Former University of Richmond forward Nathan Cayo, ‘22, recently signed with the Memphis Hustle, making him the next Spider to play for the NBA’s G-League.
Cayo joins Grant Golden, ‘22, who played for the Denver Nuggets’ G-League affiliate last season, the Grand Rapids Gold, and Jacob Gilyard, ‘22, who played for the Hustle last season and is now on a two-way contract with both the Hustle and the Memphis Grizzlies.
“It’s been a nice experience for me,” Cayo said. “It’s obviously in a different role than most teams I’ve been in, but I’m embracing the challenge and trying to get better every day.”
After completing his final season at UR, Cayo played overseas, spending time in the EuroBasket League in Poland with the Enea Astoria Bydgoszcz and in the Canadian Elite Basketball League in Canada with the Montreal Alliance.
One game in particular proved to be one of Cayo’s best, as he scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Alliance back in July.
“When Nathan Cayo took matters into his own hands and led the Alliance to victory against Winnipeg,” the Alliance posted on its Instagram account Nov. 10, recalling Cayo’s performance. “When Nathan Cayo took over and went beast mode.”
Cayo, a native of Canada, said playing internationally helped him learn everything about being a professional.
“I was in a really good league in Poland, extremely physical,” Cayo said. “And just to be out there for my first year, really built me up from the ground up I’d say, because it was really, really hard being in a new continent, being away from everyone. And then just the style of play is a lot different than in the U.S. and I’d say the physicality is literally another world from anything I had ever experienced.”
Cayo got married in September 2022 and welcomed a child this past August, so after spending time in Europe, he said he wanted to stay closer to family. Cayo then completed workouts with some G-League teams, showcasing his skills in front of the Dallas Mavericks’ affiliate, the Texas Legends, the Los Angeles Clippers’ affiliate, the Ontario Clippers, and the Indiana Pacers’ affiliate team, the Indiana Mad Ants.
Then, the Hustle came calling, and from there he signed a training camp contract with the team.
“It’s like a two-week trial let’s say, or a week and a half trial, and then I ended up making the roster for that,” Cayo said. “So I’m gonna do it this year.”
The Hustle’s season began Nov. 10, and since, the team has played six games. Cayo did not play in the season opener, but in his debut Nov. 11, he played 15 minutes and dropped 4 points, also picking up 2 rebounds and an assist. In his subsequent appearances for the Hustle Nov. 13 and 15, he did not score, playing six and seven minutes, respectively.
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Cayo also did not play in the Hustle’s two most recent games against the Osceola Magic Nov. 17 and the Mexico City Capitanes Nov. 19.
Cayo said he leaned on Golden and Gilyard heavily throughout the process of joining the Hustle. Golden and Gilyard both had a year playing in the league under their belts when Cayo signed with his squad.
“I pretty much asked [Golden and Gilyard] about everything, as far as when I started going to different teams for workouts,” Cayo said. “I asked them a lot about how it was for them, their process. I asked them about pretty much everything G-League related. They were a big part in helping me make this happen and also giving me confidence and reassuring me that that’s something I would be able to do.”
Cayo, Gilyard and Golden, along with Nick Sherod, ‘22, all returned for extra graduate seasons at UR and headlined the Spiders team that won an Atlantic 10 Championship in 2022 and made the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011.
“We just felt like we owed it to ourselves to come back and finish the story well,” Cayo said. “So to be able to accomplish that and to accomplish that with that group of guys is a blessing, and I’m very fortunate to have been a part of it.”
UR Head Coach Chris Mooney said in a press conference back in February 2022 that the group of graduate seniors was tremendous.
“Obviously the six super seniors who decided to come back, in this day and age, I think that’s probably just a remarkable thing that happened,” Mooney said. “And they’ve been great in everything they’ve done — on the court, off the court, every single thing. They mean a great deal to me, a great deal to our staff.”
Cayo said he felt prepared by the time his fifth year rolled around, taking a more business-oriented approach to basketball in his last season with the Spiders.
“To be a good professional basketball player, one of the most important things is just to be an everyday guy,” Cayo said. “To have those good habits and just keep at it every single day. And I think that’s what we really worked on a lot and learned from Coach Mooney throughout our five years, is to be everyday guys. If you’re able to build good habits and just keep working at it, usually good things will come out of it.”
Over five seasons at UR, Cayo scored 1,385 points, averaging 8.9 points per game over the course of his career. He also tallied 613 rebounds in his time with the Spiders.
Cayo scored in double figures in both of the Spiders’ games in the NCAA Tournament. Against the University of Iowa in the Round of 64, he scored 15 points and in the Round of 32 against Providence College, he scored 18 points.
Cayo said he has been following UR’s men’s basketball team this season, having caught the first two games and some of the Spiders’ matchup against Boston College Nov. 15.
“I really like their team, man,” Cayo said. “I feel like they have a great sense of chemistry about them, which it can be hard when you have so many new players.”
The Spiders’ record sits at 2-1 with only three games played this season. UR will take on the University of Colorado Boulder at 8 p.m. Nov. 20.
As for Cayo, he will continue with the Hustle for the remainder of the G-League season, which is only in its third week. The Hustle’s next game is against the Capitanes, also at 8 p.m. Nov. 20.
“To be honest, I kind of have a present mentality where I just try and take it one day at a time,” Cayo said. “Obviously I have goals and aspirations, but as for now, I’m just focused on this season. Whether I play this summer, come back to the G-League, or go overseas I really couldn’t tell you right now, so I’m just more focused on this season.”
Contact sports editor Jimmy James at firstname.lastname@example.org
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