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Josh Magette Defies Odds for D-Fenders

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Josh Magette, point guard for the Los Angeles D-Fenders and the current D-League leader in assists and steals, shares his unlikely path to professional basketball.

Spencer Strode

Standing just 5’4 inches tall as a high school sophomore in the heart of Crimson Tide country in Alabama, no one would have ever pegged Josh Magette to continue on to have an type of athletic career.

Currently the NBA D-League’s leader in both assists (with more than two assists than the player in second place) and steals per game, Magette has managed to defy the odds and has quickly established himself as one of the better point guards in the NBADL.

To say the path to this point hasn’t been easy would be an understatement, as Magette has had to overcome quite a few challenges along the way. Despite those, it’s only served to make him stronger both on and off of the court.

After a six-inch growth spurt during the middle of his time in high school made playing basketball a realistic possibility, Magette followed in the footsteps of his sister, Janna, the second all-time leading scorer at Davidson.

He was named All-Area MVP in both his junior and senior years, but coaches immediately doubted his ability to transition to the college game due to his lack of size. With just one college offer in hand, chose to head an hour and a half north to play for the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

As multiple teams would be down the line, Alabama-Huntsville benefitted immediately from his presence. Over his four years with the school he managed to stock up his trophy case with awards for Gulf South Conference Freshman of the Year, two first-team All-GCS honors and a Co-Player of the Year nod during his senior year.

He hoped to continue playing basketball, but once again his size, and now the fact that he hadn’t played against top competition in college, was working against him. Even with that in mind, he received a workout with Utah Jazz and two with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Against all odds, he signed with the Grizzlies to play with their Summer League team. As happy as he was to be a part of the team, he would be forced to deal with another challenge, as Memphis chose to release him the day before the first Summer League game.

As Magette tells Ridiculous Upside, he was upset about being released, but there was certainly a bright side to it.

"It was very disappointing, but I knew going in at the time that they had Jeremy Pargo, Josh Selby and had just picked Tony Wroten in the draft, so I knew it was going to be an uphill climb. I was really glad that I had the chance to go up against those guys, because it let me know that I could compete with them," Magette said.

Once again, Magette was left without many options for his basketball career. Within a few weeks, however, he received an opportunity to play with Landstede Basketbal in the Netherlands.

Though it wasn’t the start to his professional career that he had envisioned, it gave him a chance to see what life as a professional would entail and helped him adjust his game accordingly.

"There were a ton of things that I learned during that first year. I think being out on your own and having to think about how you’re going to spend your time and realizing how much time you can spend on basketball without having to worry about class and everything like that is a bit of an adjustment. On the court, you have to get used to playing with a 24-second shot clock and the 8-second rule and all of those little things that you might not consider, too."

Starting 37 of 38 games with the team, Magette felt that he was ready to return to the United States and make an impact in the NBA D-League. Following a few conversations with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, he was selected with the team’s second round pick in the 2013 NBA D-League Draft.

"I was really excited, I had talked with them for a couple of weeks leading up to the draft and they told me that if I was there in the second, since they didn’t have a first round pick, they would take me. They held up on their end of the deal and it was great for me. Bob MacKinnon was hard on me, but he was very fair and honest about everything and it pushed me to become a better player."

While MacKinnon helped him become a better player overall, there were still some adjustments to his game that he needed to make. Playing Division II and then in the Netherlands, he had not yet played against the type of quickness that is seen in the D-League.

Now one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBADL, Magette had to work hard to get caught up to speed on that end.

"Getting used to the quickness of other teams’ guards was the toughest part of the transition for me. When I played overseas and in college, I didn’t have to guard the pick-and-roll that much and those guys didn’t usually have really top level speed. In the D-League, there’s guards that are quick and that can score, so for me I just tried get better every day and I tried to win my defensive matchup each game."

With one successful year in the D-League in the books, Magette made the jump back overseas to play for Koroivos Amaliadas in Greece. He was yet again a solid starter each night and once the year had come to a close, he had offers all around the continent.

While the international route may have been more lucrative, a call from D-Fenders head coach Casey Owens convinced him that a trip back to the D-League this year would be the right option for him.

"Casey Owens was an assistant while I was in Los Angeles the first time and he called me midway through this past summer and asked if I had anything going on. I had a few offers, but he told me that he wanted me to be his point guard this season. I had a good relationship with him and after talking to him about what he had in mind for me going forward, I was really excited to get back with the D-Fenders."

Now the orchestrator of a Los Angeles team that stands 22-16 and firmly in the NBA D-League playoff picture, Magette has come a long way since being a 5’4 high school sophomore in Alabama. There’s no telling what the future holds for him, but it’s a safe bet that he’ll continue to silence his critics.