Bucks guard A.J. Green has felt right at home in Milwaukee. Here is how he's connected.
Twenty years ago, little A.J. Green was brought to the basketball offices on the campus of Marquette University so father and son could eat McDonald’s and have a desktop picnic. Those 30 minutes a day of father-son time are some of his dad’s fondest memories.
But they’ve expanded now.
Green is wrapping up his rookie stint with the Milwaukee Bucks, and while his playing time is nearing the end, it’s been another good chapter of his basketball life - in Milwaukee in particular - for the 23-year-old guard.
Green is playing on a a two-way contract for the NBA-leading Bucks (53-21), which means he can’t suit up for the playoffs. He gets 50 games a season and after 32 games in Milwaukee with the Bucks and seven with the G-League affiliate Wisconsin Herd in Oshkosh, his contract time is almost up. The Bucks didn’t activate him for the last home game against the San Antonio Spurs, trying to extend his availability a little longer. Unfortunately, that was the one and only game his dad, Kyle Green, could get to Milwaukee this season.
“But it was just cool to be there and experience it,” Kyle said. “We really like Milwaukee; A.J. has family there.”
It's been a worthwhile learning and playing experience in Green's first year as a pro. And it's been a homecoming of sorts for the Green family.
A.J. Green's dad was an assistant coach at Marquette in 2003-04
Kyle Green is a basketball coach who worked as an assistant for the Marquette men’s team for one season, the year after the Final Four, in 2003-04. The Golden Eagles went to the NIT semifinals that season with Travis Diener and Steve Novak. Green also had a hand in recruiting Wesley Matthews to come to Marquette; Matthews now plays for the Bucks.
A.J. Green was about 4 years old then, so he doesn’t remember much at all about Marquette, or the Bucks; he can only recall that his Wauwatosa home was near a pond.
“And we went to the zoo a lot,” he said.
Kyle Green wanted to be head coach, which is why he left Marquette after a year to coach Lewis University in Chicago, a Division III school.
“I loved it at Marquette, I loved the guys I worked with, I loved the players,” Kyle said. “Marquette is full of unbelievable people and basketball is important to all the people around the program. It was my first exposure to high-level basketball. And then I got an opportunity to recruit at a national level for the first time that was awesome.
“Just hearing Bo Ellis stories made the year worth it. My only regret was not to stick around to coach Wes, that would have been fun.”
The Minneapolis native went on to coach at several places, including UW-Eau Claire during the 2011-12 season. But Green spent most of his time at Northern Iowa: 16 seasons in all, playing a role in more than 300 victories in three stints at the school.
Green is now in his second season as an assistant at Iowa State.
A.J. Green played in Milwaukee AAU tournament as a youth before returning to city with Bucks after college
A.J. played at Northern Iowa as well and was named the 2022 Larry Bird Missouri Valley Conference player of the year as a junior.
But even after the family moved and settled in Iowa, A.J. Green still returned to Milwaukee every year. His AAU team, the Iowa Barnstormers, played in the Swish 'n Dish, the annual NY2LA tournament held here in the spring (and set for Friday through Sunday in Mequon and Milwaukee).
After Green got his degree and finished four years at UNI, he still had a year of eligibility left. He debated whether to pursue a spot at Iowa State, or Duke, if he went back to college, or test the professional waters. He decided to pursue his pro career and after he went undrafted the family was rooting for the Bucks to sign him. A.J.'s mom, Michele (Svoboda) Green, is from Cushing, Wisconsin near the Minnesota border.
“I had an idea of what the city was like,” A.J. said. “Obviously, good basketball, good players, and good people. I knew that Milwaukee liked me, but it was not a sure thing. I’m so glad it was here.”
Green has made the most of his time working with and training with the Bucks. It hasn't translated to a ton of playing time – he's averaging 4.3 points in 9.4 minutes per game – but he has had a few opportunities to show off his gorgeous three-pointer. It makes you yearn for a Bill Raftery "Nothin' but Nylon" reference.
Green excelled in seven games with the Herd, where the team uses nearly identical plays, terms and team philosophies as the Bucks.
“It’s pretty similar,” Green said. “Whether it's plays, habits, culture, they try to do the same thing throughout the organization.”
Once Green’s official playing time is over, he will still stick around and pick up as much immersive experience as possible.
“He just decided to take the leap of faith," Kyle Green said. "He feels like, and I know I feel like, it's really paid off. He's been fortunate to be where he is and had the experiences he's had.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bucks guard A.J. Green enjoying time in Milwaukee with Bucks