SAN ANTONIO (NBA/FIBA Americas Championship) - After an intense NBA season during which he finally made it onto the San Antonio Spurs roster as Tony Parker's back-up, Cory Joseph has another important challenge ahead of him this summer.
The former Texas University point guard is expecting to be one of the few NBA players included in the Canadian national team roster for the FIBA Americas Championship in Caracas, Venezuela from 30 August to 11 September.
Canada have been drawn in Group A with Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Jamaica and Brazil and will aim to finish in the top four, in order to qualify for next year's FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
"I'm very motivated to help my country get a great performance in Caracas, I'm really looking forward to it," Joseph told Fiba.com.
Drafted by the Spurs in 2011, the 1.91m guard has taken advantage of the opportunities given to him last season to show his talent. He is now determined to show his improvement by taking more responsibilities with the national team.
"I've learned a lot since I've been playing for the Spurs. Being in a franchise like that helps you grow as a player but also grow as a leader.I know that I can bring a lot of things to the national team and I’ll give everything for my country on the court," he explained.
Capped for the first time with the senior national team in 2011, Joseph takes his attachment to the national team very seriously and has a vested interest in helping bring Canadian basketball back into the spotlight.
"Canadian basketball has been showing an irregular level for way too long. We've been working hard to bring our country back on the world's basketball map and I'm sure we'll achieve it very soon," he said.
"The next step is to have a great performance at the FIBA Americas Championship.
"Our group is tough. Puerto Rico has a lot of talented players like Juan Jose Barea for example, and Brazil is also a very good team as they reached the Final of the last continental tournament. We also need to be careful with the other teams, Jamaica and Uruguay.
"We will give everything to reach one of the first four spots to qualify for the next FIBA Basketball World Cup. We want to go to Spain next year."
Being one of the flag bearers of Canadian Basketball's new generation alongside fellow NBA players Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), Andrew Nicholson (Orlando Magic) and Kelly Olynyk (Boston Celtics), Joseph is aware that his national team has a bright future.
"We have a lot of young, talented and hard working players but we know that there's still a lot of work to do to reach our best level," he explained.
"There are more and more Canadian players in the NBA and a lot of very good young prospects are having great performances in college basketball teams around the USA.
"Anthony Bennett, who was the first pick in the last NBA Draft and Andrew Wiggins, the new 'phenomenon', are some examples of the good work that has been done by Canadian basketball in the last few years."
Joseph is enthusiastic about Canada's future and feels privileged to have the possibility to work with national legend Steve Nash, who has been the general manager of the senior national team since 2012.
"He brings a lot, he is a reference for all of us. Our group has a lot of young players and having someone who has that much experience as Steve working with us is a huge honour," stated Joseph.
"We can learn a lot from him, even though it would have been a superb addition to the roster for sure."