Former Syracuse swingman’s triumph for return.
Josh Pace is home in Georgia, sweating bullets under the scintillating summer sun. In between workouts, the former Syracuse standout is caught in back in the day conversation—never a rarity during these mundane, summer dog days.
“I still can’t believe that shit went in!” bursts Pace, harkening back on then Vermont guard T.J. Sorrentine’s parking lot prayer.
Yes, it was that oceanic-deep three-pointer Sorrentine nailed that pushed Vermont to a titanic upset of the Orange in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Pace still recalls aspects of his last college game, a brutal first round flameout.
Despite an ill memory bank, JPace doesn’t dwell on the past or harp on old school wins and losses. Always forward Pace is moving, at a frantic pace no matter what obstacles he needs to defy. That’s why a 6-4 wing who everyone and their mother’s best friend’s cousin’s baby mother’s dog walker had pigeonholed as a tweener is hell bent on playing at the highest stratosphere.
“I mean, I’m just trying to get that opportunity,” says Pace of the prospect of cracking an NBA roster.
For Pace, the road to high-level success has been about as straight as the San Francisco nightlife. Pace had workouts with the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors and was denied a roster spot. So over the pond it was.
Similar to Weezy and Lloyd, Pace’s game took him all around the world.
What began with workouts in Italy and Lebanon evolved into stints in Finland and New Zealand. In New Zealand, Pace quickly surfaced as an All-Star. The wiry kid from Griffin, GA averaged 19.1 points for the Nelson Giants and garnered the ultimate accolade—league MVP—his final season.
“It was a good league, not a super good league, but it was something to use towards working on my game and becoming a better player,” he says.
Pace is a slasher by heart. His proclivity for splitting into the driving lanes and draining a floater hasn’t dwindled. Years later, Pace is still an oil-smooth southpaw who likes to permeate the driving lanes or let fly a feathery mid-range jay coming off the screen. Scoring off the dribble and taking an opponent mano y mano isn’t out of his nature either.
He won a national championship with Syracuse back in 2003, when Carmelo Anthony took the NCAA by storm and a fresh-faced Gerry McNamara buried trey after trey in the first half en route to sending Kansas home with naked fingers.
While Pace exited Syracuse on a disappointing note, his departure from Estonia (a nation in Northern Europe’s Baltic Region) came with a memorable sendoff. Pace helped steer BC Kalev to the Estonian League championship last year.
“Everyone played the same amount of minutes, everyone contributed. We had no egos on the team. I think it was good for the system,” said Pace, who recently hooped against the likes of Jarret Jack, Louis Williams, Josh Smith, and a slew of leaguers in Atlanta’s PRO-AM summer league.
“I played good, but we lost in the second round of the playoffs. Right now I’m just focused on my next step.”
All signs indicate that next step is the NBA Developmental League.
Since Pace’s name was entered into the player pool for November’s D-League draft, a bevy of teams have shown more love than a Vivid Video flick.
Though his uniform may have changed throughout the years, Pace’s style of play hasn’t.
“As a player, I try to do it all,” says Pace. “Rebound, score, steal. I try to be a jack of all trades.”
Zach Smart has written for Big East Basketball Report, Hoops Addict and The East Coast Bias. Read more on his blog.