Josh Primo was the youngest player in college basketball during his one-and-done season at Alabama. When Josh Primo suits up for the San Antonio Spurs, he’ll be the youngest player in the NBA.
But for an 18-year-old, he has the maturity of a 10-year vet, which is likely the by-product of being around the game for so long. At the high school level, Primo played at Huntington Prep, the same academy that produced the likes of Miles Bridges, Andrew Wiggins, and current Spurs teammate Keldon Johnson. He’s also gained a wealth of knowledge from his father and older sister.
“My dad, he never played basketball at the highest level, but he’s the biggest fan you’ll ever know,” Primo said in an exclusive interview with On Point Basketball. “He knows more about the game than a lot of people out there. My sister, obviously she played [Division I] when she played college.”
Having those two by his side made the decision to go to the draft easy for him.
“As soon as I said that I want to go into it, they said ‘let’s do it.’ They didn’t hesitate, so it made it easy for me not to as well.”
Most other guys in Primo’s position wouldn’t have gone straight to the draft. At a critical juncture in Alabama’s season, an MCL sprain forced him to miss two games during the SEC Tournament, plus the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Nobody would’ve faulted him for spending that offseason recovering, then coming back stronger to raise his draft stock.
Primo, though, told himself that he wouldn’t let the injury be something that prematurely ended his year. As soon as he could, he immediately got to work and decided to bet on himself. The bet paid off, as he rose up the draft board all the way to no. 12, getting chosen by the San Antonio Spurs, the team he wanted to be with from the start of the draft process.
When asked what made him decide to declare despite his setback, Primo did it “knowing that people hadn’t seen the best of me just yet. Going into the process, I knew that I hadn’t shown all I can do and I knew that what I could bring to the table was very intriguing for teams.”
And while Primo’s rise up the board surprised a lot of draft experts on the day, it didn’t surprise anyone in his inner circle. “The work that we put in was, it was constant, and it was thoughtful, it was precise. Everything was geared towards moving up in the draft and trying to compete against all the players that were coming in.”
Primo stated the best part about the pre-draft process was building relationships with other guys that he hadn’t played against coming into the draft. In a class that was loaded with Canadian talent, he recalls linking up with Eugene Omoruyi and Marcus Carr, in particular.
“Just being with those guys each and every day, working out together, them telling me their stories and how they made it through college and things like that, because those guys were the big bros for me. Especially cause they’re like four years – Eugene’s about six years older than me. Guys like that, I was watching them in their senior years balling out.”
While Omoruyi didn’t get drafted on the night, he still signed a two-way deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Carr, meanwhile, decided to return to college, transferring to Texas.
Primo, meanwhile, remembers his draft experience vividly. In addition to his dad and sister, he was with Todd Ramasar, founder of Life Sports Agency. He knew, from their very first conversation, that Ramasar would be a good fit for him.
“Whatever goals that I have, whatever energy I have, he was going to match it and sometimes double it. He wants to push me, he doesn’t want to put any limits on where I can take my game, so I love that about him and his process.”
Primo recalls how, on draft night, the TV they were watching went out, after the 11th pick no less. “I ended up having to see it on Todd’s phone … I had no idea I was going to be picked at 12 up until maybe a minute or two before. I told Todd to shut up at first because I didn’t believe him.”
Primo concluded by saying “all the emotions, all the ups and downs, all the hard work they put in, it all comes together. It was an amazing feeling, something that I can’t describe.”
It didn’t take long for Primo to bond with the other rookie the Spurs drafted that night, Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp. He remembers how they were brought to the same hotel the next day then became good friends before playing together at Summer League.
“We were able to bond over some music, just listen to what he’s got going on and then both of us just being able to talk about how crazy this situation is. I think it translated to the court pretty well.”
While Primo was the first Canadian player selected in this year’s draft, he knows he’s a part of something bigger. With over 20 Canadian-born players on NBA rosters this season, it’s safe to say that Canada Basketball has arrived at the next level.
When asked what’s contributed to the recent wave of talent coming into the league, Primo declared “it’s the chip on the shoulder, I think, that we all carry as Canadian players. Not being respected the way that we feel we should be, and I think that, at some point, you want to change that narrative.”
Citing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and RJ Barrett as “guys who are already up there”, as well as Shaedon Sharpe (consensus #1 2022 prospect), who’s set to take Kentucky by storm, he says that “everyone’s starting to gain that confidence that Canadians really can do this, and we’ve got all that it takes.”
Having already played nationally at the U19 level, Primo believes that the key to success for the Canadian team is for everyone to drop their egos and just do it for the country.
During Spurs training camp, Primo has gained some valuable insight from former players like Manu Ginobili, while meeting Gregg Popovich for the first time last week after he took an extended break from the Tokyo Olympics. Learning from a group of guys that have built a winning culture over two decades will serve him well and will help him achieve all his goals at the next level.
As far as the next generation of Canadian hoopers who want to get to where Primo’s at, he has a simple message.
“It takes complete dedication, it’s going to take a lot of sacrifices, and being able to always do the things that everyone else does, but it’s going to pay off. Not everything that you see happening on social media is going to happen to you. You have to trust your path and follow the path that’s been laid out for you.”
Photos Courtesy Life Sports Agency