Caboclo Begins NBA Journey With First Toronto Appearance

Holly MacKenzie -

Like the majority of first-round draftees, Bruno Caboclo spent Thursday night in New York City. Unlike the rest of them, though, Caboclo did not hear his name called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Instead, he found out the Toronto Raptors had selected him 20th overall after reading a tweet on his phone in the backseat of a taxi.

“Somebody from Brazil tweeted us and said, ‘Oh my God, Bruno at 20,’” basketball and personal advisor Eduardo Resende said at Air Canada Centre on Saturday. “The taxi driver didn’t understand what went on. We were screaming back there. It was crazy.

“He was jumping out of the roof,” Resende said. “He was very excited. It's a dream come true. Like I said, for a young Brazilian player that could only see those things on TV, and then all of sudden he's part of it.”

Related VIdeo: Bruno Caboclo | Masai Ujiri 

Less than 24 hours later, Caboclo and Resende were flying to Toronto to meet with the front office that drafted him and speak to the media. Upon arrival, Caboclo was greeted by Raptors fans at the airport, all curious for a look at the newest player in town.

As a handful of kids tried — unsuccessfully — to sneak a selfie with him in the background, Cabolco played along, and, using his 7-foot-6 wingspan, grabbed the camera and took the photo for the kids, starring front and centre in the shot.

Things are happening at an insanely fast pace for Caboclo. After working out for his new team on Saturday morning — and getting in a late-night workout at 11 p.m. Friday after arriving — he met with a larger-than-normal media contingent at Air Canada Centre.

Although Cabolco is learning English, Resende translated and assisted when needed. The megawatt smile Cabolco flashed whenever he received a question he could answer on his own showed his excitement.

One of the things that appealed to Ujiri, who repeatedly referred to Caboclo’s love of the game, is how focused the young player is on improving and getting better.

“He’s a little shy until he gets used to what’s going on, and then he’s very open,” Masai Ujiri said. “He’s a gym rat, and he’s competitive. If he doesn’t do a drill well, he will want to finish it. That’s him. He’s a great kid. Loves basketball. He wants to be in the gym every second, which is what you want in an 18-year-old.”

Caboclo grew up in a small town about 50 minutes away from Sao Paulo and has two older sisters who both play volleyball, which helped him to understand the dedication needed to play a sport professionally.

"He’s Going To Have A Gruelling Summer"

Ujiri confirmed that Caboclo will be on the team’s roster next season. He is also likely to spend time with Toronto’s D-League affiliate. He will be set up with an English teacher and put on a weight-training program immediately.

Cabolco will fly to Los Angeles on Sunday to work out with DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Terrence Ross and fellow rookie, DeAndre Daniels, who was selected with the 37th pick. Ujiri is confident the time with his new teammates will help the transition process and kick off a busy offseason.

“That’s the start,” Ujiri said. “That will get him some more competition, that will get him knowing his teammates and their personalities. And then there’s summer league, that’s going to be another growing experience for him because that’s going to be tough for him. He’s playing against guys that are trying to make the NBA, it’s going to be another learning experience. 

“He’s going to have a gruelling summer. He’ll go back maybe to Brazil for a couple weeks break in August sometime, but the summer is going to be, he’s going to start learning.”

Despite being extremely raw as well as the youngest player chosen in this year’s draft, Cabolco understands the opportunity being given to him.

“Last night he went to my room and said, 'It's a great responsibility,’” Resende said. “Getting there is one thing, now he's really working to maintain and develop.”

The work ethic is one thing Ujiri and his staff are not worried about.

"He’s a basketball junkie,” Ujiri said. “Those guys usually figure out a way.”