LAS VEGAS -- Former Great Falls CMR basketball star Josh Huestis signed a new G League contract last week to play with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in February and March.
Huestis, a two-time Montana Gatorade player of the year who helped CMR to back-to-back Class AA state championships in 2009 and 2010, has been playing professional basketball since 2014 when he was selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 29th pick in the first round of the NBA Draft after a standout career at Stanford. He most recently played professionally in Germany, but Huestis hasn't played a competitive game of basketball since March of 2020, last playing just before the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports across the world.
After news of his signing was released, Huestis took the time to visit with MTN Sports about his career, the challenges of the past year and what life has in story for him and his wife, Haley.
MTN Sports: What are your details of your signing and what does the timeline look like?
Josh Huestis: "Signed with Rio Grande Valley, the affiliate for the Houston Rockets, and going to be doing the G League bubble down in Orlando. As of now, I think some of the finer details are still being worked out, but as of now, going to be headed to Texas for medicals, things like that. I’m going to be headed there Jan. 19 as of now, spend some time there, then we head to Orlando and games start Feb. 8 and then playoffs go from March 5-9."
MTN Sports: How did this signing come about for you?
Huestis: "The team has had my G League rights for a few years now, and Houston has always been a team that’s interested in me. I have a relationship with them through that, my agent has been in talks with them. The way things worked that they were going to be in the G League bubble that they had interest in bringing me on board, and 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."
MTN Sports: The last time our Tom Wylie talked with you, it was July of 2019. It's been a while, and since then you've played in Germany. What was that experience like?
Huestis: "It was different, it was definitely a learning experience. 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 everybody. It’s definitely difficult, but I think it makes you a better player and person overall."
MTN Sports: Did your wife go with you, or were you over there by yourself?
Huestis: "She came with me, which was great. I mean, it would definitely be difficult to be over there by myself in a new country, new culture and everything, so definitely blessed to have had her come with me, and made the transition easier."
MTN Sports: 2020 was kind of a lost year for a lot of people, and it's been a while since a lot of guys have played basketball. What was the past year like for you as you were trying to navigate the pandemic and everything else that was going on?
Huestis: "It was a lot of questions marks. I came back to the States just before all the lockdowns started. From there, it was a big question of when or if the season was even going to get started again. Nobody had any clue what the plan was, how it was going to be done safely, so I spent the whole time working out trying to stay ready, because I never knew when I would get that call that, you know, season’s going to start in a week, a month, whatever the case may be. I spent a lot of just trying to stay ready, because I never knew what was going to happen. It was a long, I think it’s been — what — 10 months now since the pandemic kind of kicked off for us here, but I’m excited that we’ve reached a point that I’ve been able to find a place to play and we can do it safely."
MTN Sports: Without basketball, obviously you're working out waiting for the next call, but what else have you been doing? What do you do to kill time when you're not playing basketball?
Huestis: "We were fortunate enough to be able to, we drove up to see my family in Great Falls. This summer we went to Idaho to see my wife’s family as well. My family drove down and visited us. Did that. Phoenix isn’t very far away. Have some friends that live over there, so we would drive to Phoenix. Unfortunately, the pandemic’s made it hard to do a whole lot of things, you know what I mean? We didn’t want to fly anywhere, be around a lot of people, so that’s been tough. But one good thing is we moved into a new home, so we were able to spend a lot of the time getting the house put together the way we like it. We’ve got a baby on the way, so that’s always exciting. That’s kept us busy getting ready for that, too."
MTN Sports: What prompted to pick Vegas as that landing spot for you?
Huestis: "Vegas is a place I’ve been training for a few years. The gym that I work out at is Impact, and since we figured that each summer I would be back in Vegas training here for sure, we figured why not buy a place to be able to call home and have that consistency and that solid foundation, just because we’ve been bouncing from rental to rental for years now, so it felt like the right time to be able to get something a little bit more permanent."
MTN Sports: You talked about not knowing when that phone call was going to come to play again. Mentally, what toll does that take on you not knowing if, when you're going to have a job?
Huestis: "It’s tough. 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 that’s solid, it can get taxing, you know what I mean? 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. I tried to look at in a positive way, like getting the opportunity to spend more time in my new home and spend more time with my wife that otherwise I wouldn’t have had."
MTN Sports: Now that you do have the G League opportunity, what are you hoping to get out of this G League contract?
Huestis: "I’m just looking to go down to Orlando and just play as hard as I can and just play my game. I try not to go into anything with expectations in terms of numbers or anything like that, just more so just goals I know I’m in control of: play hard, play the right way. Obviously I’ve been working really hard this year, so I feel like I’ve taken my game to a really good level, and I’m just hoping that’ll translate once I get down there."
MTN Sports: Do you still think about the guys that you played with and played under at Great Falls CMR?
Huestis: "I think about it all the time. I stay in contact with everybody. Those were some of the best times of my life, because those guys that were on that team with me were guys I had been playing with since I was in third grade, so we had all grown up together and we were all best friends. I think back on it fondly — like, I was super, super blessed to be able to be successful, win state championships and play with my best friends. That’s the dream, right?"
MTN Sports: If you had told Josh Huestis in 2009 that a decade later he would still be on this NBA path, what would you have thought back then to know that this is the way things were going to go for you?
Huestis: "I would’ve been ecstatic. I mean, 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. … .001% of people that play high school basketball ever get this chance to be able to do the things that I’ve done. I’m super blessed, and I wouldn’t change anything about my path."