The Next Nene?

LEWES, Del. – Nene Hilario is the gold standard of Brazilian basketball. The Denver Nuggets forward opened the eyes of the NBA to Brazil. We want you to meet Hatila De Souza the consensus top player from Sao Paolo who is now at Laurinburg Institute.

Top Brazilian Forward Moves To Laurinburg

He doesn't speak much English and he's only been in the country for 7 days. He's 6-9 and 230 pounds. Meet Hatila De Souza, the consensus top Brazilian junior from Sao Paolo.

"Over in Brazil, Sao Paolo and Rio are the basketball hot beds," Laurinburg coach Rolando DeLaBerrera said. "He's the top junior from Sao Paolo and the consensus top player in his age group."

On Monday, in just his third game in the country, he scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds in a win over Georgetown Prep. De Souza turned his ankle in the first quarter but toughed it out and returned. Since his first game at the Slam Dunk To The Beach he's become more comfortable each time out and his talent level is starting to become clear.

"I was a little tight the first game and that's understandable," De Souza said through and interpreter. "I started to adapt a little more. I'll loosen up as time goes by."

De Souza is in the mold of a combo forward. He leaps well, has a noticeable shooting touch and likes to rebound in traffic. "He's a guy who gets 12-13 rebounds and 16-17 points," DeLaBerrera said.

"The [American] game is faster and there's more contact," De Souza said.

Being from Brazil and now with the emergence of Nene Hilario, there's a natural frame of reference when you think about him. He knows Hilario only through basketball and says that they are cordial when they see each other. Once, they played against each other.

"It was about a year ago," De Souza said. "We were playing with adults and I was 16 years old. I had five points but I was just happy to be able to play."

De Souza said that he came to the United States to "study at a university" but certainly holds out the hope of one day following Hilario and playing in the NBA. As far as college and even the pros go, he knows little about either game.

"I saw very little [American] basketball because there was no cable in my house."

De Souza's seventh day in the United States will be another day of travel. He came into the country from Miami, made his way to North Carolina and then to Delaware for the Slam Dunk To The Beach. Shortly after their game on Monday, Laurinburg packed its van and headed for home. They'll play in Charlotte later this week. They'll be time for sight seeing later on down the road.

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