de Souza Stoked To Make East All-Star Team

The names Erika de Souza and Sancho Lyttle will become a trivia answer in a future Atlanta Dream yearbook. That’s because both women are the first All-Stars in team history. Atlanta has been around since 2008, but there was no All-Star Game held last year because of the Olympics.

Lyttle, who we profiled earlier this season on WNBA.com, is averaging 14 points, two steals and seven rebounds a game. de Souza, meanwhile, is dropping 12 points and grabbing a league-leading nine rebounds a night.

This could be considered de Souza’s breakout season. Not only has the fourth-year star grabbed more boards (146) than anyone in the league, but she also has the number-two ranked field goal percentage (.577) and leads the league in double-doubles (5). It’s this combination of offensive and defensive skills that has helped propel the Dream to 7-10 start and just 1.5 games out of a playoff spot.

de Souza spoke with WNBA.com’s Scott Stanchak about this Saturday’s All-Star Game, among other topics.

How did you find out you made the All-Star team and how have you been celebrating since?

Well, it was eight in the morning; we were getting on the bus in New York City to go to the airport. Suddenly, (head coach) Marynell (Meadors) congratulated me by telling me the big news. I was shocked. I know I have been playing well this season, but this is like a dream for me. I took some time to realize the news. At the same time I started calling people while my teammates were congratulating Sancho and me.

How special is this to be named one of the first All-Stars in Atlanta Dream history?

This is a big deal. To be in the All-Star Game, it is so important for me and for the Dream. Last year was so difficult; we were trying to give our best in the league, in the first season of the team. As for myself, I had two good games and then got injured for almost the rest of the season. So, this is the reason this opportunity is so important; it shows the improvement we are having as a team and me as a WNBA player.

What type of relationship do you and fellow All-Star Sancho Lyttle have?

I know Sancho from Spain. We have been playing against each other for at least two years. Every time I had to play against her I was like: ‘here she comes again; so difficult to defend her.’ So, this is the first year I have the opportunity to get to know her better, and she is a really nice person with a great sense of humor.

This is your first season where you’ve started every game. How much do you think that is playing into your performance thus far?

Well, in fact it doesn’t matter if you start a game or not, what it is important is to have self esteem and to know that the coaches believe in the job you are doing. In this year I feel 100-percent comfortable with (coaches) Carol (Ross), Fred (Williams) and Marynell, they are always pushing me up when I need and with the energy that comes from the teammates I feel like I always can give better and better.

You’re posting solid offensive numbers, but let’s talk about your rebounding. You lead the WNBA in that category, what does it take to become a top rebounder in this league.

Rebounding is about teamwork, and this is the key for it. Everybody in the team is ready to block our opponents to get the defense rebound, and as I have been having a great position under the basket, I can grab many of them. As for the offensive side, I always try to be in the best position, think before and try to realize where the ball will go when it is still in the air.

Talk about leaving the WNBA after one season to go play in Spain and then returning five years later. You were an MVP over there, was it a matter of feeling like you accomplished everything you could?

I missed many things about the WNBA. I always look for the group results. It is true that Ros Casares have been winning everything inside Spain over the past two years. Another important thing for me, it is the Brazilian team. We have a young team and I still have to help my people to have good results in the important international championships.

Moving on to the team, where do you see yourselves heading into the half? You’re just 1.5 games out of the fourth playoff spot in the East.

Good question. I cannot see this team out of the playoffs. This is our goal and we are giving our best to reach this. It is not easy but there is no unbeatable team and this is the toughness we have in mind before every game. We are in our second year and we have just four players from the last year, so we took a while to adjust to everything. I believe now we are reaching our best and hope we can start getting as better as possible.

I saw in your bio, you’re a big movie fan. What have been some of the best summer movies fans should catch this summer?

Well, I am crazy for “Harry Potter,” and definitely this is the movie to see. “The Hangover” and “My Sister’s Keeper” are really good, too. As you can see I don’t have preference for some kind of movie, I am just interested in that ones which pass emotion.

Erika de Souza is making the first All-Star appearance of her four-year WNBA career.
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