B-ball player learns American way of life

Lu Silva came from Brazil to the United States to play basketball this year.

Lu Silva came from Brazil to the United States to play basketball this year.

Mandi Steele

Dribbling her way into Missouri Southern, Lucimara Silva, or “Lu,” originally began playing basketball in her hometown of Toledo, Brazil.

The junior center decided learning English in the United States wasn’t challenging enough, but went on to learn Spanish. She’s now a Spanish major and says she can understand Spanish fine, but has a hard time speaking it.

Her native tongue is Portuguese, and when she first came to this country to play basketball for Northeast Oklahoma A & M, she said, “I didn’t speak any English at all.”

“I was scared to go outside and talk to people,” Silva said.

Meeting many new friends at Southern and seeing old friends from NEO every once in awhile, Silva said she now enjoys being in the United States.

“I think she’s pretty courageous,” said Jacquie Rzeszut, Silva’s roommate.

Rzeszut said she doesn’t think she’d ever be able to do what Silva’s done — leaving family and friends to go to college in another country. The two teammates have become good friends on and off the court, watching movies together and Silva even offers to cook some of her Brazilian food for her roommates.

Silva said Americans are too used to eating fast food. In Brazil, people make homemade meals more often.

“I couldn’t imagine my senior year without Lu Silva,” Rzeszut said.

“She’s definitely someone who’s touched my life.”

Silva enriches the players in her culture with both the similarities and differences, Rzeszut said.

While playing in a basketball game in Rio de Janeiro, a NEO recruiter offered Silva the chance to play basketball in the United States. Silva said her mother told her to go for it.

Maryann Mitts, head coach, said Southern tried hard to recruit Silva.

“Lu was the type of player and person we wanted in our program,” she said.

The team needed a tall, post player, Mitts said.

Silva is now the tallest player on the team and, according to Rzeszut, one of the top scorers. Rzeszut said people think she and Silva must compete to get the most points, being as they are both top scorers. Rzeszut said that isn’t the case.

“We complement each other really well,” she said.

Silva’s dream is to become a WNBA player, but said, “I need a lot of hard work to do it.”

She plans to graduate in May 2004 and go on to another country, like Spain, to play basketball.

What she misses the most about being in Brazil is her family and friends.

“I talk to them two or three times a week on the phone,” Silva said.

Rzeszut already knows she will miss her roommate after graduating. She said Silva is “trustworthy” and always offering to help other people.

“She’s definitely one of our key players,” she said.