SPORTS

Spurs point guard Cory Joseph looking forward to playing for Canada this summer

02/09/2015 12:01 EST | Updated 04/11/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Cory Joseph believes Canada's star-studded young basketball team could learn something from his San Antonio Spurs.

The 23-year-old from Pickering, Ont., is excited about playing for what could be a stacked Canadian squad in this summer's Pan American Games in Toronto and the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament, but he said star power alone won't be enough.

"In order for us to succeed we've got to realize we haven't done anything yet," Joseph said Sunday night. "We're a young talented group but we don't have much experience so we've got to be focused and try to soak up as much time together as we can to build chemistry.

"That's what this (Spurs) team has a great deal of, we have a lot of chemistry, and that's why we look so good out there on the court sometimes."

Joseph, who had about 30 family members and friends at the Spurs' 87-82 loss to the Raptors on Sunday night, was a solid plus-19 — a team best — in the 11 minutes he played, finishing with four points, a rebound, an assist and a steal.

Joseph was drafted 29th overall in 2011 by the Spurs. In his three-plus seasons and three trips down to the D League, he has patiently watched and learned. He's finally stepped into the spotlight this season, starting 14 games in place of injured point guard Tony Parker. Around the halfway point in the season, he already has more points and has played more minutes than any season in his career.

"He's been a real warrior in the sense that he's played (point guard, shooting guard), and even (small forward) sometimes," said coach Gregg Popovich. "He developed his game offensively a little bit more each year. He's always been a hard worker and a blue-collar kind of guy that got the most out of his abilities, but he's gained more confidence offensively and done a wonderful job for us."

He's averaging career highs virtually in every category, and scored a career-best 20 points on Boxing Day in New Orleans. His .511 field goal percentage is second among NBA guards.

Joseph, who won an NBA championship ring with the Spurs last season and took the championship trophy to the top of the CN Tower, said he's considered it a blessing being picked by San Antonio.

"People can look at it and say 'He hasn't played a lot his first couple of years,' but being able to learn from these guys, actually sit back and watch instead of people who go to other teams that don't have such a winning record, maybe you learn by experience," he said. "I'm learning more by watching I guess."

Joseph could play alongside the likes of NBA rookies Andrew Wiggins and Nik Stauskas, his former University of Texas teammate Tristan Thompson, and Anthony Bennett on the Canadian squad this summer.

Joseph is keeping tabs on how the Canadians are doing on their respective pro teams, especially Wiggins, who has collected the season's first three rookie of the month honours.

"Always check up on my guys," Joseph said. "(Wiggins) is doing a lot, obviously you can see it out there, he's definitely a lot more confident in his abilities, he's definitely figuring it out and he's coming along quick. Quicker than maybe people expected."

And while he said the summer is still a long way's off, he's "definitely excited" about playing alongside Wiggins in front of a home crowd at the Pan Am Games, and the Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico in August.

"I played with him when I was young, we all grew up together, but now it definitely would be fun. He's very athletic, very talented young player," Joseph said.

"Hopefully we can have everybody healthy and it should be the first time with everyone (together)."

MORE:cpSports