Published by Jason Gairey on February 16, 2010
They always say, “You can’t have that Big Mac without the golden fries” Well, that’s what we got, a real deal. Two of Canada’s finest hoop stars have officially taken it to new heights! They have been wreaking havoc across the border for a couple of years now, taking their skills to the U.S, dominating the high school scene, winning National Championships, while playing on arguably the number one prep school in the nation. They are in every ranking system as official top 20 players in the U.S, dominating all summer’s AAU circuit with Grassroots Canada (one of the premier programs in the past few summers). The final product is an official selection to the most prestigious high school all-star game ever, The McDonald’s All-American Game! In the game’s thirty three year history, Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph will become the first Canadians to hit the floor in this highly profiled event.
The big announcement was made last week. A roster that consists of the top senior players in the U.S. This game has had the likes of every NBA superstar imagined, from Michael Jordan, to the new crowned King of the Court, Lebron James.
The McDonalds All American Game will be played on March 31st 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.
Having two Canadian players selected at the same time, is a first. A fit that has rarely been accomplished as well is that they both are the one- two punch that makes the #1 team in the Nation- Findlay Prep- tick. The fact that these two guys have been playing with and against each other since their grade school days, you know their sleeps consisted of the same dreams. And being selected to this team, to actually step foot on the floor and being recognized as the best America has to offer, was easily one of the many goals that these two kids from Canada have made come true.
“It’s real big, this is another check mark on my list of goals, a Canadian making it is a great accomplishment. This is for every body hooping back home” says Tristan Thompson speaking on the recent success.
Tristan Thompson is from the small suburbs of Brampton, Ontario Canada were he attended St. Marguerite D’youville Secondary School He has come a long way and still knows, he still has ways to go. Thompson burst on to the scene a couple of years back as a tall slender kid with tremendous upside. Now a Texas Commit he stands 6-foot-10, lanky frame, but some bulk is starting to appear. The much needed type of bulk to add to this highly skilled big man, who wants to bang with the best. But at same time isn’t afraid to show you he can handle, take you in or out, with the ability to play the 3 to 5 position on the floor.
Thompson caught the attention of Grassroots Canada Head Coach Ro Russell and decided to make the jump to the GRC program. With his continued growth, the best option for him was to take the prep school route, where he would play at the highest level of competition for high school. The transition however, was not as smooth as it looked. Coming from Canada, he knew he had to work 100 times harder.
“The odds are against them being Canadian as it seems they have a lot more to prove.” Says Russell
Thompson had a successful stop in Newark, New Jersey, attending St. Benedicts prep with fellow Canadian point guard Myck Kabonogo. After an unfortunate situation, he made another move, finding the perfect fit in Henderson Nevada (Findlay Prep). This time he joined forces with his Grassroots Canada teammate and long time friend Cory Joseph.
Early in his high school career, Joseph had been gaining accolades for himself at home. The 6-foot- 3 point guard from Pickering, ON attended Pickering High School. were he starred alongside older brother Devoe Joseph (now a sophomore at Minnesota) and George Washington freshman forward Dwayne Smith. On a Pickering team loaded with talent, Joseph played a vital role. He qualified to the highest level of Canadian high school being a member of team Ontario. He was also selected to Canadian Junior National team and won back-back OFSAA high school basketball Championships.
With nothing more to prove, Joseph had to make the move looking forward to bigger goals, greater challenges and many more superior accomplishments. So he packed the bags and headed for the desert.
Since he set foot in Henderson (Nevada) in the fall of 2008, Joseph has worked hard and improved his game exceptionally. In his first year of prep school ball, the silky-smoothed, barely known guard had a grand presence, making his way into the starting line up of an impressive Findlay squad where he assisted now Texas freshman guard Avery Bradley in the backcourt. Since then, Joseph has had great achievements; his strong play opened the eyes of many. Winning a National Championship and skied up in player rankings. He now has schools such as Minnesota, Texas, UNLV, Villanova and Connecticut vying for his commitment.
It’s evident that all the hard work has paid off thus far, as he was recently named a McDonalds all-American.
” To be selected is an honor; there are a lot of guys that would love to be there, so it’s a great accomplishment”
“Just to have another young Canadian look and see that it is possible to be a McDonalds American is a great feeling” says the soft spoken Joseph
With the growing popularity of the sport in Canada, it has been a dream for many to enter the stage of competing in the U.S at the collegiate level. There have been many Canadians with opportunities to successfully fulfill their dreams of playing NCAA ball. Needless to say, the path was a narrow one back then. Ro Russell had decided many years ago that his calling was to help kids (like Cory and Tristan) see a bigger, brighter picture. The path is being paved. That can hopefully lead these two stars to their pro ambitions.
“Both of them have impressive presence. These guys’ talent is too noticeable and cannot be ignored. Canada has been housing a lot of future potentials. Cory and Trist have God-given talents as their accomplishments show. They have been hard at work to get where they are now.” Says Ro Russell, Thompson and Joseph’s Grassroots Canada coach.
“It’s pure happiness right now. At the same time, we cannot loose focus. It is back to work for us. They have to prove they are worthy of their respective selections as well as continuously maintain their positions. They have to be taken seriously.”
Being one of the pioneers to introduce a new way of putting Canadian players on the map, Russell widened it by introducing the AAU circuit and the Prep school route to the talented players from the Greater Toronto Area. With hoop dreams larger than being a Toronto High School superstar. These two youngsters and their families made a decision to have Russell and his Grassroots Canada organization be the path that was needed to expose them to the “Mecca of hoops”. If they could make it there, the sky would be the limit for both.
“Over the years a Varity of coaches and organizations have played a part in Cory and Tristan’s development we were fortunate enough to help them take it to another level.”
So what does this success mean for Canada?
“This means evolution in Canadian basketball as far as showcasing is concerned. To play high school in Canada and moving South of the border is quite immense. We would be taken a lot more seriously now. People joked and laughed about Canadians trying their hands in this sport. Now we have icons in the making, giving hope for future youngsters to know they cannot fear to showcase talent: shoot, block, fly and dunk as hard as they really feel. In other words, confidence for the country, in terms of the sport of basketball” Russell continues.
Regardless of where they play basketball, both Joseph and Thompson do not undermine where they are from; they appreciate their country and represent it really well.
“This isn’t just Tristan and Cory making the McDonalds game this is Canada making the McDonalds all American game.” Thompson adds.
McDonalds All American Rosters
Perry Jones – Committed to Baylor
C.J. Leslie – Undecided
Reggie Bullock – Committed to North Carolina
Joe Jackson – Committed to Memphis
Kyrie Irving – Committed to Duke
Jelan Kendrick – Committed to Memphis
JayVaughn Pinkston – Committed to Villanova
Jared Sullinger – Committed to Ohio State
Kendall Marshall – Committed to North Carolina
DeShaun Thomas – Committed to Ohio State
Tobias Harris – Committed to Tennessee
Josh Selby – Undecided
Corey Joseph – Undecided
Terrence Jones – Undecided
Harrison Barnes – Committed to North Carolina
Fab Melo – Committed to Syracuse
Ray McCallum – Undecided
Keith Appling – Committed to Michigan State
Brandon Knight – Undecided
Jereme Richmond – Committed to Illinois
Patrick Young – Committed to Florida
Tristan Thompson – Committed to Texas
Josh Smith – Committed to UCLA
Doron Lamb – Undecided
Dwight Powell – Pendleton School Bradenton FL via Toronto, ON – Committed Stanford
Cory Joseph – Findlay Prep Henderson NV via Pickering, ON
Tristan Thompson – Findlay Prep Henderson NV via Brampton, ON – Committed to Texas
Melvin Ejim Brewster Academy Wolfeboro NH via Brampton, ON – Committed to Iowa State
Taevaunn Prince – Proctor Academy Andover NH via Brampton, ON
Kadeem Green – United Faith Christian Academy via Markham, ON – Committed to Missouri
Maurice Walker- Brewster Academy Wolfeboro NH via Scarborough, ON
-By: Gilbert Muako & Jason Gairey