MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. - His British accent isn't the only thing that made Julius Joseph stand out during his three years playing basketball at Georgia College & State University from 1997-2000. The 2008 inductee to the GCSU Athletic Hall of Fame was the first All-American of the NCAA era of Georgia College men's basketball, reaching Division II Bulletin Honorable Mention All-American status in 2000, a feat only achieved once in the years since by a Bobcat cager.
Joseph was the best player on arguably the best team in program history during that 1999-2000 season, a year when playing as an undersized 6-foot-4 center, he led a balanced Georgia College attack with 14.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest. The Bobcats made it to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, buzzing through the competition with a 25-6 record, tying for the most wins in school history.
"That Elite Eight team was one of the best teams I've ever been a part of," said Joseph. "It seemed that during that season, each guy on the roster helped us win games. If one guy didn't have it for whatever reason that night, another would step up and get it done."
With a knack for getting to the line, a sign of a great player, Joseph set the school records in both free-throws made (151) and attempted (202) that season. He's 10th in GCSU career records with 445 rebounds, second with 305 free-throws made and ninth in free-throw percentage (.753). His 60 double-digit scoring games ranks sixth in school history, and he once scored double-digits in 34 straight games.
"What made Julius so special is his status as a complete player," said Georgia College head coach Terry Sellers. "He excelled in offense, defense and had all of the intangibles. On top of that, he had the most amazing work ethic. I've never coached a player with a stronger desire to improve."
Add in another All-PBC performer in Earl Grant with 3.8 assists per game and 13.3 points per contest, as well as Mike Jones at 12.0 points and John John Steensland at 11.7 points, and one can see how this was one of the best teams in league history.
The Bobcats were regular-season champs that season, thanks to a 13-3 PBC record. USC Spartansburg ended the team's run at the conference tournament title with a 72-69 tally. This left the Bobcats with something to prove going into the NCAA South Atlantic Regional Tournament. An 11-point win over Gardner-Webb started the tourney, and Georgia College kept it going with wins over Winston Salem State 72-68 and downed Columbus State 68-62 for the region title. Both Gardner-Webb and Winston Salem State are now Division I programs.
The amazing run came to a close at the hands of Seattle Pacific 77-65, but it couldn't dampen the excitement of a great season.
Joseph's Post-Georgia College Success
Next to perhaps baseball's Milt Hill, who spent seasons in Major League Baseball with the Cincinnati Reds, Joseph has had the most successful professional sports career of any Georgia College alumnus.
Joseph started with the Manchester Giants in the English League for one season, moving to Bree in the Belgium League for the next three years. After one season with Naterre in France, Joseph returned to his native England to play with the Scottish Rox of the English League.
He joined the Rox so he could represent the English National Team in the Commonwealth Games, helping his countrymen to a bronze medal in 2006. All told, Joseph has been on the English National squad for 60 games, ranking in the top-20 in the English team's history.
While with the Rox, Joseph helped the team to an English League finalist spot in 2007 and 2006, including a spot in the final game of the English League Cup in 2007. His stellar 2006 season landed him a spot on the All-English League Team.
With all of his basketball honors, he says the GCSU Athletic Hall of Fame sticks out.
"I was overwhelmed, the magnitude and rarity of the award is extremely important to me. That honor shows how much the school and people at Georgia College appreciated my efforts and the efforts of the special teams I played on."
From London to Milledgeville Through Hard
Sellers ran across Joseph while working as a guest clinician at a basketball camp in Europe. Current UNC Pembroke women's head coach John Haskins offered Sellers a role in this camp, and he jumped at the chance.
"It was a high-profile camp," said Sellers, "a great opportunity to work with some solid players and learn from other coaches. Julius was there for two years, and was a solid player."
Sellers admits that by no means did he look at Joseph then as a player who was going to lead his Bobcats to a region title.
"It was a great opportunity at an education and I couldn't pass it up," said Joseph. "Coach Sellers taught me about hard work and overcoming obstacles to get what you want."
Joseph started out near the end of the bench in his first season, starting just eight of his 28 games and averaging 4.3 points, 2.4 rebounds per contest for his sophomore campaign. In his junior season, he jumped to 17.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, leading the Bobcats to both the regular season and PBC Tournament titles.
"Julius' improvement from his sophomore to junior season was like none other I've seen in my history as a coach," said Sellers, the now 24-year head coaching veteran. "He just refused to be anything but great."
"I had a scholarship to play basketball," said Joseph. "I felt I needed to earn that right to an education. I never wanted to take it for granted."
Joseph parlays that into great words of advice for every youngster he runs across considering playing basketball at the collegiate level in the United States.
"I tell them to jump at the chance. I've learned that things don't always fall in your lap, and the harder you work the more opportunities will arise. It's an opportunity for a good education, and a great experience learning the game of basketball. I'm always looking for players to recommend to Coach Sellers."
Joseph's successes still surprise his old skipper.
"With his work ethic and the unbelievable improvement he achieved here, I shouldn't be surprised of his success in the professional leagues in Europe, but I still am. He was not a great athlete. He wasn't the fastest, or the strongest and didn't jump the highest. His heart and work ethic more than made up for any deficiencies as well as his sheer will to improve."
"He was what every coach looks for in a student-athlete. He never took anything for granted, and was just so solid both on the court and off. He was a young man that was just a joy to coach."
The GCSU Department of Athletics sponsors 10 NCAA Division II athletic programs over three seasons. As a Division II program, GCSU prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the Bobcats' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Follow the Bobcats and their positive impact on the Milledgeville community at www.gcsu.edu/bobcats.