When Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson step on the floor for the No. 4 Texas Longhorns on Friday, they'll highlight a crop of talented Canadian college basketball players.
Joseph, from Ajax, Ont., and Thompson, from Brampton, Ont., are starters on the Longhorns team that has a first-round matchup with No. 13 Oakland in this year's NCAA March Madness tournament.
They're also just two of 20 Canadians among the 68 teams who will battle for U.S. college basketball bragging rights - a sign, says Leo Rautins, that basketball's future in Canada is bright.
"We've had over the years a lot of kids playing, but it seems we're getting kids in better situations, kids are having more success, I think the talent level is going up," said Rautins, the Canadian men's coach. "Half the battle is being in the right situation, so you can play well and show yourself."
Thompson, a six-foot-eight forward, and Joseph, a 6-3 guard, were both named to the Big 12's all-rookie team this season.
Thompson is writing a rookie blog for the Longhorns' website, and talked about his memories of watching the NCAA tournament as a kid.
"The thing that's always stood out to me is watching those under-the-radar teams make a run through the tournament," Thompson wrote. "I'm really excited to be a part of it this year. There's no bigger stage than this. Every basketball fan watches the tournament. I know that when the lights are on, you've just got to perform."
Joseph's cousin Kris Joseph of Montreal will play for Syracuse in the NCAA tournament and was recently named to the all-Big East third team.
The other Canadians are Robert Sacre of North Vancouver, B.C., Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops, B.C., and Manny Arop of Edmonton (Gonzaga), Jon House of Guelph, Ont., (Belmont), Kyle Johnson of Toronto, Troy Joseph of Ajax, Ont., Arnold Mayorga of London, Ont., and Robinson Oduch-Opong (Long Island), Eric Kibi of Ottawa and Toronto's Tramar Sutherland (Arkansas-Little Rock), Dwayne Harvey of Hamilton, Ont., (Alabama State), Bryson Johnson of Pictou, N.S., (Bucknell), Juevol Myles of Ajax, Ont., (Kansas State), Junior Cadougan of Toronto (Marquette), Francis Cedric-Martel of Montreal (Richmond), Kadeem Green of Toronto (Missouri), and Jean Selus of Montreal (Illinois).
The Longhorns' Canadian content, meanwhile, is set to expand next season. Toronto point guard Myck Kabongo has committed to attending Texas in the fall.
"We're seeing kids getting good situations and playing well," Rautins said. "And the great thing is, there's even more kids coming up, and there's a lot of kids that just missed the tourney but they're doing extremely well on teams too. It's a real positive."
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