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Why Santos appears in the Warriors draft pick ahead of schedule

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SANTA CRUZ – Cafe Brasil, a small brunch restaurant set in a colorful Brazilian country house, certainly didn’t look like it would have any real significance to the world of sports.

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But on many weekday afternoons, it’s a gathering place for Santa Cruz’s preeminent group of movers and shakers: Players for
Golden State Warriors
A subsidiary of G League. Since discovering Cafe Brasil a couple of months ago, Gui Santos-the
Warriors Rookie Second Round Draft
– frequents with his teammates, conversing with waiters in his native Portuguese between bites of Brazilian soup.

Those visits gave Santos, 20, much-needed knowledge of a year defining change: a new country, a new style of basketball,
A new benchmark for competition. After looking disoriented early in the G League season, he began absorbing the Santa Cruz Warriors’ read-and-react system, posting flashy stats and strengthening management’s faith in him.

“He’s really learning how he can have an impact,” said Santa Cruz coach Seth Cooper. “What really stands out is his quick decision making, which is something that should translate to the NBA. We are all very excited about him.”

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Santa Cruz Warriors guard Gui Santos (15) five-year-old player development coach Devin Sweetney as he returns to the bench seen during the first half of an NBA G League basketball game against the Sioux Falls Skyforce in Santa Cruz, Calif., Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.

Stephen Lamm/The Chronicle

In June, Golden State acquired Santos with the fourth-to-last pick in the NBA Draft because he thought he might, just
Could, he could one day turn into a cornerback rotation player at the highest level in the sport. But after averaging 16.8 points on 52.6% shooting (34.8% from 3-point range) over his past eight G League games, Santos looks ahead of schedule.

At 6-foot-8 and 209 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan, smooth jumping and high basketball IQ, he’s a strong candidate for a two-way contract with the big club next season. Some scouts estimate Santos could crack Golden State’s regular rotation as soon as 2024-25.

If that happens, he’ll be fine with all the social media messages he gets from the young Brazilian players who see him as the next big thing. Gone are the days when famous Brazilians like Leandro Barbosa, Nene and Thiago Spliter played important roles in winning teams. The only active player in the NBA from the largest country in South America is Raul Neto, who averages just 3.1 points for the Cavaliers.

But even for scoring a minute in a regular season NBA game, Santos knows he must keep learning fast in a minor league filled with top-level prospects.

Santa Cruz Warriors guard Gui Santos (15) passes the ball to teammate Zeke Moore (18) during the second half of an NBA G League basketball game against Sioux Falls Skyforce in Santa Cruz, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.

Santa Cruz Warriors guard Gui Santos (15) passes the ball to teammate Zeke Moore (18) during the second half of an NBA G League basketball game against Sioux Falls Skyforce in Santa Cruz, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.

Stephen Lamm/The Chronicle

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Just several weeks ago, he was still unsure how to work his movement offense, driving towards the rim almost every time he caught the ball. Despite being fluent in English, Santos often misunderstood his coaches’ directions. The culture shock, both on and off the field, made him very homesick.

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