Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Having Helped Brazil Qualify, Santos Returns

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Having helped her Brazilian National Team qualify for the last spot in the Olympics by beating Cuba in Sunday's final game of the FIBA Olympics Qualifying Tournament, Seattle Storm center Kelly Santos wasted no time in returning to Seattle. Ahead of the team's schedule, Santos arrived yesterday morning and dressed for last night's game against the Connecticut Sun, though jetlag limited her to emergency duty and she did not play.

With Brazil qualifying, Santos is headed to her third consecutive Olympics. She won a bronze medal in 2000 in Sydney.

"I'm excited but I know it will be very difficult for us," Santos said after the game. "We have the younger players now, inexperienced, but you have to work to separate that."

The Brazilian National Team has undergone a makeover since the 2004 Olympics, with Santos sharing that eight of the team's players have no Olympic experience.

"It's nice for us that the younger players got more experience and more confidence to go to the Olympic Games," said Santos. "Qualifying was very difficult because we have a younger team. I think the team looked for identity.

"I think the team has to prove more. The team can give more."

The qualifying process became more difficult when the leading Brazilian scorer, former Storm forward Iziane Castro Marques, left the team after arguing with Head Coach Paulo Bassul. Castro Marques had not played in the second half of Brazil's loss to Belarus in a quarterfinal matchup with an Olympic berth on the line before being asked to reenter the game in overtime. She refused and returned to the Atlanta Dream before Brazil's last two games.

"She's my friend, and I'm sad," said Santos, "but I hope that she can talk with the coach and come back with us for the Olympic Games."

Santos does not expect to miss any more time with the Storm because of her commitment to the Brazilian National Team. She plans to join her Brazilian teammates for a warm-up tournament in Australia after the Storm's last game before the Olympic break.

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