Montreal manufactures hockey players, and business is good. Except if you’re Kris Joseph.
So, when the late second-round Celtics pick in this summer’s NBA draft arrived stateside as a 17-year-old high school junior in search of a basketball education, the jet lag lasted a little longer than usual.
“He was pretty lazy,” admitted Clinton Perrow, who coached Joseph for two prep seasons at Archbishop Carroll (Washington, D.C.) from 2006-08. “A lot of things came to him without a whole lot of effort. Early on, he didn’t see the need for conditioning because the game came so easily for him.”
Still, no coach questioned Joseph’s potential. Not as an inexperienced junior. Not as ESPNU’s No. 50 overall senior recruit in the Class of 2008. Not during a collegiate career that culminated in a Wooden Award finalist bid in his fourth and final season at Syracuse. And not when he fell all the way to the Celtics at No. 52 in the draft.
“When you see him, you know he’s a player,” said Curtis Malone, president of the D.C. Assault AAU program that recruited Joseph in 2006. “And we didn’t have to see him much to say, ‘We’ve gotta get this guy on our team.’ There were so many moments that made you say, ‘Wow, this kid is really, really good.’ He’s a talent.”
Six years later, Joseph joins undrafted rookies Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith in a three-man battle for the final two spots on the C’s 15-man roster. And he still may not have realized that full potential.
“He hadn’t played lot of high-level ball until his last two years of high school, so once he puts everything together this kid has so much talent that the upside is huge for him,” said Syracuse assistant Adrian Autry, who served as Joseph’s positional coach this past season and faced him as a high school assistant at Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.). “He played basketball, but not at that level and not every day. Hockey is the sport in Canada, so once he got into that type of environment where he was playing at a high level and playing every day, he was very impressive.”
Joseph’s skill set, for the most part, hasn’t changed all that much since he made the 600-mile mission from Montreal to Washington, D.C. How seriously he approaches his craft, however, has evolved dramatically.
“After summer league, I had to take a little time off, just for my body,” said Joseph during an appearance last week at the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation’s Summer Soiree. “Two summer leagues was kind of grueling, but it was a great experience overall. I’ve just been working out, trying to maintain my body. I’ve been making sure I’ve been eating the right things and doing things the right way, just so I can work out. This is a job, so you’ve got to make sure you do things the right way, especially with your body.”
In a way, when Celtics training camp commences at September’s end, Joseph’s story is only just beginning.