Austin is about to experience a Canadian invasion.
First it was Tristan Thompson. Then it was Myck Kabongo. Finally, after a long wait -- more than a year after the commitment of Kabongo, one year his junior, Cory Joseph, a 6-3, 175-pounder with the ability to play both guard spots, finally decided to join his lifelong friends and countrymen in burnt orange. The talented trio, who grew up playing for the Grassroots Canada AAU team in their native Toronto, will all play basketball at Texas.
For Joseph, it wasn't an easy decision, despite the commitments of his two close friends and another Findlay Prep teammate having already played at Texas in Avery Bradley. Rumors of friction between the two and a lack of desire by Joseph to play with his former running mate essentially made it an either/or proposition -- if Bradley decided to keep his name in the NBA Draft, the Longhorns would have an excellent shot with Joseph.
The presence of his older brother Devoe at Minnesota helped keep the Gophers close throughout the recruiting process and Villanova's guard-friendly attack and consistent success under Jay Wright, certainly a charismatic figure in his own right, reportedly had his parents on board with Joseph heading to the northeast. Ultimately, however, when it became obvious that Bradley was one-and-done in Austin, Joseph made the call for Texas -- his relationship with Rick Barnes made a major difference.
It's not exactly news at this point that the Rick Barnes "offense" needs a talented point guard to operate at peak efficiency -- late tournament runs under the guidance of TJ Ford and DJ Augustin and the disastrous, rudderless finish to last season prove that point beyond any shadow of a doubt. The up-tempo, random ball-screen offense with an emphasis on the pick-and-roll no doubt helped attract Joseph and it will play to his strengths.
Joseph is a godsend for the program and alleviates the uncertainty at the position, taking it from a major question mark to a position of strength as the Longhorns seek to put the memory of the underachieving 2009-10 season behind them. Even more so than Kabongo, Joseph may be the perfect point guard for Rick Barnes' offense -- like Augustin, Joseph combines a deep understanding for the pace and rhythm of the game with a dead-eye shooting stroke. In fact, Joseph comes into the program even more ready to contribute than the talented Augustin having spent two seasons at Findlay Prep playing a national schedule, possessing extensive experience in international competition, as well as superior height and conditioning.
Though Joseph often played a combo or shooting guard role for Grassroots Canada (with Kabongo at the point) and at Findlay Prep during his junior season, sharing ballhandling duties with Bradley and sophomore-to-be DJ Richardson, currently at Illinois, he took over the point-guard role seamlessly at Findlay in leading the Pilots to a second consecutive ESPN Rise tournament championship, showing significant upside at the position.
As mentioned earlier, Joseph compares favorably to DJ Augustin in his ability to control the pace of the game without imposing himself upon it. Another apt comparison might be Deron Williams -- both are of similar height and even though Joseph doesn't have the pure mass of the Jazz superstar, like Williams he changes direction with a fundamental crossover and the pace to push tempo or run the half-court offense when appropriate. Joseph has only slightly above-average quickness, but his ability to change pace and direction that makes him difficult to handle both in the open court and when running a set offense -- he effectively plays faster than he would test in drills and benefits from an excellent handle.
Again like Augustin and Williams, Joseph has experience running the pick-and-roll in high school and his shooting ability makes him a dangerous threat in those situations. It's a critical facet to playing the point guard position at Texas and Joseph should transition well into running side screens with Gary Johnson and a variety of pick-and-rolls with Thompson, with whom he should have excellent chemistry and timing running high screens or side screens.
Joseph's ability as a point guard is only part of the reason why he's such a perfect fit in the Texas offense -- with other primary ballhandlers like Dogus Balbay, Varez Ward, and J'Covan Brown on the team, Joseph can move seamlessly between point guard and off guard. If there's one negative to Joseph as a point guard, it's that he sometimes searches for his shot at the detriment to creating for his teammates, so allowing Joseph to roam the perimeter and benefit from the slashing ability of players like Ward and Jordan Hamilton could greatly increase the versatility of the Texas offense because of Joseph's shooting stroke from the outside. However, Joseph does have the ability and willingness to get his teammates involved when he has the ball in his hands.
Winner of the three-point contest at the McDonald's All-American game, Joseph has a pure, silky shooting stroke that benefits from his outstanding pre-shot preparation in catch-and-shoot situations and off the dribble. Clearly, the mental aspect is there from the results and Joseph is excellent at establishing his balance and giving himself a strong base from which to shoot. He doesn't always hold his follow-through as long as he could, but his post-shot balance -- landing at the same spot from which he jumped -- ensures that his body is as still as possible throughout the shooting stroke.
Since defenders have to stay close to Joseph on the perimeter when he is spotted up or handling the ball, he can get into the paint virtually at will, a skill aided in the open court by his ability to switch speeds. The native Canadian excels going in either direction and finishing with his left hand or pulling up for floaters and mid-range jumpshots. At the rim, Joseph is not the most explosive leaper in his class and falls short of Bradley in that category, but understands how to finish around the rim and does so better than Augustin due to the several inches of height he has on the former Texas star, as well as impressive body control.
On the defensive side of the ball, Joseph impresses with his quick hands and above-average lateral quickness. A hard worker on that side of the ball, Joseph maximizes his physical skills with constant efforts and plays the passing lanes with the same fantastic instincts on display in every other aspect of his game. Bradley has better length and lateral quickness, so it came as a major surprise when Findlay Prep coach Michael Peck called Joseph, not Bradley, the best defender whom he has coached at the high school level. No small praise indeed.
Most of all, Joseph is a smart and savvy basketball player who often makes the correct, high-percentage pass with the basketball in his hands and avoids the flashy, high-risk plays that often characterized J'Covan Brown's inconsistent freshman season -- there should be little head-butting between Joseph and Rick Barnes.
More so than any Texas point guard since Augustin, Joseph will be an extension of his head coach on the court. In fact, Joseph has such a well-rounded game that he has the chance to put his name alongside TJ Ford and DJ Augustin as the best point guards in the Rick Barnes era.
The expectations for him to help turn around the team after a disappointing 2009-10 season are sky-high, but Joseph's maturity, basketball IQ and experience at Findlay Prep should help him transition quickly to the college game and become an immediate, high-impact contributor at Texas both on the ball and off the ball. If Barnes could design an ideal guard, that player would end up looking a lot like Cory Joseph.
6'2 Cory Joseph Highlight Reel; Dunk On Kid / 35 Points (via HoopmixtapeBlog)
Next Step on MaxPreps.com w/ Cory Joseph (via Maxprepssports)