Upon seeing Cory Joseph for the first time, Tristan Thompson noticed three things.
“This is a curly haired guy with big ears,” Thompson recalls. “But he can shoot.”
While most freshmen come into a new program unknown to the other newcomers joining a team, Thompson and Joseph are the complete opposite.
The primary inferences between the newest Longhorns came in fifth grade, when they played in the same youth recreation league in the greater-Toronto area.
“His shot was not good, but he would block every shot and always be tapping the glass,” Joseph remembers of Thompson.
While the taller Thompson was denying shot after shot, his team always lost — bad.
“His team was always beating my team,” Thompson said. “[I figured] if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
Thompson and Joseph joined forces on Grassroots Canada, Toronto’s dominant AAU team, but did not play together in high school until late in their junior year. After playing separately during their first two years in high school, they both decided to take their talents to Nevada and play at the basketball hotbed Findlay Prep, which also is the alma mater of former Longhorn Avery Bradley.
Though Thompson was the one who eventually joined Joseph at Findlay Prep., it was the other way around when it came to the Longhorns.
Thompson, who committed to play at Texas when he was a sophomore in high school, did not push the burnt orange on his buddy when trying to make his decision.
“At the end of the day, you want [Joseph] to go to wherever is best for him,” Thompson said.
With the addition of Joseph to the squad, Texas gains a player who is already being compared to former Longhorn D.J. Augustin.
His speed is something that his teammates immediately commented on, but Joseph was slow to admit his quickness.
“I guess I’m fast,” Joseph said.
His quickness on the court and Thompson’s ability to run the floor should make it easy for the two of them to contribute from day one.
“I know what [Thompson] is going to do and where he is going to be on the floor,” Joseph said. “He isn’t going to surprise me with anything.”
In addition to knowing where Thompson is on the court, Joseph will almost always know where he is away from the court.
This includes when the two duel it out in piano class. Joseph raved about Thompson’s ability to play the piano. While Thompson has already mastered many songs including “The Addam’s Family” theme, and is currently working on Lynrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Thompson believes he is ready to play for a bigger audience than just his class.
“I may play at the Frank Erwin Center,” said Thompson who said he would jump in with the Longhorn band. “I can probably sell out 16,000 [seats]. No problem.”
But while Joseph, who is currently working on R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” in piano class, was quick to compliment his buddy’s talent on the piano, he was criticized on his dance skills.
“I think he has two left feet,” Thompson joked.
Like all good friends, the two are able to give each other a hard time and joke around. But when it comes to basketball, the two are all business.
Both Joseph and Thompson have already gained the respect of their teammates and coaches through their hard work mentality.
“They are the first in gym every day and last to leave,” head coach Rick Barnes said.
They are both doing whatever they can to get better including watching film from the Longhorns’ scrimmages.
“They knows they have work to do in a lot of area, but they have embraced that,” Barnes said.
While some of the Longhorns are comparing Joseph to Augustin, others are comparing Thompson to former Longhorn LaMarcus Aldridge. Forward Gary Johnson, however, thinks Thompson resembles someone else.
“He’s a split image of me except a lot taller and more athletic,” Johnson said. “He’s a rebounder first and a scorer second.”
Johnson and the rest of the team expect a lot from the Joseph and Thompson this season. Joseph is listed as a projected starter for tonight’s season opener against Navy, and Thompson should be one of the first off the bench. The two are ready to begin a new chapter in their basketball career.
Although Joseph no longer has his curly cues that Thompson noticed from day one, he still has the impressive shot that he had in fifth grade. The once tall and lanky Thompson has developed into a rebounding machine who is now able to touch a lot more than the bottom of the backboard of a basketball goal.
The Canadian connection makes up a duo that is about much than basketball. They are not just Longhorns, but family.
“At the end of the day he is more than a teammate, he is a brother for me,” Thompson said.