jersey. He battled injuries his rookie season, but showed flashes of his potential. This second season, Boone started 53 of the 70 games he played in and averaged 8.2 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game. His minutes dropped during his last two seasons in New Jersey and he ultimately wasn’t resigned. When asked about his biggest takeaway from his time with the Nets, Josh responded, “My biggest takeaway was just being grateful for the experience. Sharing the court with Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson and just learning from them.”
Following his fourth season in the NBA, Boone left for China and he needed to mature quickly, which he did. “I was thrown into the fire. I didn’t know the language and I had a coach that didn’t speak English. It helped me mature.” After his time in China, he returned to the United States and played in the NBA Developmental League in hopes that an NBA team would take notice and offer him a contract. After just a few games, he suffered a knee injury which was a setback in his career.
After rehabilitation and working his way back onto the court, Josh went to play in the Philippines. After just two games, the team decided to part ways with him. This was a devastating blow for Boone who worked so hard to get back on the court. In 2014, he signed to play in Bahrain, an island country in the Persian Gulf. He led his team to a championship there. Right after that he went to Estonia in 2015 and played in the VTB United League (League in Russia) for a few months. In 2016, he played for BC Khimki, a team in Russia where he was the rebound leader in the VTB United League. That summer he signed to play in Turkey, but only appeared in one game before parting ways.
Boone received a call from his agent that a team in Australia was interested in him. In less than 24 hours, he was on a flight headed to Melbourne, Australia to play in the NBL (National Basketball League). The NBL is a one of the top leagues around the world. Former #1 overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft Andrew Bogut signed a two year deal in the NBL after playing in the NBA. He is now back in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors, but the plan is to return to the NBL. Many American born players, who are called imports, play in the NBL. D.J. Kennedy, Casper Ware, Melo Trimble, Bryce Cotton, and Jerome Randle just to name a few, are all top overseas American players in the NBL. Little did Josh know that he was headed for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Boone has spent three years in the NBL playing for Melbourne United. He had a stop in Hong Hong mixed in those three years, where he won a championship with his club. In 2018, he was the NBL rebounds leader and the Melbourne United Tigers won the championship. Josh finished the 2018-2019 averaging 10.3 pointer per game and 8.3 rebounds per game according to NBL statistics, but his team fell short in the championship.
According to Steve Chalmers, who covers the NBL for The Pick and Roll, “Josh Boone has been an excellent commodity for Melbourne United throughout his tenure in Australia’s National Basketball League. His pace and agility playing the centre role was something other teams lacked once Boone arrived as an injury replacement player in December 2016. Virtually changing the game of a five man in the country, his soft touch around the basket and knowing exactly where to be to put his teammates in best positions are some of his best attributes; while on the defensive end he can make a impact without hitting the stat sheet.”
After three years, the Melbourne United have moved on from Josh, but he is thankful for the opportunity. “Casper Ware and I were there for three years. It is rare an import is with a team for three years. Most imports are on one year deals.” Josh’s focus is in the NBL and he looking to return despite having some offers to play elsewhere. “I want to finish my career in Australia.”
Boone is also looking at post basketball career opportunities in Australia, but the talented NBL center said that is a few years away. Boone recently signed a one-year contract for next season with the Illawarra Hawks, a team full of younger “up and coming” Australians. Boone wasn’t the only signing the Hawks made this off-season. They signed former NBA veteran point guard Aaron Brooks and LaMelo Ball who decided to skip college for professional basketball in the NBL. Boone and Brooks are expected to provide veteran leadership to a team that should compete next season in the NBL.