6/16/11

Thompson and Joesph Draw A Crowd.

Maybe there is hope for basketball in this country. On a day when the Stanley Cup would be decided with a Canadian team in it, still there was a massive turnout for a Raptor Draft workout. The reason why was the presence of Tristan Thompson and Cory Joesph. The two kids that turned head at Texas had made their way home to workout for the hometown Raptors. But this was not one of those token gestures we have seen in the past. Cory and Tristan had already worked out in other cities together in Houston and elsewhere.

The two are longtime friends and played together at Finley Prep then on to the Texas Longhorns. If they had decided to stay at Texas there was more Canadian content on the way. Myck Kabongo is on his way to Texas also from Finley Prep and has been a guest here in the DNB on several occasions. But Myck was supportive of Tristan's decision and encouraged it.

Thompson:
"It was tough. But he knew he wanted what was best for me. He told me himself don't stay because of me. If your ready and he thought I was ready, he felt that I should have left so that's what I did. He supports everything I do."


Tristan, Cory and Myck are all part of the first generation of kids to grow up with the Raptors in their home town. and in Canada. The fact of having the NBA here, at least in part, Thompson gives credit too in helping him make his goals of where he is today a reality.

Thompson:
"You think it is reachable having a pro team in your city. It definitely motivated me to have those three letters on my jersey."


That was something Steve Nash didn't have. But Thompson and Joseph and generation of kids have had both Nash and Raptors to inspire them. Thompson could surpass Nash as the highest drafted Canadian a week from today. However Thompson seemed unconcerned with that and more concerned with the fit of where he would be drafted. He said if he was drafted at 18th pick and in a better situation he would be happy. Nash for the record was selected at the number 15 pick. Thompson currently in most mock drafts is a projected lottery pick.

While Thompson is in a secure position in terms of being drafted, Cory Joesph is not in that same spot as Thompson. But Joesph and Thompson are working with John Lucas in Houston. Who Raptor fans know well based on his relationship with another former Texas product and former Raptor in T.J Ford. While Joesph like anyone else wants to be drafted as high as possible he is prepared for the situation if he is not drafted.

Joesph
"I would go to Europe or the D-League one of the two if I don't get drafted. Everybody thinks about that I always have to have a plan B."


Joesph says he made the decision himself ultimately and will deal with the situation whatever happens. But it does seem he was impressive in the workout with Raptors. He and Tristan have had a great relationship and taken this journey together. But on Thursday that will likely come to end at least for now. In the short term it might be unlikely for Joesph to end up with Raptors but the goal and the idea of it excites him.

Joesph
"It would be great. Growing up watching the T-Mac and Vince when they were here. It would be an honour."


An honour to play for the Raptors is something you don't hear from guys and feel they mean it after watching many come and go. But this generation of kids that have grown up with the Raptors lead by Thompson, Joesph and Kabongo offer a different perspective. It is an important time for Toronto as these kids start coming along as legitimate prospects for the NBA. When you look at Thompson as a Raptor it is a bit less clear. Thompson as player provides things the Raptors clearly lack in terms of defence and rebounding. However the position he would play in the NBA at power forward is one where the Raptors already have a lot of options. Here is what Tristan had to say on the prospect of being a Raptor.

Thompson
" It means a lot being from Canada and playing for the Raptors. It be a great opportunity. But at the same time they got do what is best for their organization. I want to be put in a position where I am going start. So if I am drafted by the Raptors I am happy. If I am not there is no hate, no bad blood. They did what they had to do. Whatever team picks me I will be excited. "


Which sums up the problem the Raptors face. Amir Johnson and Ed Davis also would be guys that are already in place to be the starter at that position. Thompson stepping in year one and starting in Toronto seems unlikely. But it is a unique opportunity for both him and the Raptors if he were to come home to Toronto and Canada. What might have happened today was more of building a relationship between the two that would extend beyond the draft. Things change rapidly in this NBA and Thompson if he is successful is always going be a player that you have to feel will have interest for the Raptors. Vancouver was in a similar position and passed on Steve Nash. But thanks to Thompson and this new generation of kids coming up the options of Canadians that could be NBA Talents is growing.

The one thing that has impressed me with Thompson, Joesph and Kabongo is the type of kids they are. They all are very humble but also very confident at the same time. It was quite a huge media turnout for both yesterday. But they seemed comfortable with it and at easy going about it all. That is something that the Raptors will or should take note of as well. Whoever the first Canadian to play for the Raptors will be someday, will be under a tremendous amount of pressure both on and off the floor. It seems that these kids are all capable of handling that aspect of being that guy in the spotlight. Thompson noted the massive turnout, and Joesph said that this was much different from his other workouts.

In the two years of covering the Raptors short of Steve Nash and Vince Carter these were some of the largest scrums I have seen. It makes you smile and hopeful as a Canadian and a fan of basketball. Both credit Ro Russell for helping them in their journey to this point. He has played a large role for them and been someone that has helped guide them along the way.

Bryan Colangelo having a desire to get a second first round pick makes the temptation to draft Tristan Thompson a lot more realistic. Milwaukee where both Cory and Tristan have worked out if you believe the mock drafts seems to be the most likely landing spot for Thompson.

It is kind of ironic that kids that grew up on the Raptors are both considered players that have a tremendous defensive skill set. That is not something they learned from watching the Raptors. Thompson said that he has always had coaches that stressed the mantra of defence wins championships. Something that has not been prominent in the Raptors history. The Raptors despite the fact it might take some work on both sides of things could do far worse than acquiring a player like Thompson. Be it a week from today or somewhere down the line Tristan Thompson is a guy that could be intriguing for the Raptors in the future. Taking the Raptors personal interests out of the mix, it is just nice to see a generation of kids that the Raptors presence has inspired starting to develop and take their talents to the NBA. However the more that come. the more will grow the desire of fans for one of these kids to take their talent to Toronto and Canada. Short of winning an NBA Championship it could be the biggest thing to impact on the Raptors nationally with casual basketball and sports fans. The dream of a Canadian Raptor is coming closer everyday, even if that day may not be next Thursday.

It has been something that here in this blog we have talked about a lot. Raptors or not these are great kids and to have more Canadians in the NBA is good for interest in the game here in Canada on all levels. Which is a good thing for anyone that considers themselves a fan of the sport.

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