The Olympics are still nearly a week away, but Brazil’s basketball team has been making headlines, and not because of any action on the court.
Rather, their roster change to remove Iziane Castro Marques and play with 11 has been the pre-Games story, and probably will remain for at least some portion of the competition where Brazil is concerned. But there is more to the team than Izi – the upcoming host country of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio is already assured their seventh consecutive berth in the field, but can they translate appearances into wins?
Brazil | Group B
FIBA Team Preview
Olympic Games history: Sixth consecutive spot in the field for Brazil – in 2008, the team finished a disappointing 11th.
Place at 2010 FIBA World Championship: Ninth
How they got here: 2011 FIBA Americas champions (6-0 overall record)
Key player: Erika de Souza | Rising star: Damiris Dantas | Legend: Hortencia Marcari
Names you might recognize: The names you will recognize are already listed above – Atlanta’s Ericka de Souza and teenage phenom Damiris Dantas. De Souza, who has played six seasons in the WNBA and the last five with the Dream, has career averages of 9.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
Dantas, drafted by the Minnesota Lynx in 2012 with the 12th overall pick, won’t even reach her 20s until November but is already making intense waves with her fun-to-watch style overseas. Although it remains uncertain as to when Dantas will finally come to the WNBA, a report by the Brazilian Basketball Confederation at least made it sound like she’s amenable to coming over next season.
Name you won’t see: I’m sure you’ll hear plenty about her, but you won’t see Iziane Castro Marques on the court any time soon. Castro Marques is missing her second Olympics in a row after being kicked off the squad – again.
Statistical leaders: de Souza and Dantas are more than just names to know, they averaged 16.2 and 10.2 points per game to lead the team in the FIBA Americas Tournament. The pair also led the team in rebounding, with de Souza grabbing eight a game and Dantas adding 5.8. Adriana Pinto contributed 9.8 points and a team-high 5.2 assists a game (a tournament-high 31 total).
Keep an eye on it: The Brazilian Federation made a strong coaching move after the team suffered a severe upset at the hands of Puerto Rico and took bronze at the Pan-American Games. Enio Vecchi’s contract wasn’t renewed despite the automatic bid earned by winning the FIBA Americas championship. Instead, the U19 coach (and presumptive heir apparent anyway) took the reigns.
Luiz Claudio Tarallo was appointed new coach due in no small part to his connection to the up and coming youth of the country. Six key players who won the FIBA Americas gold were at least 29 years old and will be well into their 30s by the time the Olympics take place in Rio. The expectations on this team are to end their 12-year medal drought sooner rather than later, but definitely by 2016. Can Brazil achieve success that has eluded them for over a decade or will the recent coaching and now roster changes lead to the team already preparing for 2016 before the London Games even begin.
Preliminary round schedule: vs. France (July 28), vs. Russia (July 30), vs. Australia (Aug. 1), vs. Canada (Aug. 3), vs. Great Britain (Aug. 5)