THE BRAZILIANS: Augusto, DeSouza, & Toledo

Each player took a different path to Moscow and is in a different stage of his career, but the trio of junior LUCIANO DE SOUZA, senior forward Luis Augusto, and Luiz Toledo (redshirting this season), agreed there is not only a greater opportunity to play basketball but for a better quality of life in the United States.

MOSCOW – Life in Moscow changed – in a fun way, this year for Idaho basketball senior Luis Augusto.

"It's been a little crazy having them on the team," said Augusto of the addition of fellow Brazilians Luciano de Souza and Luiz Toledo, "but crazy in a good way."

Augusto has played basketball in the United States for four years, which includes the past two at the University of Idaho. Since leaving his native country, he has been the only Brazilian on his team.

For de Souza and Toledo, this season is also the first time either one has played with another Brazilian in the U.S., but not the first time the two have played together.

The two were on the same team for part of a season in Brazil before Toledo left to play high school basketball in California.

However, it wasn't until Toledo was already on his way from the Spokane International Airport to Moscow that he realized he would be roommates with his former teammate.

De Souza said he remembers playing a game against Augusto when he was 12 that resulted in a fight between the teams.

"He looked just like that at 12, he was strong," de Souza said, though he didn't know Augusto was a Vandal until he was in Moscow.

Today the former teammates and opponents are happy to play alongside each other again.

"It's nice to have someone to speak Portuguese with and we have fun together," Toledo said. "The same things we do in Brazil, we do here."

"We have fun our way," de Souza said.

Each player took a different path to Moscow and is in a different stage of his career, but the trio agreed there is not only a greater opportunity to play basketball, but for a better quality of life in the United States.

Augusto is a senior and will end his career at Idaho when the team finishes post season play this year. He played at Dixie State and Western Oklahoma State before transferring to Idaho and plans to complete his degree before leaving Moscow.

De Souza played at South Plains College, a junior college in Levelland, Texas, where he won the 2008 NJCAA National Championship before transferring to Idaho. He visited Idaho at the suggestion of his coach and liked what he saw. A junior, de Souza averages 24 minutes and 8.6 points a game and is the team's leading 3-point shooter.

He said he was grateful the team has had the success it's had in his first year and predicts next season will be better.

Since joining the Vandals, de Souza has become a crowd favorite, as is evidenced by the signs that bear his name and wigs that resemble his trademark hair.

De Souza said he hasn't cut his hair since leaving Brazil, though roommate Toledo jokingly threatened to cut it while he sleeps.

He said he is appreciative of what might be construed as a fan club.

"It feels so good," he said.

Toledo is redshirting this season after transferring from St. Francis Xavier, a Canadian school. Toledo was his conference's rookie of the year and led his team in several categories.

He said Idaho men's basketball coach Don Verlin track record at Utah State was one of the reasons he transferred to Idaho, despite last season's 8-21 record.

This is Verlin's first year at the University of Idaho and his first as a head coach. He served as an assistant coach at Utah State from 1999-2008.

"Coach Verlin came from a winning program, he knew what he was doing," Toledo said.

Toledo said it's hard to watch the team and he wishes he could help them but he tries to help the best he can from the bench.

Visits home to Brazil are rare.

Augusto went home for the first time in three years last summer and is looking forward to returning home again this December.

De Souza hasn't been home in three years but stays in touch with his family over the phone.

Toledo said he has been home a few times but only for short periods of time. He and de Souza are planning a visit home at the end of the school year.

Each said they want to continue playing basketball once they leave Idaho, so it might be a while before they return home for good. Until then, they will rely on their outgoing personalities to make friends.

"I always try to be friends with everyone, to make jokes and make people laugh," de Souza said.

The men's basketball team finished regular-season play with a 59-56 come-from-behind decision over Fresno State last Saturday and a 16-14 overall record, which includes 9-7 in conference play and the third seed into the post-season tournament.

It's the team's first winning season since finishing 16-11 in 1999. The team's nine WAC wins are two more conference wins than its previous combined total.

The post season is Augusto‘s last chance to play for the Vandals. He's excited about the team's chances at the WAC tournament.

"Right now we're playing our best basketball," Augusto said. "When we get there on a neutral court, it's zero to every team. We really have a chance to go to the finals."

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