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Two Findlay Prep stars go in the first round of the NBA Draft

Tristan Thompson is headed to Cleveland, while San Antonio takes Cory Joseph

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Justin M. Bowen

Tristan Thompson takes the court during a practice at Findlay Prep.

Updated Thursday, June 23, 2011 | 11:11 p.m.

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Findlay Prep guard Cory Joseph practices at the Orleans Arena.

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More frequent get-togethers are in order for the Findlay Prep basketball team beginning next season.

Players and coaches for the Henderson-based powerhouse regularly keep up with alumni by watching their college games with each other. The Pilots will have to do the same with the NBA now.

After Thursday’s NBA Draft in Newark, N.J., Findlay has produced four draft picks in the past two years.

“It just gets busier,” Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck said. “But I’m not complaining. It’s going to be fun to watch those guys.”

Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph — who spent a year at Texas together after starring on the 2009 and 2010 Findlay teams that won the ESPN Rise national championship — went fourth and 29th in the first round of the draft, respectively. DeAndre Liggins, who played three years collegiately at Kentucky, went in the second round at 53rd overall. They join 2009 graduate Avery Bradley, who went 19th to the Boston Celtics in last year’s draft, as former Findlay players in the league.

The Cleveland Cavaliers scooped up Thompson, who joins first overall pick Kyrie Irving in trying to return the squad to the top of the NBA. The San Antonio Spurs nabbed Joseph with the second-to-last pick of the first round, while Liggins is headed to the Orlando Magic.

“I’m not going to sit here and take credit for everything those guys accomplished,” Peck said. “But I’m happy with whatever way we helped their development. It’s a credit to how hard those guys have worked.”

Both Thompson and Joseph went higher than where they were projected. Most mock drafts had Thompson getting selected in the middle of the first round.

While he’s seen as having major upside, some analysts questioned if his offensive game was ready for the NBA.

“I’m continuing to work on my shot and be consistent,” Thompson said on ESPN’s telecast of the event. “It’s going to take months of dedication and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Joseph was an even bigger surprise as not many expected the 6-foot-3 guard to go earlier than the second round. Joseph benefited significantly by going in the opening round, as those are the only players who receive guaranteed contracts.

Peck said he thought Thompson was worthy of the No. 4 pick and was also optimistic about Joseph when reached before the Spurs selection.

“Here’s the thing about the draft: It’s not always about who’s the best, who goes the highest,” Peck said. “It’s about what a team needs. There might be a better point guard, but a team doesn’t need a point guard. We’re just so happy and excited.”

“(Cory) was one of the best we ever had. He was a big part of those two teams and an extension of the coach on the floor.”

The Spurs traded away veteran point guard George Hill in a draft-night deal, perhaps opening the possibility for Joseph to contribute right away. The expectation of immediate production is a certainty for Thompson as the Cavaliers look to rebound from a 19-63 season.

“I’m excited to get to Cleveland,” Thompson said.

Jimmer Fredette to Sacramento, Kawhi Leonard to San Antonio

Joseph will team up with one of two Mountain West Conference players taken in the draft. The Spurs traded with the Indiana Pacers to acquire San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard with the 15th pick of the draft.

Leonard helped the Aztecs to arguably their two best seasons in school history, which culminated with a trip to the Sweet 16 last season. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward has a game tailored for the NBA.

BYU's Jimmer Fredette also found himself in the middle of a draft-night trade. Fredette had to go through the charade of wearing a Milwaukee Bucks hat, even though the team quickly moved the 6-foot-2 guard to the Sacramento Kings after taking him 10th.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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