Cory Joseph

While most of the attention for Longhorns in the NBA stems from the yearly accolades collected by All-Stars Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, there are a number of less-heralded Longhorns who emerge in the league each year. Here’s how some of those Longhorns looked in week one of regular season action.

D.J. Augustin

A nine-year veteran, Augustin has played on eight different NBA teams over his career. Currently in the midst of a four-year, $29 million contract with the Orlando Magic, the constant changes of scenery have not stopped Augustin from being a productive player.

With Orlando’s starting point guard Elfrid Payton out with an injury, Augustin has now been thrust into a starting role, where he is expected to be an important contributor. In a game against the defending Eastern Conference champion, the Cleveland Cavaliers,
on Saturday night, Augustin helped lead the Magic to a stunning 114-93 win in Cleveland by dropping 12 points along with 10 assists and just one turnover. Augustin didn’t stop there, putting up an additional 19 points on Tuesday in a win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Jarrett Allen 

Fresh out of the 40 Acres, Allen was selected with the No. 22 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Brooklyn Nets. Allen had a solid NBA debut, posting nine points on 3-3 shooting in 15 minutes off the bench. He followed that performance up two nights later with four blocks against the Atlanta Hawks.

With little depth at the center position for Brooklyn, Allen is likely to earn a backup role behind veteran Timofey Mozgov. Allen’s athleticism and leaping ability makes him an ideal center in a league that has evolved to cater to more skilled and agile big men.

Cory Joseph

Joseph is coming off of his best season in the NBA, where he averaged 9.3 points, 3.3 assists and three rebounds for the Toronto Raptors. The former NBA champion was traded this past offseason to the Indiana Pacers, where he is competing with Darren Collison to earn minutes alongside starter Victor Oladipo in the backcourt.

Joseph helped his stock on Tuesday when he dropped 21 points and drained five three-pointers in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Despite trailing Collison on the depth chart, Joseph is still averaging 25 minutes per game this season. Expect for his role to increase as the season progresses.

San Antonio Spurs rolling but Austin Spurs are real bright spot

The San Antonio Spurs are one of the hottest teams in the NBA as of late. Winners of 11 of their last 13 games, the Spurs look to be once again one of the powerhouses in the league, and, a championship contender.

While most of the focus recently has been on this San Antonio team, basketball enthusiasts should actually be putting their attention on the Spurs D-League affiliate, the Austin Spurs.

Since the San Antonio Spurs purchased the D-League franchise, the Austin based team has become a model for other NBA teams on how to successfully operate what is essentially a minor league basketball team.

While under the San Antonio Spurs ownership for the past seven, going on eight seasons, the Austin Spurs have posted a winning percentage greater than .600 five times. The franchise has also won one D-League title during that time span.

The amazing part is that all this winning has not completely been a function of players just wanting to come to play for a team run by the San Antonio Spurs. It’s also the willingness of players from the parent team to come up to Austin to develop their game.

Four players on the San Antonio’s current roster have had D-League experience, Kyle Anderson Austin Daye, Danny Green, and Cory Joseph. Two of those players, Green and Joseph, are playing significant roles for the team. One of those, Green, is in the starting five.

The work San Antonio has done to integrate the D-League franchise into their organization has been fantastic. They have been able to get everyone in the organization to buy in on how valuable a tool the Austin team is.

In fact, last season, Cory Joseph actually asked San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich to be assigned to the D-League team.

“Can I go back to the D-League?” Joseph told nba.com.

The request was odd, especially considering most NBA players experience negative emotions and thoughts when asked to serve in the minor league for basketball.

Players never want to be sent down, nonetheless ask to. Even Popovich was surprised by the decision.

“You don’t get that kind of a request,” Popovich said.

Nevertheless Popovich agreed and the run in the D-League seems to be doing wonders for Joseph’s NBA career.

Getting the players on-board is just one side of the equation though. The other side, and often equally ignored, is understanding the rules of the D-League and how assignments work.

What makes the Austin team so special is that San Antonio has a mastery on the rules of the D-League and knows how to put it to good use.

This offseason, San Antonio brought in five players on non-guaranteed contracts into training camp. They ended up waiving all five, which was not surprising considering the team already had 15 players under guaranteed contract.

While a move to bring in those five players when they were going to be waived may seem perplexing to the casual fan, to the San Antonio organization it is regarded as a smart move.

By waiving those five players before the start of the season, San Antonio was allowed to assign three of those players to their Austin franchise.

That understanding of the D-League is so valuable, especially in a league where the talent gap is small and any little advantage can make the world of a difference.

These two points are not the only things that make this Austin Spurs team so special. There are numerous reasons that serve evidence as to why this franchise is so great such as the team having former NBA players as coaches, former NBA front office men handling the team’s basketball operations, and much more.

The San Antonio Spurs are having another great season and they have the Austin Spurs to thank for quite a bit of that success. The Austin team has put a big stamp on this NBA organization from developing players to having some of their front office guys move up to San Antonio.

San Antonio might be rolling right now, but, the biggest bright spot of this organization just might be their D-League affiliate.

Frehman point guard Isaiah Taylor is averaging 11.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game this season, marks that compare well to many former Texas PG greats. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

After nearly three years, the Longhorns men’s basketball team is ranked again. Texas enters a pivotal week ranked No. 25 in the latest AP poll, a number that will improve if they are able to slay Goliath and defeat No. 6 Kansas on Saturday. With this monstrous matchup looming, the two names every Texas fan needs to know are Cameron Ridley and Isaiah Taylor.

The 6-foot-9-inch, 285-pound Ridley is the first to draw attention. The sophomore center leads the team in rebounding and blocks and is quickly emerging as one of the most dominant centers to ever play for Rick Barnes.

Due to his gargantuan proportions, Ridley often draws comparisons with former Longhorn center Dexter Pittman. But, when it comes to games, there’s no comparison. Ridley averages 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while also leading the team with 48 blocks — already surpassing his total from last year, when he led the team with 47 — Pittman never averaged 11 points or six rebounds per game.

Ridley’s numbers are far closer to what Tristan Thompson, the fourth-overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, posted during his freshman year at Texas. Thompson put up 13.1 points, grabbed 7.8 rebounds and rejected 2.4 shots per game. Ridley is averaging 2.4 blocks-per-game this season, which — along with Thompson — is the highest for any Longhorn player in 14 years.

Freshman point guard Taylor has been equally impressive. He has been a revelation, quickly putting himself in the exclusive company of past elite Texas point guards. This list includes T.J. Ford, Daniel Gibson, D.J. Augustin, Avery Bradley and Cory Joseph, all of whom played in the NBA.

Taylor has been an offensive spark plug, averaging 11.7 points and 3.7 assists per game. Last Saturday’s win over Baylor was his best performance of the season, in which he had a career-high 27 points. Although he has attempted only 11 three pointers all year, Taylor has had plenty of success attacking the rim — his 6.15 free-throw attempts per game are more than Ford, Gibson, Augustin, Bradley or Joseph ever averaged.

Taylor is averaging more points than Joseph and Ford did their freshman seasons and Taylor has more assists per game than Joseph and Bradley did. He also has a better assist-turnover ratio than Gibson, Joseph and Bradley.

Before Ridley and Taylor burst onto the scene, Texas basketball was at rock bottom. But, with new life and new leadership, this team looks like the real deal. We’ll know for sure if they are after they take on Kansas this weekend. 

Barnes deserves credit, not criticism for three first-round picks

Rick Barnes sent three players to the NBA Draft this season, all of whom were first-round picks.
Rick Barnes sent three players to the NBA Draft this season, all of whom were first-round picks.

Normally a program producing three first-round picks would be cause for celebration, but it’s cause for concern for some fans who believe Texas should have had a better postseason.

Rick Barnes took a lot of heat for not making it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament in March despite having two projected lottery picks and several other respectable players. The fact that three Longhorns — Tristan Thompson (No. 4), Jordan Hamilton (No. 26) and Cory Joseph (No. 29) — heard their names called during the NBA Draft’s first round was a stark reminder for Barnes’ critics that he should have gotten more out of his team last season.

With that trio of early selections, Texas had more players selected in the first round than any other team (Kansas and Duke each had two). Since 2006, the Longhorns have seen eight of their players picked in the first round, also more than anyone in the country. During that same time span, Barnes’ boys have gotten past the second round twice and gone 9-6 (.600) in the NCAA Tournament.

This plethora of first-rounders should not be a reason for throwing Barnes under the bus though. That would ignore the fact that Texas had a stellar regular season. Before they lost three of their last five regular-season games, the Longhorns rose as high as No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches poll, won their first 11 conference contests and beat Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse for the first time in school history.

Any disapproving remarks about Barnes would also fail to recall the gauntlet Texas faced in the NCAA Tournament. After hopes of a No. 1 seed were squashed by a February skid that saw them fall to three unranked teams in 10 days, the Longhorns found themselves in a No. 4 slot many felt was an error on the Selection Committee’s part. Some experts also felt Texas’ first-round opponent, 13th-seeded Oakland, was also disrespected by its spot in the bracket and even picked the Grizzlies to pull the upset. When the Longhorns squeaked by with an 85-81 win, they were faced with the daunting task of facing Arizona’s Derrick Williams, the eventual No. 2 pick. Had Texas beaten the Wildcats, they would have gone up against the defending champion Duke Blue Devils, who featured the eventual No. 1 pick, Kyrie Irving, and two more heralded future selections — seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.

Any claim Barnes is a mastermind of squandering superior talent would also forget the fact that Barnes has talented teams for a reason — he’s a top-notch recruiter and an awesome developer of talent. Thompson, who will join former Longhorn Daniel “Boobie” Gibson on the Cleveland Cavaliers, was the highest-ranked member of the high school class of 2010 when he committed after his sophomore season. But by the time he graduated, he had slipped to No. 10 (No. 17 on Rivals.com). During his short time at Texas, Thompson more than made up for it. He drastically improved on both ends of the floor, becoming a feared offensive threat and an incredible rebounder and shot-blocker.

Joseph, who played alongside Thompson at Findlay Prep, also made significant strides during his freshman season. He scored 10.4 points per game — fourth on the team — but displayed his ability to come through in the clutch when he hit a game-winning jumper to beat North Carolina in December. Most draft experts thought the San Antonio Spurs reached to make Joseph their first-round selection. But when you consider that the Spurs are a franchise with a heavy emphasis on defense, it’s not much of a surprise they went with a guy that would be a defensive asset.

Hamilton likely best illustrates Barnes ability to shape elite college basketball players. In his freshman year, the 6-foot-7 swingman showed flashes of brilliance but also displayed horrendous shot selection and proved to be a defensive liability. Hamilton’s sophomore season went much better. He embraced his role as the go-to guy on offense without taking 25 to 30 shots and routinely guarded the other team’s best player. Hamilton also improved as a rebounder and a defender and was rewarded by landing in Denver after Dallas traded him.

Barnes gets both the blame for falling short in the NCAA tournament with his gifted team without getting any of the credit for having a gifted team in the first place. How else would Thompson have gone from top-20 prospect to top-five draft pick? How else would Hamilton have gone from someone who never met a shot he didn’t like to a pro prospect that a bunch of scouts liked? The answer is short and simple — Rick Barnes.

One-and-Dones hurting Texas

Jordan Hamilton is gone. Tristan Thompson is gone. Cory Joseph is gone. 

What, you expected otherwise?

The one-and-done been the norm for Texas the past few years. And that’s not going to change, so long as Rick Barnes is still inking five-star after five-star and the Longhorns bow out early year after year.

Granted, it’s never really a bad thing to be signing prep All-Americans. And it’s a testament to how far the Texas program has come in the past decade and a half that it can get the best players in the nation to come play in Austin. But when multiple top-five recruiting classes don’t translate to final finishes in the top four, or top eight, or top 16…or top 32 (you get the picture), then what’s the point? The supreme talent Barnes brings to Austin every August just ends up leaving in April and May, with nothing to show for it but the skid marks of a once-promising season coming to a screeching halt.

It wasn’t always like this, because Texas didn’t start recruiting and signing “superstars” until a little over ten years ago. T.J. Ford took Texas to the Final Four in 2003, then left with two seasons of eligibility remaining. A few years later, LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson and P.J. Tucker all declared for the draft after an Elite Eight appearance. Aldridge has flourished in the league, Gibson has settled into a nice role as a spot-up shooter in Cleveland (though his ceiling seemed to be much higher when he first came to Texas) and Tucker was a complete disappointment professionaly, now coming to an Italian arena game near you. Kevin Durant left after his freshman year (no arguing that), D.J. Augustin left after his sophomore year — a good, not great, point guard now with the Bobcats — and last year, Avery Bradley left after a relatively unremarkable individual year.

Bradley, if you remember, came to Texas billed as the No. 1 high school player in the nation. Ahead of DeMarcus Cousins. Ahead of Derrick Favors. Ahead of, yes, John Wall. So all Bradley did was put up around 12 points a game, wildly underachieving any expectations the Longhorns’ fan base might have set for him. Bradley spurned the opportunity to get better and realize his potential in college, jumped to the draft, missed out on the lottery, was picked up by the Boston Celtics at No. 19, played a large chunk of the season in the Developmental League and, as I sit in front of my TV watching Boston play Miami in the Eastern Conference Semifinals,  is nowhere to be found on the court. In fact, Bradley hasn’t played in a game since April 17.

A classmate of Bradley’s in 2009, Jordan Hamilton returned for his sophomore year and greatly improved his game. That Hamilton is now moving on the NBA — where he should be selected in the lottery and should also be a top scorer on any team in the league — should not upset any orange blood.

Neither should the departure of Tristan Thompson. Thompson was a five-star recruit and still managed to exceed expectations this past season for Texas. Sure, his game could benefit from another year or so in college, but he has been guaranteed first-round money. To argue that Thompson is dumb for not returning for another year here at Texas would just be selfish, because Thompson is ready.

But Cory Joseph, sadly, is not. In fact, Joseph declaring for the draft a few days ago is incredibly similar to Bradley’s mishap. Like Bradley, Joseph was a five-star recruit. Like Bradley, Joseph looks to be a bit of a point guard/two-guard tweener. Like Bradley, Joseph can play good defense and has a plus jump shot. But also like Bradley, Joseph didn’t meet freshman expectations (11 points a game), and could greatly benefit from another year in school, working on his skills and his body. ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted last week that he thought Joseph “could be on the D-League All-Rookie team this year.”

As I sit here on my couch, I understand that I would seem not a good judge to offer my insight on any decision dealing with millions of dollars. No, there are no New York Timeses or Boston Globes calling to offer me lucrative contracts. I know what it’s like to be a college student, yes, but I do not know how hard it may be to say “no” to six or seven figures. I also know I often wake up and wish I didn’t have to go to class (about every day.) So there is no blaming, on my part, of any student-athlete who elects to follow their dream, earn some money, ditch the textbooks, and enter the NBA draft. It’s their call, and if they flame out in the league, it will be completely their fault (looking at you, P.J. Tucker.)

With that said, I just don't understand why Barnes keep taking these ready-to-go kids. It’s not like they’re helping bring his program to the Promised Land — four out of five years without even a Sweet 16 appearance. And it accounts to some seriously scary roster turnover, unless you believe that a frontline of Clint Chapman and Alexi Wangmene will in fact be a formidable one.

If Barnes wants to really earn that $200,000 pay raise he just received, he’d be smart to re-evaluate his recruiting practices. He shouldn’t completely stop going after the super recruit, the nearly-inevitable one-and-done, because most national champions usually have one or two great players on their team, and you never know when some of the best players in the country will elect to return to school (Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, Baylor’s Perrry Jones — all highly regarded by NBA minds, all returning for their sophomore season this fall.) Nationally recognized players also bring their schools national attention. Whatever Kevin Durant did for Texas in his time here and whatever his legacy will do for Texas in the hereafter has extraordinary significance.

But Barnes should start placing more value on the high-character role players, guys he knows will stick around for at least a couple of seasons, improve every year, buy into the program, and develop as leaders. Gary Johnson was that player last year. Texas needs more guys like that if it ever hopes to develop as a yearly national championship contender.

So as soon as the one-and-dones stop using Austin as an eight-month long layover on their way to the NBA, the Longhorns will be able to field a consistent, synergized roster. That should equal more success.

Until then? Don’t expect much, other than disappointing finales, fleeting memories, and awkward goodbyes.

Joseph to remain in NBA draft

Cory Joseph is staying in the NBA Draft, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Joseph, a freshman guard who averaged 10.4 points per game this year for the Longhorns, is not currently projected to be a first-round draft pick.
In fact, earlier this week ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted this:

“Hurts me to say this but Texas’ Corey (sic) Joseph could be on D-League All-Rookie team next year.”

But with a weak draft pool — several marquee players have elected to stay in school — and a strong showing this weekend at a NBA feature camp hosted by the New Jersey Nets, Joseph could move up some draft boards if he continues to impress.

Joseph becomes the most recent Longhorn to officially declare for the NBA draft, following Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton. 

Texas point guard Myck Kabongo, who averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 assists per game as a freshman in 2011, is coming back for his sophmore season.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Myck Kabongo veered from the path set forth by his predecessors and will return for his sophomore season.

The Longhorns’ starting point guard announced Monday that he would bypass the 2012 NBA Draft and stay in school. He’s the first UT starting point guard to shun the pros since 2009.

“It’s not my time to go,” Kabongo announced on the Longhorn Network. “I want to be here next year. We see ourselves playing deep into March.”

Two of Texas’ previous point guards left for the NBA after one season and were drafted in the first round: Avery Bradley in 2010 and Cory Joseph in 2011.

Bradley, Joseph and Kabongo all came to UT from Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada. Forward Tristan Thompson also came from the same school and was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft after a strong freshman campaign.

But Kabongo felt he was not prepared to make the jump to the league. He consulted with his family and NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson before deciding to remain in college.

“It’s about being ready,” Kabongo said. “The NBA is going to be around. Being at Texas is the best thing for me.”

Kabongo also sought advice from Joseph, who has bounced between the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros of the NBA Developmental League as a rookie. Joseph was the 29th overall pick.

“He’s not in the best situation,” Kabongo said. “He’s a guy that’s been playing his whole life and now all of a sudden he has to sit at the end of the bench. He’s proud of my decision. I told him last night what I was going to do.”

Most scouting services projected Kabongo as a second round pick, though it’s not an exact science. He potentially left millions of dollars on the table had he been drafted at the end of the first round. Second round picks earn the league minimum (currently $490,180 per year).

Kabongo was even late to his announcement at Longhorn Network’s studios in North Austin. It’s clear he’s not rushing things.

“The one thing you want to do once you get to that next level, you want to stick,” Kabongo said of his NBA prospects. “A lot of guys get in there and they leave early and they don’t find themselves because they aren’t ready — it’s all potential. I don’t want to be one of those guys. I want to be someone who is ready to play and contribute.”

The Toronto product averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 assists in 34 games. He struggled in postseason play though, and had two points, two assists and two turnovers in UT’s season-ending loss to Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament.

“I didn’t play to where I should have been playing this year,” Kabongo said. “I just couldn’t leave this way ... I think I’m going to be a lot better than I was this year.”

Texas head coach Rick Barnes will have his entire freshman class return for the first time since 2009.

“Our entire staff is happy about Myck,” Barnes said in a statement. “Myck grew a lot this year. The expectation is Myck will continue to make tremendous strides.”

The deadline to declare for the NBA Draft is April 29. With Texas starting spring workouts Monday, Kabongo wanted to make his intentions clear. “I wanted to make sure my teammates know I’m all in,” he said. “I have no timetable.”

Published on Tuesday, March 27,1012 as: Kabongo to return for another year

Head coach Rick Barnes will bid farewell to another group of players leaving for the NBA Draft. Since 2006, eight Longhorns have been selected in teh first round under Barnes

Photo Credit: Derek Stout | Daily Texan Staff

The three Longhorns drafted into the NBA last week spent about as much time on the draft board as they did playing college ball. Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph were all taken in the first round of the draft, and it is a point of both contention and celebration for Longhorn fans.

Perhaps the disappointment can only be erased by taking solace in the fact that, for the first time in school history, three players were selected in the first round. Weak draft class or not, no one expected that.

The biggest shocker of the night was when Cleveland selected Tristan Thompson with the fourth overall pick. Let’s be nice and at least count this early selection as a victory for Thompson. The extra “W” will come in handy for him since he is now on the worst team in the league, which did itself no favors by drafting so terribly.

Thompson, along with the Cavaliers’ No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving, will head into the home of the Rust Belt with equally as much rust in their games. Irving played a grand total of 11 games his sophomore year because of injuries, and Thompson played one solid year of beginner ball with Texas. Now he is expected to make an immediate impact on the league’s laughter squad. The problem is the Cavaliers are already stacked with raw forwards.

Thompson would have been better off falling into the upper teens before being selected. He would have fit well into the second team of a squad such as Phoenix or New York; high-scoring teams with an emphasis on speed.

Thompson’s impact is not going to be as a scorer. He is the guy you want to come in for 15-20 minutes, cause defensive chaos, snag big rebounds and drop a respectable nine or 10 points a night. Cleveland may expect too much too early from the big man, and it could have a negative impact on his career moving forward.

If Thompson was drafted into an unfortunate situation, Jordan Hamilton was dealt the exact opposite hand of cards.

Landing in Denver was perfect for Hamilton, because the Nuggets know a thing or two about explosive scorers. Hamilton is being ushered into a situation tailor-made for his game. He will get to spend a year or so on the bench, learning from guys such as Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, while simultaneously being allowed to unleash his hyperactive shot for 10-15 minutes a game. His progress will be slow, but he is set up for the most success of any of the former UT players drafted.

As far as the Cory Joseph pick is concerned, I’m still shaking my head at why he even chose to enter the draft.

He was essentially going to have the keys to Texas backcourt handed to him had he stayed another year. He would have had a chance to retool his game and up his draft stock. Instead he went 29th to the Spurs, where he could battle Tony Parker for the starting job — a job Joseph will compete for but won’t get.

To be frank, how is anyone supposed to know how these things will turn out? Draft selections often surprise fans. And if anyone knows about draft steals, it is the San Antonio Spurs. In 1999, an Argentinian by the name of Manu Ginobili was selected 57th overall in the second round, and no one aside from the Spurs had high hopes for him. Turns out everyone else was wrong. Ginobili has won three championships with the Spurs and was an All-Star in 2005.

During the 2007-08 season, he received the Sixth Man of the Year Award and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. One can only hope Joseph will be so fortunate.

As for Longhorn basketball fans, you’re free to be either unhappy at the loss of your team’s cornerstone players or happy for their progress. I’m just jealous they have jobs already.

NBA Draft

SpursÂ’ Cory Joseph answers questions from the media Saturday June 25, 2011 at the Spurs practice facility. (San Antonio Express-News, Edward Ornelas)

When Cory Joseph announced that he would remain in the NBA Draft and forego his three remaining years at Texas, he left a lot of people scratching their heads.

“Hurts me to say this, but Cory Joseph could be on [the] D-League All-Rookie team next year,” said ESPN basketball analyst Fran Frasc hilla in early May, via his Twitter account.

But when the San Antonio Spurs picked him in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft with a No. 29 pick, it became clear that Joseph had made the right decision.

“I know the team is very close and it’s a great organization,” said Joseph at his introductory press conference Saturday in San Antonio. “I was very happy.”

In one season at Texas, Joseph mostly played two-guard, averaging 10 points and three assists a game. With the Spurs, he projects to be at the point (which is where he played in high school), in a back-up role behind Tony Parker.

It looks like the perfect fit. Before the draft, there were rumors that San Antonio was looking to trade starting point guard Tony Parker. On draft night, the Spurs instead traded backup point guard George Hill to Indiana, essentially opening the door for Joseph to get significant minutes behind Parker.

“He had a very good freshman year at Texas, we saw him a lot,” said Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford. “We think he has terrific defensive qualities, terrific Spurs qualities and was one of the best freshman guards in the country.”

At six-foot-three, Joseph has the size to succeed in the NBA. And with 41 percent behind the three-point line, he has the stroke, too. What worried some scouts was below-average speed for a point guard and a possible inability to create shots for himself. Despite what any other team thought, San Antonio had targeted him from day one.

“We knew the guy we were focused on was Cory,” Buford said. “To have that play out is exciting for us.”

Texas' Tristan Thompson talks to reporters after being taken with the No. 4 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA basketball draft, Thursday in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

For the first time in school history, three Longhorns — Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph — were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. 

Thompson was chosen at No. 4 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 6-foot-9 power forward, who left after his freshman season, was the third-highest player drafted in school history, behind Kevin Durant (No. 2 in 2007 to Seattle) and LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 2 in 2006 to Chicago).

“We’re very excited for Tristan and his family,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “I’m not sure we’ve seen a player improve so quickly.”

In one year at Texas, Thompson scored 13 points a game and averaged 7.8 rebounds as well. He will team up with Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 pick of the 2011 Draft, to usher in a new era of basketball in Cleveland, a franchise still reeling after the departure of LeBron James last summer.

This marks another connection between the Cavaliers and the Longhorns. Chris Mihm played three years in Cleveland, and former point guard Daniel Gibson has been on the team since being drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft.

It was a harder night for Hamilton, who slipped past a preferred lottery destination, and then past the top 20 before finally having his name called by the Dallas Mavericks at No. 26. Then, he was traded to Portland, where Aldridge currently plays, for Rudy Fernandez. Finally, the Trailblazers sent him to Denver.

When asked why he thought he dropped so low in the draft, Hamilton told NBA reporter Chris Tomasson that he heard that Barnes had warned NBA teams that the small forward was “uncoachable.”

But in Barnes’ post-draft statement, he was very complimentary of the growth Hamilton underwent between his freshman and sophomore seasons in Austin.

“I will always respect Jordan for the way he honestly sat down and evaluated himself after his freshman season here,” he said. “He realized there was a lot he needed to learn…He has matured so much, not only in basketball, but as a man.”

In his second and final year as a Longhorn, Hamilton led the team in scoring with 19 points per game and was a third team All-American.

The feel-good story of the night may have belonged to Joseph. Not expected to be picked in the first round, nearby San Antonio snatched him with the No. 29 overall pick in one of the bigger surprises of the draft.

“Cory is a player who, as a coach, you really enjoy being around,” Barnes said. “He simply loves to be in the gym and compete.”

With the Spurs sending backup point guard George Hill to Indiana, Joseph projects to fill that role. He started all 36 games this season for Texas at shooting guard. He led the team in steals, assists, three-point field percentage and minutes played.

“He does all the little things that help a team,” Barnes said.