Rafael Araujo knows about challenges. Four years ago he arrived at Arizona Western Junior College in Yuma from Curitiba, Brazil, with one suitcase and little more than $10 in his pocket. "When I told my coach I had just this one bag," says the 6'11", 290-pound Araujo, "all he could do was laugh." Familiar with only a few phrases in English, Araujo schooled himself by reading children's books and watching television. He performed well enough on the court and in the classroom to earn a scholarship to BYU, and two years later he was the eighth selection in the NBA draft.
Now the 24-year-old center faces a new challenge: anchoring a frontcourt that ranked last in the league in rebounding last season. "I've asked three things of Rafael," says coach Sam Mitchell, who replaced the fired Kevin O'Neill in June. "Rebound, defend and set good screens. If he can do that, I'll be satisfied."
Hoffa, as his new teammates call him (his name is pronounced HA-fay-el ar-RU-joe), worked out at the Pete Newell Big Man Camp in Las Vegas during the summer, banging bodies with NBA centers Samuel Dalembert and DeSagana Diop. Though Araujo's offensive game is raw, camp coaches came away impressed by his superior strength and his willingness to give up his body.
Araujo's arrival should immediately make life easier for 6'10" Chris Bosh, who as a rookie last season had to start 59 games at center despite weighing only 210 pounds. Now the silky Bosh can play alongside the bulldozerlike Araujo, giving Toronto a frontcourt combo that might finally make opposing players think twice before driving to the basket. "If Coach wants me to do the dirty work inside," says Araujo, "then that's what I'm going to do." --C.M.
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Raptors
They'll be in disarray as long as Vince Carter is there. He wants to be traded, and that's exactly what they should do. They won't get a star in return, but if they can come away with two or three solid, team-oriented players, they'll be much better off.... With Carter gone, they could rebuild quickly around 20-year-old Chris Bosh. He doesn't have Kevin Garnett's overwhelming talent, but he can lead like Garnett does: as his team's best player with the best work ethic. Bosh has great hands and feet, he's unselfish, and he runs the floor extremely well, so if he doesn't get the rebound, he can stretch the defense in transition. This guy is a real treasure who will soon be averaging 10 to 11 rebounds, 16 to 18 points, more than two blocks--plus providing passing or whatever else his team needs on a given night.... Physically Carter is capable of doing anything, but his negative approach to the game has turned him into a cancer. You deny him the ball hard, because he won't work to get it. At the beginning of each quarter he'll try to work his way into the game, but if it isn't clicking for him, he just stops playing.... They have some other good pieces. Donyell Marshall is a productive guy who can play the three, though he has trouble defending there. Jalen Rose has been overrated since he came into the league, but he can help as a second-tier player who can play three positions. If Alvin Williams's chronically injured knee will permit, he can still help as a tough point guard who's sort of like a poor man's Doc Rivers.... I've always liked Rafer Alston. He has a reputation as a street baller, but he can run the half-court offense as well as the break--and he has leadership qualities.
Despite having the league's seventh-leading scorer in Vince Carter, last year's Raptors averaged the fourth-fewest points per game (85.4) in NBA history.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2003--04 statistics
Record: 33-49 (T-10th in East)
Points scored: 85.4 (29th in NBA)
Points allowed: 88.5 (6th)
Coach: Sam Mitchell
(first season with the Raptors)
RAFAEL ARAUJO(R) [NEW ACQUISITION]
RAFER ALSTON [NEW AQUISITION]
F LAMOND MURRAY
NEW ACQUISITION (R) Rookie (statistics for final college season) *PVR Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 86)