Player Profile: Erika DeSouza

In Brazil, they call her “Dennis Rodman” because of her multiple tattoos, piercings, platinum dyed hair and nose for the basketball.  Dream center Erika De Souza laughs at the mention, but considers the comparison with the colorful power forward a compliment.

De Souza has seventeen tattoos to be exact, a mark that Rodman must have surpassed years ago.  Her first tattoo, a caricature of Bugs Bunny on her lower leg, is still her favorite.  Among those with special meaning is a tattoo of her mother’s name inscribed on one foot and one of her father’s name inked on the other.  

De Souza grew up in Rio de Janeiro and has been playing basketball since the age of 16.  She excelled at all sports—volleyball, handball and track—but with her height decided to focus on basketball.  If there is one that thing De Souza certainly has in common with Rodman, it is her uncanny rebounding ability.  A physical presence in the paint, De Souza has a knack for finding the basketball and goes after it without concern for anything in her path.  She leads the Dream in rebounds per game, almost half of which are offensive boards.  

De Souza’s teammate, Izi Castro Marques, says that beneath her tough exterior, De Souza is just a big kid.  “She has a great heart,” Castro Marques said.  “You can count on her for anything.  She’s just a great kid.”   

The two Brazilians have known each other for ten years and have played on various teams together, including the 2004 Brazilian National Team that competed in the Olympics in Athens.  On the road, Castro-Marques often translates conversations into Portuguese for De Souza.  On the court, the Brazilian star’s game transcends all barriers.       

“It feels like home,” she says, commenting on the Atlanta heat and playing alongside her Brazilian teammate.  De Souza has also already found some home cooking, satisfying her cravings for Brazilian cuisine at Chima in Buckhead.  

The most difficult adjustment for De Souza has not been the food, the culture, a new team or a new city.  The hardest thing has been to watch her teammates from the sidelines, while she rehabs a lower leg fracture suffered May 27, 2008 against the Washington Mystics.  

“Injuries are part of the game,” De Souza said.  “It was just bad luck.  I am making my way back as quickly as I can and want to get back to where I was and be able to help this team.”  

De Souza’s injury was an early blow to a young Dream team already short on post players.  At the time of her injury, De Souza was averaging 11 points, nine rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game for the Dream.  In her first outing of the year, she pulled down a career-high 18 boards against the Detroit Shock’s powerful front line.  

De Souza appeared to be poised for a breakout year.  She won a WNBA championship as a rookie for the Los Angeles Sparks in 2002, where she played alongside her idol Lisa Leslie.  De Souza returned to the league last season with the Sun before being acquired by the Dream in the 2008 WNBA Expansion draft.