SLAM x Panini Rookie Spotlight: Rockets’ Josh Christopher

It seems like only yesterday that we were following Josh Christopher around Lakewood, California, through the neighborhood and high school (Mayfair) where he rose to fame.

Back then in 2019, Mayfair head coach Tony Davis had this to say about Christopher: “He’s definitely very charismatic, and as a basketball player, he’s always had a level of confidence that’s rare. I think that’s something that helps separate him: he has an undying belief in his abilities and you don’t see that in teenagers.”

He has an undying belief in his abilities.. She spends time with Christopher and that becomes obvious. The extremely talented guard also exudes confidence. He made Davis a believer. It made SLAM a believer. He made a believer out of anyone who paid attention to hoops in high school.

At 6-3, with impressive athleticism, versatility and playmaking skills, Christopher became a five-star recruit and top 12 prospect in his class. As he told SLAM in 2019, when he graced the magazine’s cover alongside HS superstars Jalen Green and Sharife Cooper, he too is hungry to be big. “I think people don’t realize how much I love basketball,” he said. “I think they think I’m using basketball as a way to do other things and not because I like the game. They don’t see, I put a lot of work. I put in a lot of work.

“I watch basketball. I know basketball. Basketball is my life.”

Christopher spent one season at Arizona State (it was the highest-rated commitment in school history), averaging 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. The Rockets took him with the 24the general selection in the 2021 Draft, where Green, Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba also obtained. Christopher played sparingly for the first few months of the season, spending some time in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, averaging 22 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 2.0 steals in three appearances.

In mid-December, Rockets head coach Stephen Silas began giving him more minutes and Christopher began to show glimpses of his potential: 18 points on 7/7 from the field and 4/4 from 3 in a win over the Rockets. Nets; 17 points and 4 assists against the Cavaliers; 14 points and 3 steals against the Lakers. His perimeter shot has been up and down, but the Caleño has always known how to find a way to score. He fearlessly attacks the rim, stopping for small mid-range jumpers in the paint and pushing it in transition. The cunning and handling of him make him a hard top one on one. He likes to put on a show (see here). And of course, he is not shy.

He has an undying belief in his abilities..

The city of Houston is learning more and more about those skills. Silas is looking into the future and untying the fledglings from him. Christopher is averaging 9.9 points on 46 percent shooting from the field so far in March. He posted double figures in four straight outings, including a 21-point performance (in just 22 minutes) in an overtime win over the Lakers last Wednesday. He also filled the stat sheet when the Rockets visited the Heat on March 7: 16 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and a steal.

We recently spent a “day off” with Christopher. What we learned is that he basically has to be forced to take them. “Honestly, I am very happy to be a rookie and play basketball; when I’m bored in the crib, I want to go to the gym”, he told us. “So our coaching staff threatened to take all my shoes out of my locker last night because I said I was going back to the gym. Days off are great, but I like being in the gym. So days off, I’m happy to have them, but I might as well do without them.”

what did you say USA Today in February, “I’m all about results. You can’t get results if you don’t work hard. When your work pays off, it makes me want to do more, honestly. I am addicted to improvement. I just have to keep working.”

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