Caffaro set to make presence known at UVA

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Ask about Virginia redshirt freshman center Francisco Caffaro, and faces start to light up.

"He's a bruiser," UVA head coach Tony Bennett said at last week's ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte.

"Bone-crushing," said UVA senior guard Braxton Key. "I'm glad I'm on his team, and not the other one."

UVA basketball fans got their first look at Caffaro in uniform on Saturday afternoon, when the seven-footer from Argentina scored five points in the program's annual Blue-White Scrimmage. As a freshman last season, Caffaro had a front row seat for the Cavaliers' NCAA title run while redshirting.

"Papi is just, he's a first-year now. He redshirted, and he's so new to the game," Bennett said. "But he's very physical. He's unorthodox in the way he moves and plays. You'll see that when you watch him."

Caffaro was one of the first graduates of the NBA Global Academy in Australia to sign with an NCAA program when he landed at UVA. He has also represented his native Argentina at the national team level five times. The summer before joining the Wahoos, Caffaro averaged 16.7 points and 8.8 rebounds in six games at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship, including a 22-point performance against Team USA. Caffaro helped Argentina win bronze in that tournament.

Caffaro's teammates say once the center gets on the floor this season, it won't take long for him to make his presence known. They compare him to another big man from overseas -- former teammate Jack Salt.

"He's a brute inside. He's huge. He's Jack 2.0 honestly is how I see him," said Key. "In practice last year I'm trying to box out Jack, I'm trying to box out Francisco now."

"The physicality. The ability to hit people on the screen. He's going to crack some bones this year," said UVA senior forward Mamadi Diakite. " And he's raw."

When the comparison was brought to Bennett's attention, the coach was quick to point out that the seven-foot Caffaro is slightly bigger than the 6-10 Salt. But it still made Bennett flash a big grin.

"He loves contact. I love that," Bennett said. "And every now and then you'll see a guy get their spine realigned like Jack used to, and I just smile. And he's got people looking around and their head's on a swivel."

But Key believes Caffaro has the potential to bring more than a physical presence to the UVA lineup this season.

"And he's a lot more skilled than people think or give him credit for. He has really good moves around the rim and really good touch," Key said. "So he'll surprise a lot of people this year, for sure."

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