RAFA RULES! A Wife's Tale

<i>(<b>EDITOR'S NOTE</b>: Exclusive reprint from Feb. 2004 issue of <b>TOTAL BLUE SPORTS</b> Magazine.)</i> <P> Cougar fans can count their lucky stars that <b>Rafael Araujo</b> –- their senior 6-11, 285-pound rebound machine and tattoo-loving Brazilian bomber –- overruled his adoring wife, Cheyenne, a lifelong LDS member, when he chose BYU over far more prominent basketball teams like Kansas, Illinois and UNLV.

Cheyenne sheepishly admitted to TOTAL BLUE SPORTS that "I actually did not push Rafa (pronounced ‘Hafa') or intend for him to go here. I pushed him to a bigger school. I told him BYU is not a big basketball school and to look at Illinois and Kansas. I wanted to see him at a bigger school.

"Rafa is a really loyal person," Cheyenne continued. "BYU (head coach Steve Cleveland) had been there (recruiting him) early in his freshman year, a year and a half before anyone else. He felt it didn't matter where you go; that if he worked hard and played well, he'd have his opportunity (to play in the NBA). He hears people say, ‘You're working your way to the first round (of the draft), but it's not real to him. Until the minute it happens, he won't believe it."

That was then and this is now. "He's happy and I'm happy with his decision to come to BYU now. There's a feeling here like nowhere else. He really likes his coaches. He goes to school, practice and we have our life together," Cheyenne added. She remains active in the LDS Church while husband Rafael Araujo is not a member.

Cheyenne was a talented volleyball scholarship player at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz., when she met Rafa, offering to help him learn English even though she didn't speak a lick of Portuguese.

Eleven months later, they were married and will celebrate their three-year anniversary on July 15. By then, they may be rejoicing in the delightful, incoherent mumblings of their approximately 3-month-old girl named Pais, a Brazilian name "with no special meaning" that Rafa has always liked. And to those inquiring minds who just silently asked what a baby boy would be named if they have one, it's Lucas, another longtime favorite for papa-to-be Rafael.

To hear Cheyenne gush about her husband, you'd swear they were still newlyweds. "I've never met anyone like him. His generosity is what stands out to people. He has this light about him. He's very generous with people and forgets about himself when it really matters. Anyone can tell you, he's the life of the party and he's always got this smile on his face. He draws you in with his personality."

Cheyenne was not the only member of her family "drawn in" by Rafa's engaging and effervescent persona. "My sisters had a crush on him until we got married," she said, laughing. Now the entire family loves him and the feeling is mutual. "I'm one of six kids and the oldest (of three) girl," Cheyenne explained. "Rafa gets along so well with my brothers, sisters, in-laws, and especially my mom. My dad passed away not too long ago and he really loved Rafa, too.

"Rafa's parents and family haven't seen him play in the United States yet. He talks to them by phone and I know he doesn't tell them how well he's doing. I don't think his parents know how successful he's been (on the basketball court). They would be amazed if they saw how people here respond to him everywhere we go.

"He's not one to tell his mom either. I think they'd be overwhelmed, shocked and proud to see how well he's done. If they could, they would come to see him play. But to leave the country (Brazil), you have to prove you have a source of income or support in the U.S. They couldn't even get a visa to come to our wedding.

"He loves his family and absolutely adores his mom. We went to Brazil in Christmas of 2001. I was so nervous and didn't know what to expect. I spoke hardly any Portuguese, but it was just wonderful. They were so nice and kind to me." She noted that if Rafa lands an NBA contract and is successful, he wants to buy them a home, pay off their bills and allow them to stop working. "They've worked hard all their lives and he's very loyal to his family."

Meanwhile, Cheyenne's mother has become Rafa's surrogate mom of sorts. "She just loves him. My mom has always been a great sports fan, supporter and a wonderful mother. She went to every volleyball tournament or game we played. She even drove two hours (from San Diego) to all my home games at Arizona Western. My younger sister is playing volleyball at a college in Missouri so she's not able to watch those. If she could, she would."

To further illustrate her mother's ongoing support, Cheyenne said, "She drove to Provo from San Diego to pick me up (last month) and we drove to Santa Clara for a BYU basketball tournament. We drove back to San Diego and she bought me a ticket to fly home."

Away from the maddening crowds, Cheyenne notes that "Rafa doesn't really care too much for all the attention. It's people like me and my mom that keep telling him, ‘You're so great, Rafa.' Even when we go shopping to Wal-Mart, everyone's always calling out his name and saying ‘Hey Rafa!'"

The one place he is most comfortable on the basketball court, where he was leading the Mountain West Conference in scoring (21.3 ppg), rebounding (10.8 rpg) and field goal percentage (67 percent) as the Cougars' huge post presence. While some experts say he's not the best athlete, he understands how to use his body and seal off defenders. His consistent play and the team's early winning record has not only drawn larger crowds back to the Marriott Center, but also the attention of pro basketball scouts. ESPN reported that 10 NBA scouts requested credentials to watch Araujo in BYU's first MWC game against San Diego State. The Cougars lost in a close, hard-fought road game. Araujo, meanwhile, had his 10th double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds.

"Rafa really gets along well with his teammates. He supports them all the way and gives them confidence. They are also supportive of him. I've never met anyone like this guy because he has so much determination to succeed. He's always working out every day."

Finally, what about his much-discussed tattoos that adorn both arms? As TOTAL BLUE SPORTS went to press, the Salt Lake Tribune highlighted an article discussing Rafa's body tattoos and the fact they were seemingly missing in his BYU media guide photos. The school responded the photos were taken before Araujo added another highly visible tattoo last summer. Tattoos are not a serious rule infraction at BYU. School officials told the newspaper that incoming students are allowed to keep their existing tattoos, but are "discouraged" from getting new ones.

Cheyenne has a decidedly different perspective. "All Rafa's tattoos have really special meaning to him. He thinks, visualizes and plans them for months before he gets them. The first one he got in Brazil on his upper right arm. It's the Chinese characters for the word ‘determination.' One of his earliest basketball mentors in Brazil really emphasized this principle and character quality. If there's an epitome of a determined man, it's Rafa. I've learned so much from him about setting and achieving goals.

"The second tattoo on his left bicep looks so cool because that's my name (Cheyenne) in Japanese characters." His newest one (and the topic of minor consternation at BYU) is above the ‘determination' tattoo and depicts an open hand holding the image of a half globe, half basketball. The significance to Rafa, she added, was that it represents him as an international basketball athlete.

"It's funny because he left Brazil with one tattoo and went back home with two. His mother scolded him (affectionately) and told him, ‘No more after two!' I don't know what she'll say now," Cheyenne laughed.

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