San Antonio Spurs rookie Cory Joseph has a lot of catching up to do if he wants to help the Canadian national team earn a coveted berth at the 2012 London Olympics.
He already missed the first phase of the training camp with the national team and has only played two games with Team Canada on a pair of wins over Belgium at the Jack Donohue Classic.
Joseph will be joining Canada in a warm-up tournament in Brazil at the end of next week to get ready for the Olympic qualification tournament, where 10 teams will vie for two spots at the London Games. Three others will qualify for a last-chance qualification tournament next summer, right before the Games.
The young point guard says that he is proud to represent his home country and has been itching to do it for years.
“I mean, it’s Canadian basketball. I’ve always wanted to play for Canada Basketball, ever since I was young,” Joseph said after a workout at Ryerson this week. “I just decided to play; it’s an honor to represent your country.
“I’ve always looked at it as a significant thing. I was watching the Olympics, watching Steve Nash when he used to play. I’ve always felt that Canada Basketball was significant.
“Everybody has different situations. My situation is I wanted to come and I want to be here. I’m not saying other guys don’t want to come but my situation is better.”
Joseph, just 19, knows he’s going to have a difficult time making the adjustment from American college basketball to playing against men and seasoned international veterans when the qualification tournament in Argentina begins later this month.
“The most difficult one is you’re playing with men,” he said. “We’re all men here now and it’s a little bit different in college where you might get away with some things in the paint or whatnot. There’s some difference in the terms of rotations, offensively and defensively, so it’s just getting accustomed to that.”
Joseph got a crash course in what his responsibilities are with the national team during an impromptu training camp that says a lot about this group of players.
The interesting point is that the group of Toronto kids who started his indoctrination included guard Jermaine Anderson, who’ll fight Joseph for playing time.
“Now think about that,” said national team coach Leo Rautins. “Cory could potentially be going after Rock (Anderson’s) job and Rock’s bringing Cory in the gym to make sure Cory’s ready to play.
“From Cory’s standpoint, he missed the first phase but he knew he had to be ready and from Rock’s standpoint he said, ‘screw it, you have to be ready.’
“That says a lot right there.”
“I’m getting the hang of it,” he said. “Obviously, the first two games it was a little bit getting that rust off and whatnot. But going through practice, I’m getting the hang of what the coach wants me to do and what my teammates want and where they like to get the ball.”
And that’s the first step in what he hopes is a long career with the national team.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “I want to be here for a long time. It’s important to represent your country.”
Joseph seems to be confident about his situation with the national team and Canada must be thrilled about his progress, this also gives the Spurs a chance to see a glimpse of what can Joseph offer when he plays for San Antonio.