J.P. Batista - The Brazilian Bull
Jan. 17, 2006
Situated on a steep hill overlooking a pristine harbor on the Eastern Coast of Brazil is the quaint town of Olinda, a tourist destination based on its 17th century feel and the hometown of current Gonzaga University big man J.P. Batista.
A town founded by the Portuguese in 1530, burned to the ground by the Dutch in 1630, and rebuilt by the Portuguese out of pride in the 1700's; Olinda does not have much to compare to Spokane but that has not stopped Batista from adapting to his new home.
"I am a person who can adapt to any type of place," said the smiling center following a recent GU practice. "The people here in Spokane are really friendly and have accepted me. I love the size of Spokane, it's a city, but not really the size of a city."
While Batista is hooked on Spokane and its fans, that has not stopped him from admiring a few of the places his Bulldogs basketball career has taken him.
"We have been to some really nice places since I have been here," Batista added. "It was great to spend time in Maui and San Diego is always a great place to go play."
Batista didn't always have those opportunities in front of him growing up in Brazil. Like millions of other kids in Brazil he grew up kicking around a soccer ball and was an avid swimmer. It was not until he was 10 years old that he picked up basketball and that was because his older brother introduced the game to him.
As Batista grew so did his love of basketball and ability in the game. He attended Colegio Atual in his hometown and was named the Pernambuco State Player of the Year following his senior year. Following a year absence from basketball, Batista took a leap of faith to attend college in the United States landing at Western Nebraska Community College.
The 6-9 center proved he was a force to be reckoned with during his first year with 14 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He transferred to Barton County CC in Kansas his sophomore year and once again turned in an eye-popping performance with 20.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game as he earned second-team Junior College All-American honors.
Not certain of what role he would fill at the University of Kansas, Batista chose Gonzaga over the Jayhawks to continue his collegiate career and has never looked back on that decision. Batista earned honorable mention All-WCC honors his first season while being named the WCC Newcomer of the Year. He averaged 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
This season Batista has continued his development, opening the season with All-American type numbers that have him ranking second in the WCC in rebounding and third in scoring. All this despite playing with the potential NCAA Player of the Year in Adam Morrison.
"Coach (Mark) Few asked me to be the person who gave our team some balance this year," Batista said. "I am trying to be patient on the offensive end and score by getting good, down low position."
Few concurred following the Bulldogs New Year's Eve win over Saint Joseph's University by stating that Batista is a "big part of the heart and soul of this team" and may be the best low post player in the nation.
Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli echoed those statements with his post-game comments saying, "We went into the game thinking we had the right way to defend Batista, but it didn't work out that way."
Batista torched the Hawks for a career-high 32 points and 15 rebounds as he reached double-figure scoring for the 12th time in 13 games to open the season. Now Batista turns his sites towards dominating the WCC as the Bulldogs open league play as overwhelming favorites to win their sixth straight WCC regular-season title.
"The coaches have done a good job of testing us with a challenging non-conference schedule," added Batista. "Now we have a new start with league play and we still have a long way to go to reach our ultimate team goal."
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