At 6’4, NWC’s Julynne da Silva Sa` A Force To Be Reckoned With
On a team where the average player checks in at about 5’ 7”, Northwest College sophomore Julynne da Silva Sá isn’t hard to spot.
And with a determined glare to go along with her 6’ 4” frame, on the court, the native of Barcarena, Brazil, can be a bit intimidating.
Off the court, however, she falls decidedly into the “sweetest person you’ll ever meet” category, at least according to her coach and teammates.
“She has so much love for everyone on our team,” said teammate Kira Marlow. “We know she misses her family back in Brazil so we try to be her family here, but she is always so strong and works so hard. I wouldn’t trade her for anyone in the region.”
Lady Trappers head basketball coach Janis Beal said da Silva Sá is “one of those kids that’s always smiling; she’s just a lot of fun to be around.” Coming to a new country, separated completely from family and friends and surrounded by people who don’t speak your native language, Beal said she’s always amazed at how well international athletes like da Silva Sá are able to acclimate.
“I look at these international students, and their toughness and resilience has to be so high,” Beal said. “Julee — we call her ‘Julee’ or ‘Ju’ — she’s the type of kid that’s just been grateful for the opportunity to be here. You can tell that just being here means something to her. It’s a chance and an opportunity that she’s taking full advantage of.”
Growing up in a small town, da Silva Sá didn’t start playing basketball until she was 15. She proved to be a quick study, and with her height and athleticism, it wasn’t long before she attracted the attention of an under-19 club team in Sao Paulo, the second-largest city in Brazil. After four years in Sao Paulo, da Silva Sá aged out of her team and set her sights on playing in America.
“When you’re done with the under-19 team, you have to go pro or stop playing,” she said. “I didn’t want to stop playing, and I didn’t think I would be able to go pro, so I asked my coach if there was any way I could keep playing.”
da Silva Sá’s coach reached out to several American coaches, including Beal at NWC. Beal convinced the young player to give NWC a shot, and the rest is history. Asked if it was difficult to adjust to the American style of playing, da Silva Sá said the styles are very similar.
“There are a couple of rules that are different, but nothing very big,” she said. “But the road trips are a lot of fun, and every gym we play in is so big and beautiful.”
At 14-4, the Lady Trappers are off to their best start in years, due in no small part to the inside presence da Silva Sá adds in the paint. Through Saturday, she’s averaging 9.5 points and five rebounds a game, and is third on the team in total points with 171. Beal said that, while she’s happy to have da Silva Sá’s height in the middle, there are more aspects to her game — including a soft touch from behind the arc. (She’s knocked down seven 3-pointers this season.)
“Anytime you can bring in 6’4”, that’s a great thing,” Beal said, laughing. “But Julynne has done a great job this year of just being more aggressive on the defensive end, being able to block some shots. And on offense, when she’s aggressive, there’s no one who can stop her. She adds a dimension that we’ve never had since I’ve been a coach here.”
As much as she means to her team on the court, da Silva Sá is just as important off it, proving a constant source of support to her teammates away from the floor.
“When she’s on the bench, she’s more excited for her teammates than anyone else,” Beal said. “She’s up cheering for them whenever they do something great, and that just shows how great of a teammate she is.”
For her part, da Silva Sá said she enjoys the camaraderie she shares with her teammates, as well as playing for Beal.
“I really love being her athlete; she’s made me so much better,” da Silva Sá said of her coach. “I keep saying I want to take her with me wherever I go after this. I just love being here, being part of her team. It’s been a great experience.”
da Silva Sá hasn’t decided what her next step will be after this season, but she knows she would like to continue playing basketball, hopefully one day turning pro.
“I’d like to play over in Europe, or maybe stay here,” da Silva Sá said. “I really like the U.S.”
But regardless of where she eventually lands, da Silva Sá said she will miss the people she’s met in Powell the most.
“I have two host families here,” she explained. “In two years, you create relationships. You get used to people and you don’t want to leave those people ...”
And her teammates?
“It’s like we grew up together,” da Silva Sá said. “We learned so many things together. As a team, we grew up and got so much better. That’s something I don’t want to leave behind.”
She added that, “even though I was away from home, I found a home here.”