Brazil has made a memorable impression on the touring basketball teams of Howard University and De Matha High School. And the two Washington-area schools have left their marks on this South American country.
After spending five days in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city with more than 5 million people, Howard's Mike Nettles conversed in English with a tourist from Cincinnati.
Upon rejoining his teammates Nettles remarked, "He spoke pretty good English, didn't he?"
De Matha coach Morgan Wooten's big concern has been keeping enough players healthy for the two-week tour. The Stags have averaged 101 points per game in winning their first seven games. But Chris Gildea has sprained an ankle and Tony Branch broke a thumbnail during the physical play encountered in international basketball.
De Matha, in mid-season form, spent it first week touring a different city each day, conducting clinics and playing all-star teams.
"The players are definitely enjoying themselves, said Howard coach A. B. Williamson, who earlier worried about his team's lack of concentration.The Bison, 4-1 on the tour, barely won their opening game, 80-76. After adding a 93-87 win they were whipped by Sirio, 80-66.
An all night bus ride to Presidente, a town west of Sao Paulo named after a former Brazilian president, gave Howard further reason to pout.
However, the team's spirits were lifted when greeted by townspeople riging motorcycles and in cars who escorted the team to its hotel amid the din of honking horns.
"I'm really enjoying myself here," said Howard center Dorian Dent, "The hospitality, sights and meeting the people have been one of my biggest thrills in life."
Sidney Lowe of De Matha also has picked up the Portuguese language, prompting Wootten to comment, "The kids are learning a language better than they would in a classroom at home."
Williamson has been nicknamed "Mickey," after the youngster featured in the popular cereal commercial (on U.S. TV), for eating various Brazilian delicacies which his players have refused.
"They (the players) don't know what they're missing" said Williamson, who has gained a pot-belly in the last week.
"At one meal they served a Brazilian salad that no one seemed to want," said Wootten's wife, Kathy. "I felt so bad, I had to try it so it wouldn't be left uneaten. However, the Brazilian coffee is great."
Communicating with people has been frustrating for both teams at times. Of some help has been Claudio Peppe, a native of Sao Paulo, who befriended the Bison team and is serving as interpreter.
The crowd pleasers have been Howard's Nathaniel Speight, who has made several spectacular layups for three-point plays, and De Matha's Derek Whittenburg, a 5-foot-11 guard, and Charles Percy, a 6-5 center. The latter have assaulted baskets with various slam-dunks in pregame warmups.
Both teams have drawn standing-room-only crowds and the Howard-Monte Libano semifinal contest in the Tournament of the Americas was televised on a delayed basis. In the town of Osvaldo Cruz, a crowd of 5,000 overflowed the gymnasium to see De Matha play the Osvaldo Cruz All-Stars and Howard play the Brazilian National Team.