It has been a big year for Cory Joseph playing on a Texas Team that was in the top of the Rankings in the NCAA Tournament. Deciding to enter the NBA Draft and eventually getting selected in the first round by an NBA Franchise that makes few mistakes in the draft in the San Antonio Spurs. Now the locked out and a rookie in waiting who gets no Vegas Summer League to impress has decided to take on the red and white of Canada and help them try to qualify for the Olympics in London in 2012. There is no doubt 2011 has been a big year in this young man's life.
If his first couple games are any indication as to how he will do with Team Canada it would appear to be positive. He has been able to fit into the system well and he credits that to knowing some of the players and having them help get him up to speed. Coach of the National Team Leo Rautins had nothing but positive things to say on how well Cory was able to jump into action right away.
Rautins " Cory is a really good fit. He offers three things that we really need. One is he pushes the ball and that is something that we want to do. Second thing is on defence he can get after people. Third he is an energy guy and he is just to fun to be around and is good with the guys."
Leo went on to say that Cory had been able to learn a lot of things from a number of the players on the roster prior to officially suiting up for the team. He gave credit to both Cory and Jermaine Anderson the starting point guard on the team for past few years working together to get Cory up to speed. Cory gave credit to Anderson as well as a few of the other players he knew got him ready to roll. This was also the first in game action for Joseph since the Longhorns made their exit from the NCAA Tournament in March. This is a good chance for him to make up for the lack of a summer league with the NBA cancelling Summer League due to the on going NBA Lockout.
Joseph "It is good to play in an actual game instead of just working out. Not that working out is bad. You want to get that game experience."
Going back to draft night it was a surprise to many that Tristan Thompson was taken 4th by the Cleveland Cavs. It was also a surprise that Joesph himself was taken in the first round by the Spurs. But according to Joesph he expected both to happen.
Joseph " I knew I was going go in the first round and I kinda knew Tristan was going go at four. I love Tristan going at four that was almost better than me going at 29 maybe just the same. He is like my brother so I loved it. "
Many had hoped that Thompson would be suiting up for Team Canada as well. Rautins said on Thompson participating for Team Canada, " When the time is right he will play." Coach Rautins continued " There is different things going on one is school and the other is physically. He was a little down after all the pre-draft workouts. I know personally from watching Andy (Rautins) he was exsuasted he was physically wiped out. So I can't judge anyone individually as to what they are feeling. That is the word I am getting, I have no issue with it when the time is right he will be here."
Thompson is obviously at the top of the list of a great wave of young Canadians and while this is a great thing for Team Canada and Coach Rautins moving forward it will be vital to get these players in red and white. But he was able to get Joseph on board. According to coach Rautins Cory had want to be a part of things from the first phase but was unable too. But he is here now and likes the idea of having some seniority over Thompson and Myck Kabongo who many would hope follow their friend Cory to Team Canada eventually. Joseph had this to say on the topic, " Definitely I am the one that did it first. But everybody has their different situations. So I am not sure what their situations are right now you would have to ask them."
It is something that will be an ongoing topic has time marches on. As the talent pool grows for Canada in terms of basketball it is great for fans of the sport. In terms of the national team it is vital that they get these young players as part of the program. San Antonio is a good place for that in terms of the NBA as they have had many players that are key parts of their roster play internationally. Cleveland might be a different case but time will tell. Ultimately no NBA Team can officially stand in the way of a player choosing to play internationally. But to have a franchise supportive of that certainly helps. Matt Bonner also of the Spurs has wanted to play for Canada but has had issues becoming a Canadian despite being married to a Canadian and having a Canadian direct relative. In the Case of Thompson, Kabongo and a number of others that are gaining attention that will not be an issue. The issue will be Canada Basketball being effective in recruiting them to play. Joel Anthony had been one of the successes in that regard. He has been a fixture in the program for a number of years. Andy Rautins also not just because his last name but his talent has been part of the program as well. Now Cory is part of that mix for this summer and hopefully moving forward.
In terms of his NBA Future Joseph has not had much time to get to know his new organization. He explains how things have worked in terms of him getting ready for the NBA.
Joseph "There was like a 4 day gap before the lockout I was able to do a little mini-camp. After that I haven't been able to have contact with them. I can talk to the players though, and have been able to talk to some of the younger guys and they have been helping me learn the plays and all of that."
It is much the same as the experience NFL Rookies had to go through. There was a window when the NFL Lockout was lifted and they were able to briefly reach out to organizations that drafted them. It will make things a little tougher for all the rookies waiting for the NBA Season to start. Joseph though at least will have the security that comes with being drafted in the first round. Assuming that it remains the same that would mean a guaranteed contract for a number of years and a real chance to make it with San Antonio. The Spurs prior to the lockout made some moves that suggest he will have a chance as well.
He now leaves Texas and will likely be replaced by his friend and fellow Canadian Myck Kabongo. We have had the chance to have Myck in this blog on several occasions. So it was good to hear that he has been able to help Myck. He says he has been there for him answering any questions he has had. But he is confident that Myck will do well and spoke to how intelligent and talented he is. Something that I would agree with and the same can be said for Joseph himself. Kabongo will be starting his freshman year at Texas this season and is one of the top freshman entering the NCAA this season.
As for Joseph he debuted in two wins for Canada this past weekend over Belgium. Coach Rautins likes the fact that he can throw Joseph out on the floor with a number of players including Jermaine Anderson, Carl English and his son Andy. It also is good when you press the fast forward button and imagine a back court of Kabongo and Joseph some day in the future. As for the present here is Cory's thoughts on his debut.
Joseph: "It feels great to represent your country. Getting in touch with the team, the players and the plays. I feel like it was a pretty good start, it could have been better but we got two wins and that is all that matters."
While many will lament on the fact Thompson is not here. The fact Joseph is still is a big positive for Canada moving forward as they attempt to qualify for the Olympics in London in the group qualifier in Argentina at the end of the month. The day may still come that we see Thompson and Joseph re-unite and rekindle what we saw in burnt orange in Canada red and white. But for now Joseph has the likes of Andy Rautins, Joel Anthony and others to play with. His addition on it's own makes Canada better.
He is an impressive young man and in the few times I have had to talk with him that shines through. What is great about this young generation of players that Joseph is a part of is that they are not only talented they are good quality people as well. Canada Basketball is lucky to have the pool of talent growing in this country. For them to be ultimately successful it will take getting these kids to be part of the program. That is the challenge that lies ahead in the long term future. The challenge in the short term is to punch a ticket to the Olympics in London.