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Four Cavaliers spend time hooping in Tokyo

One current and three former Virginia basketball players represented their respective nations at the 2020 Olympic Games

<p>While Virginia has been known for its basketball prowess in the United States, four Cavaliers extended the University’s dominance to a global stage.</p>

While Virginia has been known for its basketball prowess in the United States, four Cavaliers extended the University’s dominance to a global stage.

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Virginia is a basketball school, evidenced by championship wins and consistent push of talent into pros. Every year since 2014, the Cavaliers have had someone from the men’s basketball team sign to an NBA team, while the women’s basketball team claims WNBA All-Star and Hall of Famer Dawn Staley and 2020 WNBA Draft first-round pick Jocelyn Willoughby as alumni. What many may not know is that the Cavaliers also bridge international waters — most recently, in the Olympics.

Francisco Caffaro — Argentina

Caffaro is the only current Virginia basketball player to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. As most Virginia fans know, Caffaro has had three surgeries between 2018 and 2020 and he has been constantly battling injuries throughout his tenure in Charlottesville. For this reason, he wasn’t expected to represent his native country Argentina in Tokyo, even though he has represented Argentina on five separate occasions in FIBA tournaments. The Sante Fe, Argentina native had his doubts dismissed when he got a surprise email containing a flight confirmation to Tokyo.  

Caffaro saw the court in three of Argentina’s four games. He logged six minutes and two rebounds in the group stage, where Argentina finished with a 1-2 record.  Argentina fell to Slovenia and Spain, but beat Japan — giving the team enough momentum to advance to the knockout stages. Ultimately, Argentina lost to eventual bronze medalists, Australia, in the quarterfinals. Caffaro logged four minutes in this knockout game.

Mike Tobey — Slovenia

Tobey represented Slovenia’s national basketball team — a surprising thing for many Virginia fans, since he isn’t currently on an NBA roster and since each team is only allowed one player of dual citizenship on its roster. The former ACC Sixth Man of the Year absolutely crushed it at the Olympics as he hooped beside Slovenian NBA Superstar Luka Doncic, among others.

Averaging a double-double, Tobey’s 13.7 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game average helped Slovenia place as runner-up in the third place game. Tobey — nicknamed “Miha” by his teammates — was even awarded FIBA Player of the Day for his 16-point, 14-rebound performance against a competitive Spain team. Notably, he also dropped 23 points on Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz center and 2021 NBA Defensive Player of the Year in Slovenia’s semifinal loss. Tobey also formed a strong on-court relationship with Doncic during his time in Tokyo.

“It was … some of the most fun I’ve had playing basketball,” Tobey said in an interview with Europhoops. “Running around, just trying to read off [Doncic’s] greatness.”

The Twitter account of Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has since been flooded with fans begging for the duo to team up in Texas. Where he ends up remains to be seen, but Tobey made Virginia fans proud — shattering expectations for his Olympics debut and asserting himself as an NBA-caliber athlete.

Dawn Staley — USA

Staley was the frontwoman of the Virginia women’s basketball team during its dynasty. Twice Naismith Player of the Year and ACC Player of the Year, Staley led the Cavaliers to three Final Four appearances and one national championship appearance between 1988 to 1992. 

Her playing talent has since translated to coaching, as she has served as the women’s basketball coach at the University of South Carolina since 2008 — leading the team to a national championship win in 2017. She has also been a part of the USA women’s basketball coaching staff since 2006. In 2017, she was appointed head coach of the national team and has helped Team USA extend its streak to 55 games, including the six games she recently coached in Tokyo.

This year, Staley took the American women to Olympic gold once again — further extending the team’s gold medal streak through seven consecutive Olympics. Her team consisted of veterans, WNBA superstars and a number of others who took the team to the knockout stages — winning by an average of nearly 20 points per game during those three rounds and ultimately defeating Japan to win gold. Unfortunately for Virginia fans, we won’t see Staley take the international stage again in the 2024 Olympics, as she recently stepped down as Team USA’s head coach.

Aisha Mohammed — Nigeria

Mohammed graduated in 2009 from the University of Virginia and has continued her basketball career since then. The two-time Olympian has represented Nigeria in its only two Olympic appearances — in 2004 and, now, in 2020. The veteran appeared in all three of Nigeria’s group games in Tokyo, averaging 5.1 minutes per game and putting up 1.7 points per game. Nigeria only lost by nine to the future Gold medalists — Team USA — in its first game. However, the team lost its next two games and did not advance to the knockout round. After representing Nigeria at their two Olympics games and winning four Afrobasket gold medals, Mohammed announced she is retiring from basketball.

It is safe to say that these four Cavaliers fared well in Tokyo. They have truly made Virginia basketball, the University and the greater Charlottesville community proud with their performances. Cavalier fans can only hope that bigger things are to come in 2024 at the Olympics in Paris.

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