Title: Raptors 905 championship proof the Bruno Caboclo project remains on course
Date: April 28, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about Bruno Caboclo, his relationship with Jerry Stackhouse, and a fitting and emphatic cap on his 2016-17 season, a career-best night to help bring a championship to Raptors 905.
Over lunch between shootaround and Game 3 of the D-League Finals on Thursday, Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse made a prediction to his wife.
“Bruno’s gonna have a good game today,” he said.
Stackhouse’s words proved prescient. The 905 defeated the Rio Grande Valley Vipers 122-96 on Thursday to become the 2017 D-League Champions, an enormous accomplishment in Stackhouse’s rookie season behind the bench and just the team’s second year overall. At the centre of it all was the object of Stackhouse’s hunch and the game’s leading scorer, Bruno.
Bruno, of course, is Bruno Caboclo, the young, spindly Brazilian the Toronto Raptors made the No. 20 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. When the Raptors drafted Caboclo, the 905 did not exist. Caboclo’s freshman season essentially amounted to a redshirt year with a few brief expeditions to Fort Wayne, where, at 19 and short on support, companionship, and grasp of the English language, Caboclo would quietly stick to himself or, worse, lock himself away in his hotel room.
The following season, the Raptors organization pushed the D-League hard for an expansion franchise, putting the 905 together largely on the fly. The organization saw many benefits to the program, to be sure, but Caboclo was the impetus – a prospect so raw that he could barely name NBA players and for whom simply watching basketball for a year was a good first step, but one who would eventually need playing time without being jettisoned outside of a natural support system.