Kris Joseph’s Family Roots Remain Important as He Hopes Unusual Career Path Leads Him From Montreal to Boston

Kris Joseph's Family Roots Remain Important as He Hopes Unusual Career Path Leads Him From Montreal to BostonThe first thing Earth Rigsby remembers about coming to North America is how cold it was.

Rigsby, then 22, spent her first day in Montreal shivering in a snowstorm, wondering what she had gotten herself into when she agreed to follow her husband, Michael Joseph, from the tropical climate of Trinidad to the chill of Quebec. Yet in that hockey-crazed city where frigid winters made the few outdoor basketball courts that existed unplayable for half the year, Rigsby's boys would spurn the ice for the hardwood.

More than 20 years after her arrival, Rigsby stood in the library at the Jackson-Mann School in Allston, Mass., watching as her youngest son, Kris Joseph, was introduced as a new member of the Boston Celtics. While Joseph alternated between answering questions from the media and playing Xbox Kinect with the schoolchildren attending summer camp in the school's newly renovated library, Rigsby recorded it all on a small handheld camcorder. Joseph's dream of being drafted by an NBA team had come true, but at the cost of one of Rigsby's.

Rigsby has always wanted her son to visit her home country of Trinidad, but for various reasons Joseph, 23, has never made the trip. Rigsby goes back from time to time for Carnival, an island-wide celebration that takes place each year in February or March, but she refused to pull Joseph or his older brother, Maurice, out of school. So Joseph never went.

Now Joseph, who graduated from Syracuse University this year with a degree in Human Ecology, no longer has school as an excuse. And if the Celtics' second-round draft pick makes Boston's roster, he would have no trouble funding a visit. Before that can happen, though, there are summer leagues, followed by training camp and exhibition games in early October. A few weeks later, regular season games begin. There will not be much time for a vacation.

"Now he's out of school, and what happens?" Rigsby said, sighing through her smile. "He's busy all summer. Later on in the year, it's busy time. In February, when I usually go for Carnival, it's busy time. But one of these days, I hope to take him to Trinidad because he knows a lot about it. He's just never been there to see it for himself."

Instead of calypso and steelpans, Joseph grew up around sticks and pucks. He and Maurice shot baskets into garbage cans because there were no basketball courts in their neighborhood of Cote-des-Neiges. Maurice, who is three years older, let Joseph tag along to games at rec centers and the Boys & Girls Club, where Joseph would shoot at side hoops while his brother ran full-court games.

"We made it work," Joseph said.

Joseph's early high school career would sound familiar to any Michael Jordan fan. He struggled against the top players until he was 14, getting cut from his club team as a freshman. After a growth spurt and many hours of running in those pickup games at the rec centers, Joseph was outplaying his competition by the end of 10th grade.

That was when a family friend suggested Rigsby make a tough decision for any mother. Send Joseph to Washington, D.C., he said, and enroll him at Archbishop Carroll High School, where he can gain expert instruction and play against elite opposition.

Rigsby, who knew firsthand about making a drastic relocation, saw her son wipe the floor with his opponents and realized Joseph's talent had made the decision for her.

"I'll put it this way: He was outgrowing Montreal in terms of basketball," Rigsby said.

Joseph excelled at Archbishop Carroll while living with his host family, the Petersons, with whom he is still close. He came back north — although not all the way back to Canada — for college to play at Syracuse as a 6-foot-7 forward. His best season with the Orange was his third, and it was nearly his last. After being named Big East Sixth Man of the Year, Joseph received pressure to forgo his senior year and enter the 2011 NBA draft.

Rigsby resisted. She had never wanted to pull him out of school for three days to visit her birthplace, so she was not keen on him skipping his entire final year of college, especially for a league that was in danger of not even having a 2011-12 season.

Mom — and the uncertainty created by the NBA lockout — ultimately won out. Joseph returned for his senior year at Syracuse, which may have hurt his draft position. Joseph's agent, Chris Grier Luchey of CGL Sports, told the family several teams were interested in the event Joseph did not get drafted, but Joseph was aware that drafted players stand a much better chance at making the team. He was therefore relieved when the Celtics selected him with the 51st overall pick.

Joseph is not guaranteed to make the Celtics roster. The team is stacked at his natural position of small forward, where Paul Pierce is entrenched and Jeff Green is expected to be the first player off the bench. If swingman Mickael Pietrus re-signs, Joseph could be no higher than fourth on the depth chart and could be ticketed for the Celtics' D-League affiliate in Portland, Maine.

Despite the long odds, Joseph said he does not believe it was a mistake to return to college for his senior year.

"I think the benefits of being a four-year player were just that I was able to mature over a four-year span," Joseph said. "I was able to play several different roles, be in a lot of different games and situations. I think that maturity's going to help me at this level because I've been a role player, I've come off the bench, I've been a starter. Obviously, it's two different worlds when you're talking about college and the NBA, but I'll be better prepared for this level. It won't take me a long time to get adjusted to this level here."

For the time being, the only locations that concern Joseph are Orlando and Las Vegas (the sites of the two summer leagues), followed by Waltham, Mass., (home of the Celtics' practice facility) and ultimately Boston. Eventually, Rigsby hopes he finds some free time to make his long-delayed visit to Trinidad. It is important to Rigsby that her son succeeds in his quest to play in the NBA, but it is also important to her that he can learn about his family's origins

"So you know your roots, where it started," Rigsby explained. "I think it's important, so you have a sense of where you actually came from."

And the weather is nicer, too.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

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