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Raptors work out Canadian prospects Thompson and Joseph

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The Canadian Press
6/15/2011 4:48:28 PM
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TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors got a close-up view at what many expect to be highest-drafted Canadian NBA player since Steve Nash.

Brampton, Ont., native Tristan Thompson and his childhood friend and teammate Cory Joseph were at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday to participate in a pre-draft workout in front of Raptors brass.

The two forwards have travelled similar paths in life, starting with playing against each other at local hardcourts and leading them all the way to the same NCAA Division I team. They played a freshman year together for the powerhouse Texas Longhorns that included an appearance at the NCAA tournament this spring.

Now they're hoping their basketball journey together continues on June 23 at the NBA draft in Newark, New Jersey.

For Thompson, it's coming full circle. The six-foot-nine, 227-pound power forward with incredible athleticism played a season at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark before transferring to another high school prior to Texas.

"Where it starts is where it ends," Thompson told a large scrum of reporters. "I'm excited about the 23rd."

Pre-draft scouting projects Thompson being taken anywhere from as high as six to somewhere in the late teens. For Joseph, a 6-3 guard who ran point for the Longhorns, the situation is more ambiguous and many expect his selection to come in the second round.

The Raptors currently hold the No. 5 pick in the draft, but many believe neither Thompson nor Joseph can address the team's ongoing need for an imposing low-post threat.

The highest drafted Canadian player is still Victoria-raised Nash who went to the Phoenix Suns at No. 15 in 1996.

"It would mean a lot for me being from Canada and playing for the Raptors," said Thompson, who grew up a Vince Carter fan. "But (they'll) do what's best for the organization. I just want to be put in a position where I thrive.

"If I'm drafted by the Raptors, I'm happy. If not, no hatred or bad blood."

Joseph is equally humble in his pre-draft expectations. The 186-pounder from Pickering, Ont., averaged a decent 10.4 points per game, three assists and four rebounds in a team high 32.2 minutes in Texas.

"Obviously I want to get drafted as high as I possibly can," he said. "But where ever I go, I will just make the best of the situation.

"I take pride on my defence. My work ethic is hard and I give 110 per cent every day at practice. I think I can score in certain situations, and I'm also able to facilitate the ball to teammates. Whatever the coach needs at that particular moment."

There were other players strutting their stuff Wednesday in front Raptors officials, including general manager Bryan Colangelo, who pulled Thompson aside after the workout for a one-on-one chat.

Six-foot-nine Kansas forward Marcus Morris, 6-8 Tennessee forward Tobias Harris, 6-3 Clemson guard Demontez Stitt, and 6-7, 227-pound San Diego forward State Kawhi Leonard, who draft projections have going as high as top-five, also joined the workout.

Joseph says going through the pre-draft workouts with Thompson -- they also auditioned together in Houston and Milwaukee -- has made the process easier.

"I've known Tristan since I was knee-high so it's great. It's great having a lifetime friend doing it (with you)."

Although they've remained close throughout their basketball journey together, the friendship didn't start so cordial.

"We were enemies," said Thompson bluntly. "We bumped heads. Now I love him like a brother. We know each other real well. I know his bad habits, he knows mine. We know each other inside out."

"I didn't like him," countered Joseph. "Because he was on the opposite team and I wanted to win. I didn't like the kid and I wanted to take out his knees."

Tristan Thompson Cory Joseph (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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