Giant Leap for Canadian Basketball: Thompson, Joseph & Ashaolu Declare NBA!
HALIFAX, NS–This could easily be one of the most watched NBA drafts in Canadian history. Three Canadians have declared for the 2011 NBA Draft. Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph of Texas University and Olu Ashaolu of Louisiana Tech. will also join them, hoping to hear their name called on draft day and shake hands with the commish, David Stern.
There were many rumours swirling around Twitter speculating that Thompson was set to declare for the draft. There were also rumours flying around about fellow Texas teammate Cory Joseph. However, NPH received word from various sources to confirm that both will indeed enter the NBA Draft. It was also said that Olu Ashaolu of Louisiana Tech would be throwing his name in the hat.
All three are natives of Ontario; Thompson from Brampton, Joseph from Pickering and Ashaolu is from Toronto. All played together on Grassroots Canada, a powerhouse AAU team.
Thompson has been rated as the most NBA ready of the three. Jordan Hamilton and Thompson were the Longhorns MVP’s this season. Thompson averaged 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He was also awarded BIG 12 Freshmen of the year.
Thompson’s declaration was expected, as higher rated prospects Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones III, and Harrison Barnes decided to return back to school for another year to develop. These decisions have only helped Thompson’s stock and potentially pushed him into a lottery pick position in the draft.
TT may not be the most NBA ready prospect in the draft but he has all of the qualifications to make it to the next level. The 6-8 forward has been working hard this past year at Texas and has consistently improved with each time he steps on to the court. His extremely praised work ethic has been the key to his success and this will suit him well at the next level advancing his career. After a victory over MSU earlier in the season, a Texas assistant coach told NPH, “what are you guys feeding them down there in Canada” referring to work ethic and desire.
Since coming from Findlay Prep, Thompson has been on the radar for many NBA personnel as a solid prospect with a high ceiling to grow into.
Joseph’s decision to declare for the draft was seen by many as surprising. Many thought that the freshmen would return to Texas for his sophomore year to polish his skills. Joseph’s numbers as a freshman were solid, averaging 10.4 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds.
Draft expectations for Joseph are to be chosen late in the first round or early to middle second round. Cory has been a winner his entire life, collecting hardware at all levels of his career; something to consider when evaluating his pedigree. He won back-to-back provincial titles in Pickering and then moved on to win back-to-back national titles with Findlay prep. Also, keep in mind, Joseph also won the 3-point competition at the McDonalds High School All-star game before enrolling in Texas this past season.
Many mock drafts have Joseph as the next best PG after Kyrie Irving (Duke), Brandon Knight (Kentucky), Kemba Walker (UConn), and Jimmer Fredette (BYU). After these four guards, it could be seen as a toss up. Many are also concerned that his one season at Texas was not enough to solidify his place on an NBA roster. At 6-3 his height is ideal forthe position, complimened with good athleticism. An important point to consider is that Joseph did not sign with an agent, ultimately allowing him to come back for another season in the NCAA if it does not work out with an NBA team.
Ashaolu’s choice to declare was seen as a shocker. Many thought he would return again for another season at Louisiana Tech and increase his draft stock for next year. With that being said Ashaolu’s numbers speak for themselves. He averaged 14.2 points, and 9.4 rebounds per game. He was a double-double monster. His 6-7 height complimented with above average athleticism has helped him become an excellent rebounder which is what NBA teams could be looking for later on in the draft.
He was also considering transferring for his last year but decided to go into the draft and test the NBA waters. He has not signed an agent just like Joseph and will be able to return next year if he is unsuccessful. Ashaolu has been projected to go near the end of the second round and could potentially go undrafted depending on how the draft shapes up following this year.
Texas may be losing Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson but are having a successful recruiting year, ranked fifth in the country, according to ESPN. The Longhorns will add two more Canadians; Myck Kabongo and Kevin Thomas.
Wherever Thompson, Joseph and Ashaolu end up, they will be paving the way for young Canadian talent, making its way up through the NCAA. This past year, three more Canadians (Myck Kabongo, Kehm Birch, Kyle Wiltjer) were invited to the McDonalds game and showed that they belong with the top talent in the States. They will be making a big impact on their teams as they journey on a similar path.
PHOTO COURTESY: War Hawk Nation/Canadian Press/ Getty Images