Joseph happy to suit up for Team Canada

Cory Joseph (left) jumped at the chance to play for Team Canada while former teammate Tristan...

Cory Joseph (left) jumped at the chance to play for Team Canada while former teammate Tristan Thompson (right) has turned down the national team invite. (AFP)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:55 AM ET

TORONTO - Getting NBAers to suit up for Canada has long been an issue, but Cory Joseph leapt at the chance.

Joseph, the Pickering native, made his senior national team debut on Saturday in Canada’s 79-74 exhibition victory over Belgium at Ryerson University.

New York Knicks guard Andy Rautins led the way with a game-high 26 points, but Joseph, selected 29th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2011 NBA draft made an impact at both ends.

Joseph is a winner, having claimed two Ontario AAAA titles for Pickering Collegiate and a U.S. national high school championship for Nevada’s Findlay Prep before jumping to the University of Texas.

After his first practice with the senior team on Friday, Joseph said how excited he was to be taking part and explained why he was playing.

“I hadn’t played in a while, college was a long time ago, (it’s been) a couple months where I haven’t played a game so it’s just good to get out here,” Joseph said.

“Playing for your country is an honour and (the Spurs) know that.”

Joseph even threw in a joke about new teammate Matt Bonner, who is dying to represent Canada, but is being held up by ridiculous governmental red tape.

When asked if Bonner is jealous that Joseph is playing and he isn’t, Joseph said with a laugh: “I haven’t talked to him, but I’m assuming he’s jealous. He must be.”

Both Andy Rautins and his father Leo, Canada’s head coach are glad to have Joseph on their side.

“Cory brings a lot to the table, he’s a great addition for us,” the younger Rautins said.

The elder Rautins cautioned that it wouldn’t be fair to pile expectations on Joseph.

“I think people need to be careful not to put too much pressure on him,” he said.

“He doesn’t have to come in here and (be a) saviour for this team but he gives us something that we need. I love his energy, he pushes the ball and he just gets after it defensively. I love energy guys, he’s fun to be around and I think that rubs off on other guys.”

Joseph said he could not speak on his longtime teammate Tristan Thompson not playing for Canada this time around after indicating that he would, saying, “every situation is different, you’d have to ask him.”

After an embarrassing double-digit losing streak dating back to last year, Canada has been bolstered by the arrival of Joseph and the return to health of mainstays Carl English and Jesse Young. Not to mention Andy Rautins is now fully fit.

“It makes a big difference,” the coach said.

“A lot of people don’t understand the level that we’re playing against. We’re not at a point where we’re good enough, where if you look at last year’s team, five of the top seven were either hurt or unavailable. We’re not good enough to absorb that.”

While not singling out Thompson specifically, Andy Rautins expressed disappointment that some of the country’s top talents are not on hand helping Canada try to qualify for the London Olympics.

“It certainly frustrates me because when you look at our team they could help us out a great deal, help the team get to a whole new level,” he said.

“For me, I think it’s first and foremost if you’ve got an opportunity to represent your country, you do it. Playing against professionals that are in the NBA, Euroleague allstars, this is basketball at its finest in the summer, so for some of these guys not to come out, some of these guys that are top talents top 10 picks in the league, it just doesn’t make sense to me.

“It’s frustrating, but we have to make do with what we have.”


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