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Cory Joseph suits up for Canada as NBA lockout threatens rookie season

Cory Joseph practices with the Findlay Prep basketball team at the Orleans Arena December 8, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Globe and Mail)

Isaac Brekken/The Globe and Mail

Cory Joseph may be in limbo, but he's now also in a Canadian jersey.

The first-round pick at this year's NBA draft and native of Pickering, Ont., announced on Wednesday that he would be suiting up with Canada's senior basketball team as it prepares for the 2011 FIBA Americas men's championship in Argentina later this month.

The 19-year-old guard, who was taken 29th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in June, had to wait to join the team while an insurance agreement was finalized and details of the NBA's labour dispute became clear.

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"There was a couple of situations I had to deal with first," he says. "Now I'm locked and loaded and ready to run with the Canadians."

In his freshman year with the University of Texas Longhorns, Joseph averaged 10.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and three assists per game, a level of play that got him named to the Big 12 All-Rookie Team.

When he decided to enter the draft, he likely wasn't expecting to see what would be his rookie year thrown into question by a lockout. But now that it's here, Joseph says he is ignoring matters outside his control and instead focusing on what he can accomplish.

"I leave all that stuff up to the hierarchy. I don't worry about that stuff. I just train, try to get my body right and try to get one step ahead as much as possible," he says.

While he has been training at the University of Texas in recent weeks, Joseph finds himself back on home soil in a spot he says he has dreamed of since he was a kid.

"It's an honour to play for your country," he says. It's also a good way of staying sharp during the lockout.

"I haven't played in a real game since the Arizona game," Joseph says, referring to the Longhorns' loss at this year's NCAA tournament.

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However long it may have been since he's played, Joseph is a major addition to the Canadian team, says head coach Leo Rautins.

"Cory's got a chance to be a special player," he says. "One of the things we want to do is push the ball. We want to get up the floor, and that's what Cory does very, very well."

Joseph will only have one practice with the team before hitting the floor with them this weekend in exhibition games against Belgium in Toronto on Saturday and Hamilton on Sunday.

The newest member of the squad says he really only has one challenge when he suits up with his new teammates.

"Just to find out where they like to get the ball as a point guard, what's their game. Just give me a game or two," Joseph says.

Finding his place within the team's chemistry will be relatively easy for Joseph, who already knows several players.

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"I always talk to Jermaine [Anderson]and Denham [Brown]and Jevohn Shepherd," he says. "We went over the plays and what not, so I'll be able to come in and grab things quickly."

This is not the first time Joseph has worn Canada's jersey. In 2007, at just 15, he was the youngest member of the junior men's national team that competed at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Serbia. In 2009, he helped Canada to a seventh place finish at the FIBA U19 World Championships.

But it's his first time on the senior men's team, where he could flourish for a long, long time, Rautins says.

"Not only is he a guy who can come in now and be a big asset, but he's a guy who can be a part of the program for 10 years," he says.

For now, however, Joseph says his focus is on qualifying for the Olympics.

"We have one mindset, and it's to win," he says.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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