Five years after first playing a basketball game, 22-year-old Walter Tavares became the first Cape Verde-born player selected in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
Former Boston Celtics Dana Barros and Ryan Gomes, who last played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, are both of Cape Verdean ancestry and the pair had been tipped to represent the country at international stage, although neither has ever wore the colours of he the country.
Now, the humbled Tavares might raise the country’s flag in the NBA, and he is happy to represent the country in the league.
The tallest man in this year’s draft, Tavares measure 7-foot-3, and was selected 43rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks.
He indicated in the post draft conference, that he is open to play for the Hawks in the upcoming 2014-15 season - even though the extended his contract with Gran Canarias side of the Spanish ACB League – or return to Europe to get playing time and improve his game.
“Anything is possible with hard work,” he said.
Last season the Hawks used the same approach with Brazilian centre Lucas Nogueira, who played in Spain as a first-round draft pick.
Danny Ferry, the General Manager of the Hawks, described Tavares was an “interesting prospect” because of his unique size and talent, and the team was excited to be a part of his development as a player and that the risk at 43 was worth it for his unique size and potential skill-set.
Addressing the media after the draft, Tavares said he felt good for being selected by Atlanta and pledged to do his best and enjoy his experience with the team.
“I would like to stay here, improve my game, and be stronger,” he said when asked about his future with the team.
“My game is basically defense, rebounding, play pick-and-roll and give energy to my team,” he pointed out.
Tavares, who represented the archipelago at the 2013 African Championship last summer in Abidjan, has a unique life story. He was discovered by a German tourist in the capital city Praia, while working in his family store five years ago. He was referred to the Gran Canarias team, which signed the then-17 year-old “Edy” as he is known in the island.