These Canucks will go through hoops to make NBA

BRIAN DALY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:31 PM ET

MONTREAL -- Whether it's via Skype, text, Twitter or cellphone, Syracuse star Kris Joseph manages to stay in touch with his close-knit family as he chases his NBA dreams in upstate New York.

The 6-foot-7 forward has risen from Montreal's hardscrabble innercity to the heights of Division I basketball as the leading scorer for 17th-ranked Orange and a projected late first-round draft pick. The distance hasn't dampened the 22-year-old's ties with his parents and three older siblings.

"We're all pretty tight," the third-year player told QMI Agency from Syracuse this week as his team prepared to close out the Big East regular season. "We all text, we always talk and Skype and we make sure to stay in touch."

Joseph is one of several Canadian college stars who could make the jump to basketball's highest level in the next few years.

Texas freshman Tristan Thompson of Brampton, Ont., leads his team in rebounds, steals and blocks and is candidate for NCAA freshman of the year. Thompson's teammate, Cory Joseph -- Kris' cousin from Pickering Ont. -- has started all 28 games and is likely to make the Big 12 all-freshman team.

The list goes on and on, and Kris Joseph says it's a great boost for a sport that continues to struggle for exposure in this hockey-mad country.

"It's huge for Canada," he said. "(Players are ) eating, sleeping and drinking basketball. It definitely helps and it's showing that Canada actually has some ballers."

Joseph hasn't announced if he'll return for his senior season or declare for the draft. For now he's focused on guiding the Orange to a Big East championship and a deep NCAA tournament run.

He also has hopes of donning the red and white for Team Canada, which is trying to qualify for the 2012 Olympics this summer.

"I'm looking forward to doing whatever (Team Canada) wants me to do," said Joseph, who participated in training camp last summer before he was felled by an injury. "I'm just looking forward to getting better this summer and expanding my game wherever I can."

Canadians projected to play in the 2011 NCAA tournament (hometowns in parentheses):

Locks

Cory Joseph, Texas (Pickering, Ont.)

Tristan Thompson, Texas (Brampton, Ont.)

Kris Joseph, Syracuse (Montreal)

Robert Sacre, Gonzaga (North Vancouver)

Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga (Kamloops, B.C.)

Mangisto Arop, Gonzaga (Edmonton)

Possibles

Diego Kapelan, McNeese State (Vancouver)

Laurent Rivard, Harvard (St-Bruno, Que.)

Junior Cadougan, Marquette (Toronto)

Bryson Johnson, Bucknell (Pictou, N.S.)

Kyle Johnson, Long Island University (Ajax, Ont.)

Juevol Myles, Kansas State (Pickering, Ont.)

Troy Joseph, Long Island University (Ajax, Ont.)

Arnold Mayorga, Long Island University (London, Ont.)

Ludovic Ndaye, Cleveland State (Montreal)

Robinson Odoch-Opong, Long Island University (Quebec City)


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