Kevin Thomas latest Canadian to UT
The Texas Longhorns' recent addition of Canadian native Kevin Thomas (Brampton, Ontario/Christian Faith) makes four prospects from the same Grassroots Canada travel team for Rick Barnes over the past two years.
The 6-foot-8, 205-pound small forward joins McDonald's All-American point guard Myck Kabongo (Toronto/Findlay Prep) in the Longhorns' 2011 class, and both would reunite with former teammates Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, providing Thompson returns for his sophomore season. That same foursome won the 2008 adidas Super 64 championship, a win that raised the profile of all the prospects from Canada.
"It's been 10 years in the making," Grassroots Canada coach Ro Russell said. "[Barnes and the Longhorns] originally tried to recruit Denham Brown [in 2003; he ended up at Connecticut]. They recruited and got an initial commitment from Theo Davis [in 2004], but that didn't work out. Over the years, whenever they didn't get somebody, they maintained a good relationship and stayed positive. They kept plugging away, trying to recruit our guys."
Since Davis decommitted from Texas in the summer of 2004, the Longhorns put Canada on lockdown. Assistant coach Rodney Terry laid the groundwork for the pipeline that has put Barnes in position to be the most powerful American basketball coach in Canada.
"I had been recruiting Canadian kids when I was with Jerry Wainwright [at UNC-Wilmington]," Terry said. "We had a couple Canadian kids at Wilmington, and it was kind of an untapped area for a while. When I got here, we recruited Theo Davis."
Terry told Russell that he was coming back to recruit more Canadians, and once Barnes caught a glimpse of Thompson at a Reebok camp, he told Terry to go get the big man. The Longhorns locked in on Thompson and used the biggest recruiting tool they had to lure him: Kevin Durant.
As good as Barnes and his staff are in Canada, this run of players can be directly attributed to the players themselves as well. Russell had a front row seat as he watched his players recruit each other to Austin.
"It's not that Texas gets our guys. They wanted them and they went hard to get them. When they got one guy, the other guys went hard and tried to work on each other," Russell said. "Once a guy commits, he works to get some of his friends from his AAU team to go. That's how they've been successful over the years with our guys."
However, Joseph was one guy Texas wasn't sure it could get.
"We didn't think we were getting Cory Joseph until he called and told us he was coming," Terry said. "There was a week there when nobody had contact with Cory. Nobody. When we got him, I was floored."
If the Longhorns thought Joseph was a difficult recruit, Kabongo proved nearly as elusive. The five-star point guard actually committed in January 2009 -- 15 months before Joseph -- so the Horns were planning to be in good shape, regardless of Joseph's decision. At least that's what they thought.
Prior to this past fall's early signing period, Kabongo got cold feet. All of a sudden, he decommitted, and schools such as Syracuse and Duke were bantered about behind the scenes. For two weeks, it looked like Texas might not get Kabongo back. Eventually, he came around and figured UT was the best spot for him.
"Texas was the right fit for [Thompson]," Kabongo said. "Wherever he was going, I was going, and from there, everyone just tagged along with us."
Kabongo didn't grow up a Longhorns fan. He actually favored Maryland as a kid and even had Thompson thinking the Terps for a while, too. However, when the next generation of Canadian basketball prospects watch the college game, they'll be thinking Texas.
"We're setting this trend," Kabongo said. "Kids' dream school [back in Canada] will be Texas because of the success of Tristan and Cory."
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.
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