As a basketball fan, I have always had a love for the lesser known, obscure and/or under-appreciated. At school, when most kids were wearing Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal or Michael Jordan jerseys, I was wearing Bobby Hurley, Derek Harper and Dino Radja.
This is my open tribute to the lesser known players in today’s game. This is Spotted on the Pine.
Name: Cory Joseph
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Jersey Number: 5
Rookie Year: 2011-12
Drafted: 1st round – 29th overall (2011)
This article marks the first time to date that Spotted on the Pine ventures into the territory of covering a first-round draft pick. First round draft pick, pretty well-known school, playing for a contender and getting some minutes? A little different than some of the players we have reviewed to date. But Cory Joseph plays for the Spurs, who as of this writing, are waiting for their opponent in the NBA Finals. He also plays point guard, so he typically doesn’t get a ton of minutes behind All-NBA stud Tony Parker.
Anyone familiar with the Spurs know their scouting is fantastic though. Depth players on the Spurs wind up productive in other places, if they leave. They always draft well. Players that weren’t always granted a chance elsewhere, blossom when the Spurs focus on their abilities. For the last one, take the example of Danny Green. The Spurs picked him up and incorporated him and he ended playing a big role in their success this year. Do you remember after a nice run with the Tar Heels, Danny Green started not getting much time with the Lebron-era Cavaliers? The Spurs just get things done. Cory Joseph isn’t a huge name now but could be in a few years. So let’s have a look…
Hailing from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Cory got off to a great start in high school, teaming with fellow future Longhorns and NBA players in Avery Bradley and Tristan Thompson with Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada. Ranked #2, the trio would lead the way to beat #1-ranked Oak Hill Academy in the NHSI Championship game in 2009. Oak Hill’s squad had a couple players who have made it to the NBA in Doron Lamb and Tiny Gallon but Findlay would win 74-66.
Avery would head off for a season with the Longhorns before getting drafted by the Celtics before the two Ontarians Joseph and Thompson would get to Texas but they will still succeed without the lock down defender. Findlay prep was ranked #2 for the second year in a row and in the championship overcame the 2010 #1 ranked Montverde Academy, 59-46. For the second consecutive year, Cory would be named to the All-Tournament team but with the victory his Senior year, he would also be named as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
While waiting to start his collegiate career, Cory got a few honors- McDonald’s All-American(he would also win the three-point shootout while there) and was named a Jordan Brand Classic All-American. Being a Canadian, he was selected with teammate Tristan Thompson and future Utah Jazz big-man Enes Kanter to join the World Select Team versus the United States at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit. While the World Team lost, it was a close contest, ending 101-97.
Joseph would thrive with a fairly well-regarded Longhorns team. Starting all thirty-six games as a Freshman, Cory was a vital part of leading the team from the point. He would thrive under pressure, having some of his best collegiate games against famed programs such as North Carolina and often be a statistical leader for his team.
The Longhorns run in the tournament would be cut short, running into the Arizona Wildcats and one of the performances that led to Derrick Williams being drafted 2nd overall in the 2011 draft.
As the draft came, Cory’s longtime teammate Tristan Thompson would become the highest Canadian player drafted to date, being selected 4th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cory wouldn’t be far behind, going before the 1st round would end at 29. This would be the first time two Canadian-born players were drafted in the first round since 1983 when Leo Rautins was taken 17th and Stewart Granger went 25th.
Joseph and Thompson were also part of another neat draft factoid. Their teammate, Jordan Hamilton, was selected 26th by Dallas (he would be traded to the Nuggets, just in case I come back to him for a future SotP) and thus the trio of Longhorns going all in the 2011 first-round marked the first time three Longhorn players were selected in the first round of the same draft.
The Spurs, always with a plan, kept Joseph with the club sparingly. Instead, they thought, rather than have him withering away at the end of the bench, not getting much PT behind Parker, to get him as many minutes as possible. Joseph was shipped to the D-League to play heavy minutes the Austin Toros.
Playing most of his rookie season across multiple trips to Austin, Cory would still get a few games with meaningful minutes with San Antonio, playing nearly 40 minutes in a February 2012 game against the Blazers, as well as playing significant minutes at the end of the year against teams not heading to the playoffs like Phoenix and Golden State.
He would not get any time in the 2012 playoff run, but this year, would be different.
Joseph still spent a bulk of the year getting prepared in the D-League. This season, in 26 games with Austin, Joseph would average38.5 minutes and be named to the D-League All-Star team in February. Between the two seasons in the D-League, Cory averaged 17.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
By the end of February, the Spurs were ready to permanently promote Cory from the D-League. Parker, who was playing like an MVP candidate at the time, went down to injury and not only would Cory find himself playing in 28 games this year with the Spurs, but he would end up starting in nine.
Cory showed some flashes of brilliance in his opportunities, providing a spark and having a 13 point game against the Blazers and Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, 15 against Ricky Rubio in Minnesota and at the end of the season against the Warriors and Steph Curry, Joseph filled the stat lines with 10 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds.
Those watching Spurs games during their run to the Finals may have seen some of Cory’s play. While never going over 20 minutes, Joseph has gotten to play in every game in the 2012 playoffs. In Game 3 against the Lakers in Round 1, Joseph had 8 points and 4 rebounds in only 16 minutes of playing time.
Joseph has the potential to surprise some in the Finals. He may get more notice in International play too. Part of the working roster for Team Canada, Cory Joseph has been working closely with the team’s General Manager, some point guard named Steve Nash. Canada seems to be secretly developing some basketball talent between Joseph, Thompson and even Cory’s second cousin, NBA player Kris Joseph, who has played to date for the Celtics and Nets in his brief NBA career.
While not playing much now, the Spurs, considered an old team by many, have young studs like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green active and going, and may just have another secret weapon up their sleeve in Cory Joseph.