clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Working His Way Up: Assistant Coach Joel Justus

Justus is a star on the rise in the coaching ranks.

Joel Justus #5 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

For most people, it's a long way to the top of the heap.

When you look at the landscape of College Basketball, there are only a few blue blooded programs across the country. This makes it unlikely, for lack of shear numbers, to have that many job opportunities.

So how, did a player from UNC Wilmington make it all the way to be an assistant coach for Kentucky? Such is the long way to the top for Joel Justus.

Following his playing career from 2001-04, Justus became an assistant coach at Elon University in North Carolina. This allowed Justus to take two separate High School head coaching positions for the next several years. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

Becoming the first Director of Analytics for Kentucky basketball in the magical season of 2014-15, Justus’ work lead to Coach Calipari forming the platoon system. This system allowed his players to learn one another’s tendencies, and change on the fly, almost like a hockey line change.

Unfortunately, Alex Poythress’ injury lead to the downfall of the entire platoon system, although pieces of it were kept in place. Justus’ bold interpretation of the data was a roaring success for the season, as UK set an all-time wins in a row mark of 38 (we won’t talk about the 39th game).

With the departure of Karl-Anthony Towns, the Harrison twins, and WCS, Coach Cal tweaked his staff up. Justus became the new special assistant to the head coach. This allowed him to absorb everything Cal put into every day. This also allowed him to see first hand how Cal recruited the best of the best to become Wildcats.

Starting with last years 2016-17 team, Coach Justus was moved up to assistant coach. John Robic took a less involved role with the team to focus the day to day preparation of the Wildcats. This has placed Justus not only in the role to help scout future players, but also play an active part in their recruitment.

Justus was instrumental in the recruitment of Bam Adebayo, who shocked everyone with his sudden swing toward Kentucky after NC State was the heavy favorite for much of his recruitment.

Justus continues in that role today. This summer, he spent a wealth of his time at seemingly every recruiting event to scout and recruit for any possible future Cats. He’s listed as the lead recruiter for both Keldon Johnson and Immanuel Quickley, two players who Kentucky is considered the favorite for.

Where will Joel Justus be beyond this year?

With it becoming more and more likely that Cal’s other assistants, Tony Barbee and Kenny Payne, will have head-coaching duties at other schools in the not too distant future, Coach Justus is poised to become the Wildcats lead assistant at some point.