As the midnight deadline passed and Cory Joseph's name remained in the NBA draft, most college basketball fans had the same reaction: disappointment.
Joseph was the last of the five starters from last season with a chance to return and Longhorn followers hoped he could team with fellow Canadian Myck Kabongo in what would have been one of the country's best backcourts next year. Instead, the deadline came and went, and Joseph moved on to the next stage of his basketball life. Another one and done in Austin and that's two more just this season. Coach K has only had three players leave early since 1999.
Based on his single season in a Texas uniform, Joseph appeared to be Longhorn least prepared to make the early jump to the NBA. At least Daniel Gibson had three-point accuracy as his calling card and Avery Bradley had lockdown defense to rely upon. As a freshman, Joseph averaged just over 10 points per game for the Longhorns, leading the team with 109 assists and grabbing a respectable 128 rebounds. Solid numbers, but not outstanding. Certainly not anything close to a lottery pick.
The tipping point for Joseph appeared to be his workout this weekend in New York in front of NBA personnel. He showed good speed in drills and reportedly shot and defended well. Even so, most projections have him ranked as a second-round pick, down in the land of non-guaranteed contracts. Especially risky with a potential lockout looming.
Despite the calls to stay in school and develop for another year, this was really the best decision for Joseph. First, this draft class isn't as strong as it could have been after Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, and Baylor's Perry Jones chose to return to school. If they come out next year, plus the regular allotment of freshmen doing their own one-and-dones, the 2012 draft gets more crowded.
Also, even without a fully guaranteed contract, it's still possible to get one that's close to guaranteed. Teams are watching their bottom lines and an inexpensive player at the end of the bench is better than an overpaid veteran.
Finally, Joseph appears to have gotten word from the Cleveland Cavaliers that they would pick him with one of their second-round selections. Of course, a team's word is far from a sure thing, but interest from one club sparks closer looks from others. Where there's smoke, there's fire, and teams will be looking to fill specific needs in that second round.
With those things in mind, Joseph's decision was grounded more in business than emotion. That's not surprising, given that the groundwork for Joseph's one-and-done jump was laid a long time ago. Basketball is the Joseph's family business and Cory feels now is the time to step up to the next level of management.
Joseph's mom and dad met when they played at the same Canadian college. His mother, Connie, remained active as a player, coach, and referee for years, and his father, David, ran basketball camps in the area. Cory's older brother, Devoe, earned a scholarship to Minnesota and recently transferred to Oregon after butting heads with Gopher coach Tubby Smith.
At 16, Joseph was living thousands of miles from home in a house with nine other players for Las Vegas's Findlay Prep. Without the NCAA rule forcing players to spend at least one year in college, he likely never would have set foot in Austin.
Sure, he needs to get better, both in his skill set and his athleticism. At 6-3 and 185, you wonder where he's going to play in the NBA, and how he's going to guard faster and/or bigger players. ESPN's Fran Fraschilla's recently tweeted, "Hurts me to say this but Texas' Corey Joseph could be on D-League All-Rookie Team next year."
In the face of those substantial negatives, Joseph's decision to stay in the draft could be seen as one of blind hubris. Or it could simply that of a young entrepreneur, weighing his options in a changing business landscape, ever optimistic that things will work out. Now is the time to move, Joseph decided; we'll see soon enough whether he made the right decision.
One thing we do know is that Jonathan Holmes, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis, Kevin Thomas and Myck Kabongo better come ready to play. And if only two leave after their freshman year, it has to be considered a success, no?