Meet Joao Paulo Lopes Batista

Just call him J.P. The big 6'9" banger is getting ready for his first season as a Zag. The Junior College All-American recently arrived on campus and took time out from his studies and basketball scrimmages to let Gonzaga fans everywhere get to know him.

ZH: Where were you born and what was it like growing up there? Was basketball your first sport or did you try other popular sports down there first? Did you have any heroes and do you still?

JP: I was born in the Northeastern part of Brazil called Olinda, which is one of the major cities in that region of Brazil. My home is like 2 miles from the beach, so basically I grew up going to the beach everyday. My first sport was table tennis, then I start on track, but it didn't work out. I tried playing soccer, but I was too big for that, then I tried to be a goal keeper. I start playing basketball with 11 years old, and swimming at the same time, but basketball was my priority. My hero is my older brother who was the one that brought me to the basketball gym. My basketball hero is Shaq.

ZH: Tell us about your family. When was the last time you saw them and when do you think you might see them again? And do they get ESPN or Fox Sports Net on satellite to watch you the next two years?

JP: My parents, they all live in Brazil. I'm the only one that left home. I have two brothers, two beautiful nieces, I'm the youngest son . I haven't seen my Family for over two years, and I don't know yet if I will be able to see them this year. My parents have cable at home, ESPN International, but not Fox Sports Net. I'm not sure if they show College basketball to Brazil, but I hope they do, because my parent haven't seen me play for over four years.

ZH: I know it's a fairly long story but tell us how you eventually came to the United States to play Basketball in Nebraska and Kansas and now Spokane.

JP: A couple of Junior Colleges like Arizona Western, Salt lake Community College and CSI were recruiting me, but for some reason none of them ever mailed me a document or anything that I needed to get my VISA. One of my best friends called Kalu Guasco who was playing Basketball for Western Nebraska Community college and we were chatting everyday via the internet, so I told him that I was stuck in Brazil and I didn't know what to do. So he talk with his coach about me and everything was a done deal. Three days later I had the document that I needed for my VISA. I spent my freshmen year at Nebraska, and at the end of the season my coach got fired, and I decided to transfer to another JUCO. I decided to go play for Barton County in Kansas, because I knew the coach over there and I heard that the Jayhawk Conference was one of the toughest JUCO conferences, so I thought that it could be a good challenge for me. Last year I met Coach Leon Rice and after that I started to feel really good about the Zags, and I heard good things about it, so now I'm here and I'm very happy.

ZH: After playing two years of Junior College ball, what are the differences between these first weeks of scrimmages at Gonzaga and scrimmaging at Barton County Community College?

JP: That's no doubt that at the D1 level the intensity is higher than in JUCO, but the conference that I played in last year helped me a lot. This level has a lot more hard workers so the competition and the number of talented players is higher, but I think that I'm doing a good job in this transition and hopefully when the season starts I will be ready to go to work.

ZH: Bill Self wanted you at Kansas but you stuck with your commitment to Gonzaga and signed the Letter of Intent. What was it about Gonzaga that convinced you to commit here?

JP: Kansas has one of the top programs in the nation, and I went see three games over there [in Lawrence], and it is a great place. But my brother told me once "just follow what your heart says when you have to decide about something really important", so even before I scheduled my visit to the Zags, I had committed to myself that Gonzaga University was the best place for me, so then I visited just to confirme what I thought, and I think that this is a special place with special people.

ZH: What will be your role this year, J.P.? What are you working the hardest at now?

JP: My job will be whatever coach Few tells me to do. I will do anything to help my team win. Right now I'm working hard on my lower body strength, to be more explosive, and also my outside game.

ZH: For those who won't get a chance to watch you until the season begins, please describe your game and what your strengths and areas that you feel need improvement.

JP: I love to play strong. I think I use my body really well. I play really physical, mixed with soft touch around the basket with good foot work, and I can shoot some outside jumpers. I need to improve on my outside game, ball handling, and develop more athleticism and be more explosive.

ZH: Gonzaga plays Oklahoma State the next two years and it just so happens that your Juco rival Aaron Pettway is going to OSU. You played three games against him last year. What kind of battle of big men do you anticipate when you two meet again?

JP: I don't know, but it's no doubt that will be a very interesting battle. Aaron is a good player, very athletic, very long, and he plays strong. He is also a good guy, someone that I respect. OSU is a very good team, and this game will be very physical. I can't wait to play them.

ZH: What are you majoring in and what are your basketball goals and your goals outside of basketball when your career comes to an end?

JP: Sports Management is my major. Like any other basketball player, my dream is to play in the NBA. Right now I'm going to use everything that the Zags can provide me to improve. Be the best player I can be. Outside of basketball my dream is to marry my girlfriend, who's also from Brazil and plays basketball for Western Nebraska Community College, have kids, a happy family and be a good father.

ZH: Tell us what you enjoy doing off the court, your hobbies, favorite singer or band, favorite actor, actress and movie, favorite food.

JP: Off the court I like to play video games, hang out with my teammates, talk on the phone with my friends, and watch movies. My favorite singer is Caetano Veloso from Brazil. Actor, I like Denzel Washington. My favorite movie is Gladiator. My favorite food is Brazilian food, Brazilian barbecue, ooooohhh, I miss that!

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