LAS VEGAS — Josh Huestis had what he called “big news” to share on Saturday.
“We’ve got a baby on the way, so that’s always exciting,” said Huestis, the former Montana Gatorade boys basketball player of the year who continues to carve out an NBA career.
After buying a home in Las Vegas, Huestis and wife, Haley, will welcome their first child later this year. That makes the week’s earlier good news even better for the young couple.
Huestis, who hasn’t played a competitive basketball game since March of 2020, is signing a contract with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Houston Rockets’ affiliate in the NBA G League. Huestis said “some of the finer details are still being worked out,” but he’ll be joining the team in Texas later this month.
The Vipers and 17 other teams will then head to Orlando, Florida, to play out the NBA G League season in a bubble environment. Huestis said games are scheduled to begin on Feb. 8 and the playoffs will run from March 5-9.
Once games start back up, it’ll mark the end of an 11-month period between competitive games for Huestis, a basketball hiatus longer than any in his life since he was “probably 6 or 7 years old.”
“I think it’s a good situation because I think I can really contribute and play well and hopefully get a call up back into the NBA and find my way back there,” said Huestis, 29.
The Great Falls CMR product is familiar with the talent level in the G League. After the Oklahoma City Thunder selected him with the 29th pick in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft, Huestis spent two years with the Thunder’s G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue. He bounced between the Blue and Thunder — Huestis has played in 76 games in in his NBA career, including 10 starts — over the next few years. He also had a stint with the Austin Spurs, San Antonio’s G League affiliate, before most recently playing in Germany.
“It was different, it was definitely a learning experience,” Huestis said of his 2019-20 season with Bayern Munich. “Obviously I had never played basketball anywhere but the U.S. before, and going over there, it’s a different game, so it took some time to adjust to. But it was a lot of fun. I got to see some amazing things and play against some great players. It’s definitely something I learned from, and I think it made me better as a player. I definitely respect everybody that goes and plays over there, because it’s not for everybody. It’s definitely difficult, but I think it makes you a better player and person overall.”
Huestis returned stateside just before the coronavirus pandemic started to shut down the country. The pause afforded him and his wife the opportunity to buy their home in Las Vegas and spend quality time with each other and their families.
Otherwise, it was business as usual for Huestis even though his professional basketball career was on hold. He spent the past 10 months diligently working out for his next opportunity.
“Obviously playing basketball is great and I’m blessed to have it as my career, but when you’re working out five, six days a week with no real goal or end in sight or anything to look forward to that’s solid, it can get taxing, you know what I mean?” Huestis said. “Especially because no income coming in, I’ve got my wife, I’ve got a baby on the way, so you always want to be able to keep making money so that you can support everybody. And then just the competitor in me wants that job to be able to be back on the court and compete and play the game, so not having that, it was really tough.”
Huestis hasn’t really known life without basketball. An athletic, 6-foot-8 forward/center, Huestis was a two-time Gatorade player of the year at Great Falls CMR, helping guide the Rustlers to back-to-back Class AA state basketball titles in 2009 and 2010.
He played college basketball at Stanford, where he had to redefine his game against high-major talent. Huestis still excelled, though, and left the Cardinal as the program’s all-time leader in career blocks (190).
He’s further grown his game to become more of a perimeter threat during his professional career, which is now entering its eighth year — an accomplishment that Huestis said the baby-faced high school version of him wouldn’t have believed possible.
“All I ever wanted was to be a professional basketball player. The fact that I’ve been able to do the things that I had always dreamed of — like hearing my name called in the draft, hearing my name called in an NBA starting lineup, guarding the best players in the world — if you would’ve told me that I was going to be able to do those things back then, I would’ve been the happiest guy in the world, because that’s all I ever wanted,” he said.