Hoffa's world

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:59 AM ET

SALT LAKE CITY -- Things can be a little different here in Utah.

It's strange that you have to pay a minimal fee for a membership to drink at many bars. It's odd that Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller pulled the movie Brokeback Mountain, a gay romance, from his theatre recently.

But perhaps topping it all off is the fact that Rafael Araujo -- yes, that Rafael Araujo -- is something of a media darling in this scenic state.

The Raptors' oft-criticized centre, who played two years of good college ball down the road at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and led the Cougars to the NCAA tournament in his final year, was a man in demand yesterday after the NBA team's shootaround. For a change, it wasn't Chris Bosh getting all the attention on the road.

"(Utah) is always going to be (like a second home)," Araujo said. "This is where I had the opportunity to develop my game in college. Every time I can, I'm coming down here to Provo and I see my friends, my coaching staff and my old teammates. It's a good team atmosphere. That's why I succeeded here and I'm happy to come back."

After practice at the Delta Center with the Raptors Monday, the Brazilian headed back to BYU for dinner with the coaches and to watch the team practice.

"I've got a lot of friends -- teammates, teachers, the director of athletics," Araujo said. "All the best friends I had here. They've helped me out a lot in school and supported me."

Now, Hoffa isn't a household name for everybody in the state. When asked to assess the play of "Hoffa" -- Araujo's nickname -- legendary Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "Who?"

But before the Raptors shocked many by taking Araujo eighth overall in 2004, Jazz head honcho Miller, went on the radio here and said the team would take Araujo at No. 14 if he was available. As it turned out, the Raptors snatched him six spots earlier and it became a moot point but Araujo did impress in a workout with the Jazz.

While he certainly isn't making the highlight reels in Toronto, Araujo does seem to be making progress.

In three of the past four games, he has played 13-plus minutes, a good sign for a guy who has had many nights end after two quick fouls.

"Hof's doing fine," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "He's a young player, he's just to got to continue to work and continue to try to get better."


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