Jumping to Araujo's defence

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

The agent representing Raptors whipping boy Rafael Araujo rushed to his client's defence this week.

Diron Ohanian, a lawyer with the Los Angeles legal firm Knapp, Petersen & Clarke, believes the second-year NBA centre will evolve into a valuable player, despite the constant criticism from media and fans.

By the end of last season, fans at the Air Canada Centre took to booing Araujo mercilessly, as well as general manager Rob Babcock, who drafted the former Brigham Young standout with the eighth overall pick in 2004.

But Ohanian says everyone should keep the faith.

"He's going to do what it takes to succeed," Ohanian said from his L.A. office. "Don't bet against him. When you have the kind of determination he has, you ought to be able to pull through."

Ohanian believes Araujo's contributions as a player are underappreciated. While the second-year player's stats weren't great, he does open up space for other players, particularly Chris Bosh, and his size often prevents the other team from gathering in rebounds.

Araujo, who averaged 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in 12.5 minutes during the 2004-05 campaign, insisted last season that the boos and jeers did not upset him. Ohanian, however, isn't so sure, but added his client will use the negativity as motivation.

"He's a pretty tough guy," Ohanian said. "I've never known him to back down."

The respected agent added that, despite the booing, Araujo still enjoys playing in Toronto.

"Does he hold that against the city? Absolutely not," Ohanian said.

"As long as he's competing and playing, he's going to love it. He loves basketball and he loves to compete."

Araujo spent most of the summer working out with the Brazilian national team, but was unable to compete at the world championship qualifying tournament in the Dominican Republic because of an eye injury. Nevertheless, Ohanian said his client is in tremendous shape and will head into camp 20 pounds lighter than his previous playing weight of 290.

"The coaches sat down with him at the end of last season and outlined what they expected from him (this season)," Babcock said yesterday.

"They wanted him to lose weight, to become quicker, and he has really taken that to heart.

"The way he dealt with everything last year was superb," Babcock added. "He never pointed the finger at anybody else, never said anything was anybody else's fault. He made no excuses. He just took everything and worked harder.

"To me, that's very admirable."


Videos

Photos