AMSTERDAM (2012 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women) – Monique Soares may have only turned 16 years old on Tuesday, but the Brazil center playing at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women has already spent five years with one of the biggest clubs in Brazilian basketball – all the while learning about being away from her big family.
Soares smiles as she talks about her experiences with Brazilian powerhouse ADCF Americana, where she and the rest of the youth team practices before Olympians such as Karla Costa, Clarissa Dos Santos and Tassia Carcavalli take the court for the professional side.
“We have a very good relationship with the older girls. They say a lot of things to me to improve, like techniques. I help pick up balls for them when they shoot (at the start of practice). And some drills we do together,” said Soares.
“The girls from the pro team are a very good example for me and they make me work and practice even harder so that one day I can be on the team together with them.”
Soares is serious about that. She always is aiming to play at the absolute highest levels.
“I always want to be at the top. Be at the top of team Brazil. Go to the Olympics. If possible, be in the WNBA too. I just have to practice hard every day,” she said.
It was about five years ago though that basketball was barely a blip on Soares’s radar. She was noticed on the streets of the countryside town of Porto Feliz in Sao Paulo by a basketball coach because she was tall. The coach eventually got her a tryout with Americana.
“I just thought I would go there and play some hoops and didn’t have any expectations. But I got it and now I’ve been there five years,” Soares said as she looked back.
And the 1.87m centre has turned into one of the top players at her age group at Americana. A pair of her club mates at Americana are also in Amsterdam in Izabella Sangalli and Camila Pereira.
“It’s really good to play with them here. We have a good connection from back home. It’s easier to play with them,” said Soares, who rooms with Pereira at Americana.
She said her 11 teammates feel like sisters and they make up a big family. That is something she knows quite a bit about, living in a farming community with nine brothers and sisters.
And her move from Porto Feliz to Americana – which is about two hours away – was tough for the pre-teenager.
“The first year away was very difficult. I really missed my mom. We were really close and I cried a lot. But I understood it was for my own good. I am really happy now. But it was tough in the beginning,” said Soares, who has two older siblings and nine younger ones.
Soares has got over being away from her family and started to really excel. She’s one of Brazil’s leaders in Amsterdam and is anxious for bigger and better things and put further behind her the days of walking the streets of her home farming town.