Australian basketball phenom Josh Green seems to know exactly what to do in big moments.
In the final home game of his high school career, the 18-year-old IMG Academy star poured in a season-high 42 points to punctuate a regular season in which the Ascenders lost just once in 29 games. Making the moment especially sweet for Green was the fact his mother and sister were able to make the trip from Arizona to Florida to be in attendance for that senior night game on February 15.
Earlier in the season Green stood out with a team-high 19 points -- on just 11 shots -- and 10 rebounds as IMG outdueled Oak Hill Academy in a nationally televised matchup between two of the top-10 prep teams in the United States. Just imagine what the University of Arizona commit might have in mind for the prestigious McDonald's All American Game on March 27 in Atlanta.
Just as certain as Green playing well under bright lights is the soft-spoken 6-foot-6 shooting guard will take the success in stride afterward.
"Our biggest thing was just coming together and making sure that we finished on a good note," Green said of the 42-point game. "It was a really fun game, and I think we played really well as a team. It was cool to end my high school career like that."
IMG head coach Sean McAloon said Green didn't necessarily set out to fill up the bucket that night. It just so happened that IMG was without three starters due to injuries, and Green filled the vacuum.
"It wasn't like he did anything crazy or forced anything," McAloon said. "It was all within what we did as a team."
That could also be said to describe Green's senior season as a whole. Sometimes he pushed the tempo. Other times, he let the game come to him. When the situation called for it, he took over a game. But it was always within the framework of the team.
To wit, Green ranked second on the team with 16.6 points and 3.4 assists per game. He shot efficiently from the field, making 56.2 percent of his shots from the field, including 47.2 percent on 3-point attempts. He shot 72 percent on free throws and racked up a team-high 47 steals.
More and more people back home are discovering the rising star from Sydney, and the media hype continues to grow around him.
He was listed recently by GQ as one of Australia's 50 greatest living athletes - right alongside his superstar friend Ben Simmons and generational luminaries such as Lleyton Hewitt and Ian Thorpe. It's the type of buzz that can inflate the ego and create pressure to perform for some, but Green appears equipped to deal with the publicity.
"He doesn't really pay attention to a lot of that," said IMG assistant coach Trey Draper. "He has his eyes on the bigger prize, which is winning the national championship, having a great year at Arizona and hopefully getting to the NBA."
IMG is in the middle of a seven-week span between the regular season and a presumed berth in the GEICO High School Nationals championship tournament. The downtime marks a shift in preparation for Green and the Ascenders, who are spending more time in the weight room and running the stadium steps at the football facility for the first time since preseason workouts.
"During the season, it's maintenance," McAloon said. "Right now, you can actually concentrate on getting stronger, getting their conditioning back and pushing them to their limits."
With that in mind, McAloon will be riding his players hard this week before a layoff that will culminate with the McDonald's game for Green and teammates Armando Bacot and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
"Going into spring break, our biggest goal is to put a lot of effort in, stay disciplined and make sure that we're on the court a lot and continuing to get better," Green said.
Staying sharp and disciplined during the doldrums between competition might be a concern with some players. That's unlikely to ever be the case with Green, according to Draper.
The IMG assistant, who played guard at the University of Memphis, said Green's work ethic reminds him of former college teammate and current Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton. Draper and Green regularly work one-on-one together in practice, and Draper raves about the effort put forth by the Aussie prodigy.
"He's always texting me and calling me to get in the gym," Draper said. "I tend to compare Josh to a high-class vehicle. We're fine-tuning everything, but we're specifically working on his ball handling, pick-and-roll coverages and putting the ball in his left hand a little bit more. It's like I have the keys to a Ferrari, and I've just got to make it better."
Looking ahead to the McDonald's game, his coach will be someone familiar to the Green family. Kurt Keener, head coach at Gilbert Christian School in Arizona, coached Josh's brother Jay at the club level a few years ago. At that time, Keener got to see Josh show his skills while playing in a younger age group, and he made an impression on the longtime coach.
"What I remember most about Josh as a 14 or 15-year-old was that he really had a high basketball IQ," Keener said. "You could tell even at that age. The other guys really liked playing with him, because he was such an unselfish player."
Green's teammates on the West roster will include Robinson-Earl and fellow University of Arizona commit Nico Mannion. Bacot will suit up for the East squad.
Keener, with more than 40 years of coaching experience and 800-plus wins under his belt, is in a good position to assess skills and offer comparisons. Prior to his semi-retirement in Arizona he coached future NBA players such as Chris Webber, Shane Battier and JaVale McGee during a long tenure at Detroit Country Day School in Michigan.
When asked to compare Josh to other notable players he's seen over the years, Keener unexpectedly compares Green's skills to those of a future Golden State Warriors star who emerged in the mid-2000s.
"I remember Draymond Green as a high school player back in Michigan," Keener said. "Draymond was a big, strong guard who could attack the basket and shoot. I won't say Josh is like him from an emotional standpoint, but in terms of his skill set, that's probably the player I would compare Josh to."
Keener was a member of the McDonald's selection committee for many years and attended the game several times when his players were selected. He knows the event is something the athletes will cherish for years to come.
"It's a celebration of their high school career," Keener said of the McDonald's game. "They'll have an opportunity to showcase their skills. It's nice because it's a nationally televised game on ESPN. For many Americans, it might be the first time they see these kids play. So in many ways, it can be kind of a coming-out party.
There won't be much time for Green to bask in the afterglow of the McDonald's game, though. Barely a week later, IMG is almost certain to be competing for the national high school title in New York at the GEICO championship. Days after that, he travels to Portland, Oregon, for his second appearance in the Nike Hoop Summit.
While Green concentrates on those more immediate goals, he is aware of the upcoming 2019 FIBA World Cup, to be held August 31 to September 15 in China. The tournament draw will be held this Saturday, and while Green doesn't want to get ahead of himself, he said he would be honored to be considered for Team Australia's roster.
"I just want to make sure I focus on getting to college first," Green said. "If I'm lucky enough to play on the men's team, I would definitely consider that. I think that would be a strong possibility to go out and play for them."