Assistant coach Joel Justus has joined Bobby Hurley‘s staff after working the past seven seasons at Kentucky, including the past five as the assistant coach. He previously worked as the director of analytics and as the special assistant to the head coach.
“I am really excited to welcome coach Joel Justus to the Sun Devil family,” said Sun Devil Head Coach Bobby Hurley. “Joel’s experiences working at Kentucky for the last seven years are invaluable. He checks all the boxes in what you look for in a high-level coach. I am really enthusiastic about the opportunity to work together and further advance Sun Devil Men’s Basketball.”
Justus helped Kentucky to another Southeastern Conference regular-season title in 2020 and was a key part in what many tabbed as the best recruiting class in the country in 2020. Highlighted as one of the top young assistants in the country, The Athletic tabbed Justus one of the top 40 people in college basketball under 40 and ESPN named him one of the nation’s top 40 coaches less than 40 years old in 2020.
“Joel talked to me about this opportunity to be at Arizona State with a terrific coach in Bobby Hurley,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “He had my blessing, but I want to make sure we all recognize that we are losing someone who was a big, big part of all our success over the last several years. From Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to Keldon Johnson to Immanuel Quickley and others, Joel was not only the point guy with some of our players who became special, he helped develop them, teach them and challenge them. Joel is one of the top young assistants in the country who I believe will make a heck of a head coach someday soon. I wish him the best and I will always be a great supporter of his.”
A 2004 graduate of UNC Wilmington, Justus joined the staff for the historic 2014-15 season as the director of analytics. Using his analytics, Kentucky’s players bought in to a two-platoon system that helped the Wildcats become one of the most efficient teams in the country, including the most dominant defensive team in recent history, as UK became the first team in college basketball history to start a season 38-0.
He analyzed player and team performance, utilizing various stats and data to help develop efficient strategies through video. He developed tools that streamlined the decision-making process of the coaching staff using advanced statistical modeling and analysis. He also analyzed large data sets to aid the coaching staff’s scouting reports as well as postgame analysis. He assisted in day-to-day operations of the program, which included coordinating with NBA personnel while assisting in many areas of basketball operations.
After successfully integrating analytics into the daily culture of the program, he was elevated to special assistant to the head coach for the 2015-16 season. With his previous responsibilities remaining an active part of his duties, Justus’ role expanded to include scouting future opponents, providing strategies to help advance the program and assisting with special projects assigned by John Calipari.
In his first season as an assistant coach, Kentucky won both the SEC regular-season and tournament championships while advancing to the Elite Eight. He played a key part in securing what the Recruiting Services Consensus Index calculates as the best recruiting class ever in 2017 and the No. 1 class in 2020.
In 2017-18, he was instrumental in the development of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who developed from a rather overlooked piece of UK’s 2017 signing class into the SEC Tournament’s most valuable player as UK won its fourth straight tournament championship.
During the 2018-19 season, as Kentucky advanced to another Elite Eight, Justus played a key part in the development of SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year Ashton Hagans. He also worked closely with NBA first-round picks Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro. Justus played a similar role with 2020 SEC Player of this Year Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey, both first-round picks.
Justus came to UK after serving as the head coach at Davidson Day High School in Davidson, North Carolina. In both years at the helm, he guided the Patriots to the Elite Eight in the state tournament.
Prior to his time at Davidson Day, Justus served as the head boys’ basketball coach at Woodberry Forest School in Woodberry, Virginia, from 2008-12. During his time at Woodberry Forest, he guided his team to the Virginia Prep League regular-season championship in 2010 while advancing to the Virginia Prep League championship game in consecutive years, a first in more than two decades.
Justus has spent time in college basketball as an assistant coach at Elon University from 2004-08, where he helped guide the Phoenix to a Northern Division title in 2006 and the Southern Conference championship game in 2008.
He helped the Seahawks as a student-athlete capture two Colonial Athletic Association titles, make three postseason appearances (NIT in 2001 and NCAA in 2002 and 2003) and was team captain his senior season.
Justus has a son, Deacon Archer Justus, 6.