MISSOULA — Josh Bannan has had two major goals in his basketball career.
Representing Australia in the Olympics, and playing in the NBA.
Now, Bannan is taking a big step toward achieving those lofty dreams.
The three-year star for the Montana Grizzlies announced late Monday evening that he would be forgoing his remaining college eligibility to pursue a pro basketball career.
"It was a very hard decision," Bannan told MTN Sports on Tuesday. "The Griz is very special to me. Being a Montana Grizzly and having that be my college career, and I've been blessed to play here. I feel very fortunate, it's hard to step away from, but exciting to see what's next."
It brings to a close a career where Bannan made an immediate impact the minute he stepped on the court for the Griz. He started in 86 of the 91 games he played in in three seasons at Montana after traveling across the globe from Melbourne, Australia.
"I committed here based on this community," Bannan said. "I got here and I had great relationships with the coaches and the community here spoke so highly of this coaching staff, and I felt like that was something I wanted to be a part of and there was definitely some nerves about the weather, I knew it would be different. But I have no regrets about this decision, like this decision was one of the best decisions I've made in my life. I was lucky, I was very lucky.
"I've been fortunate to enjoy some success individually. The coaches have put a lot of faith in me. I've played a lot in my career and I've been fortunate in that way and developed a lot and been a part of some fun teams and some good teams so there's no regrets about this decision and I know it was the right decision."
Bannan's pedigree was decorated before he got to UM, and the Australian has received pro basketball interest ever since his youth playing career both at Basketball Australia's Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport as well as his time with the Australian U17 team.
When he got to Missoula, he thrived. But while he loved playing college ball at Montana, the timing to take this next step felt right for him.
"This year, I sort of felt like the interest had gotten to a point where I felt like it was the best step moving forward, that it was very strong interest and the sort of circumstances and the opportunity met what I'm sort of looking for," Bannan said.
But a big reason why he feels ready is thanks to his time at UM.
"I feel very fortunate, and I can't speak enough to how grateful I am for what this school has done to me and this coaching staff," Bannan said. "I've been privileged to play here and wear the Montana Grizzly jersey for three years, and they have prepared me for this. I wasn't prepared when I got here but I feel very prepared right now."
Bannan arrived to UM mid-pandemic in 2020 during his freshman year, and though the year itself was the hardest of them all, the Aussie showcased he had a high ceiling of potential.
Bannan admits that season was a grind and he almost went back home at its conclusion, but he decided to stick it out, and the rewards soon followed including 1,191 career points, 694 rebounds, 194 assists and two All-Big Sky selections including first-team recognition this past season when he averaged 15.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game as well as a team-high 112 assists.
"I feel like now after three years I'm leaving on the right foot," Bannan said. "I'm leaving here knowing I put everything into it and I sort of endured some of those tougher times. These three years helped me develop a lot of resilience. I grew a lot as an individual, as a basketball player but also as a person.
"All the gratitude goes to my parents there. Without them, I might've foolishly jumped into a decision to return home, and that wouldn't have been the right thing to do, but I'm lucky and I learned a lot from that process and now I have a much better understanding and I'm so glad I did that."
Bannan will stay at UM through the rest of the semester and will graduate with a degree in economics, another accomplishment in his three-year career.
From there, he'll try to link on with an NBA Summer League team before eventually working his way back home to compete in the National Basketball League, Australia's growing pro league, and maybe someday, the NBA itself.
But he'll cherish his time in Montana forever, and take it with him to the next level.
"I started my career a Griz and now I'm lucky to sort of move on to this next step, but I finished it as a Griz," Bannan said. "I will continue to brag about playing for the Montana Grizzlies and the University of Montana and representing this Missoula community, because that's really what it's about, and I've built great relationships with this coaching staff, with my teammates and with the community and I hope to sort of continue those and I feel like a Griz for life.
"I'm proud to call myself a Montana Grizzly and I will always call myself a Montana Grizzly."