As the cool weather starts to change the meaning of “chillin’ in the SLC”, there’s a young basketballin’ Brazilian in full “blaze” mode.
“I think you gotta be excited, got to be ready to play basketball, to compete and do what we have to do.” Unlike most change-agents, (except, ironically, 7’2″ teammate Gobert) Neto’s ticket to NBA minutes is punched on the “Stop Side” of the court. “I like to do that, I think it’s where my confidence comes from , just play defense, then offense is going to be natural. Neto’s a natural born stat-stuffer on that D side,. Steals, deflections leading the other way to assists. His floor leadership pushed the Brazilian U-18 team to a runners-up finish at the 2010 FIBA Americas U-18 Tournament. Then he became Brazil’s youngest player ever at the 2010 FIBA World Championships. HIs NBA debut looked strong in Utah’s back-to-back preseason wins over Kobe and the Lakers in Hawaii last week.
Neto averaged 18 minutes, 5 assists, 2.5 points, 2 rebounds and several deflections while earning coaches and teammates praise for his relentless ‘up in your grill’ fullcourt, on-ball defense. That’s where I try to get confidence in the game, just playing defense, playing hard!”
Neto and Snyder share a passion for the point and a thorough understanding of the Yin and Yang of European basketball. Neto’s what we call a ‘pass-first Euro Pt” with a rare toughness and a montra to “push up’ on the defensive end.
Neto grew up idolizing the backup point guard on Brazil’s National Team, Leandro Barbosa (NBA journeyman, earned first NBA ring with Golden State last June) but Neto truly adored and worshipped Brazil’s starting point, his Dad, who held Jazz Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton in such orbital esteem, this story now stretches the outer boundary of circular reality. It’s all true.
OK sure Neto’s shooting needs work ok, maybe a lot of work. He shot only 20% from behind the 3 point line last year in Spain and the NBA 3 pt line is deeper. “I think first of all it’s practice, from practice you get confidence.” Raul says it’s all about hard work and just letting the shot develop naturally. Patience and persistence will pay dividends. “I think everything will come naturally, I”m going to practice everyday and everything will come.”
Now for the truth about Neto’s nickname.
Head Coach Quin Snyder wanted to get to the bottom of the first name pronouncer.
Snyder howled “Ha-uuul?”,
Like a howling wolf!? ‘ Gordon Hayward tweaked it to account for the 23 year old’s baby-face look and demeanor.
“You’re Wolfie” says Hayward.
Neto’s all over it. “There are worse nicknames so I”m going to keep this one.”
Final question (had to ask) You’re 23 years old, just moved here, you’re single, making decent cash (3 years approx $5 Million) what’s it like, you know, being you, good looking kid...”I just want to play basketball. I don’t want to think about it, obviously you’re playing basketball, there’s a lot of, not only girls but a lot of people want to talk to you, be your friend. That’s a good thing and a bad thing, you never know but I just want to be focused on basketball, I don’t want to be thinking about girls this early. Of course you hear people calling your name but I just try to focus on the game.” What about say, during preseason, late in the game, do you ever kinda look around the arena? “Ahh sometimes you don’t control yourself but no, I’m just trying to be focused on the game. To see what my team is doing, what the other team is doing, I don’t like to be looking at other things.” Perfect answer.
This young man’s going to be fun to watch, especially if you like defensive toughness and pushing the fastbreak!