Q&A With Janeth Arcain | Part I
Editor’s Note: LynxBasketball.com had a chance to sit down with WNBA legend Janeth Arcain during Training Camp this week. Arcain, a native of Brazil, is in town helping translate for Lynx rookie Damiris Dantas during her first weeks with the organization. She was part of the league’s inaugural season in 1997, and she won four WNBA championships during her career with the Houston Comets from 1997-2000. In Part I of this two-part series, Arcain talks about Dantas’ transition to the WNBA and how she is helping her get prepared for the next phase of her career.
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Mark Remme: How long have you known Damiris Dantas and how did you guys get connected to help her at camp?
Janeth Arcain: Our story is interesting because I have a basketball institute in Brazil where we teach the kids how to play basketball, and Damiris started in my school in Brazil and she was 13 years old when she started and we tried to teach her how to play basketball. When she turned 17, we put her in one club to be a professional. And always we are close with her to tell what she had to do, how to play hard basketball…because she’s so young and she has a lot to learn. And when she was in the Draft, I talked to her, ‘I want to be there with you because it will be your first time and I think I can give you something to stay there and make your dream come true like my dream came true in 1997.’ So this is why I’m here, to try and help her, and she’s very nice person. We love, I know her family, I know everything about her life, and I’m trying to push her to this way and I think she is in a good way.
MR: How has she adjusted coming here on and off the court?
JA: I try every time to talk a little words in English with her, and in her apartment I put a lot of words on the wall with the basketball words for her to try to learn and understand what they say. And she’s doing very well because in practice we can see, I can see how she can understand and sometimes I’m not going to be there to help her because she has to learn for herself, hear the voice of her teammates and try to understand. When she doesn’t understand, I look to her, she looks to me and I go there and try to explain what they want to do. I think she’s doing well so far.
MR: Did you ever have any language barriers to fight through in your playing career? Did you know English before going to Houston?
JA: No, just Portuguese. Just Portuguese. I didn’t speak any English. But my teammates at the time were great to me. They talked to me all the time. They tried to explain everything. The only thing I know is basketball is basketball. What the coach wants is the ball in the basket, and play hard defense. This is what’s good to me because I could understand this. Now I’m trying to pass this to Damiris. But my first time there I didn’t know any English, nothing. But I loved the American songs and always I tried to listen and see what I know. But right now it’s better. But my first time, no.
MR: That’s interesting, because you always hear about people trying to learn English by listening to music or watching television.
JA: TV is more difficult because sometimes on TV they talk so fast. It’s difficult to understand. But music is, you can hear love songs or great songs and you can try to understand some words and try to put the words together.
MR: You’ve known Damiris for a while. How much do you feel like you’ve been able to help her not only with language but with advice?
JA: That’s what I’m trying to do. I think she understands everything I’ve passed to her so far. The life is so long, and she have a lot to understand. I’m not going to be here all season. But I tried to tell her how to be in the court, how to be outside the court, how to be with her teammates, what’s going to help her inside and outside. At her home, how to take care of herself. Staying in shape, what to eat for foods. What she has to do, what she doesn’t have to do. A lot of these things I’m trying to teach her because she don’t know. She’s just 21, and I think so far she’s doing so well. This is going to take a long time to be successful in the WNBA. You have to play hard every time, practice hard every time, and make you better each day.
MR: Can she ease into that role given she’s got a team around her where she doesn’t need to step in and play huge minutes immediately?
JA: Yeah, she knows that. She knows how she can support her teammates. So she has to press harder every day. She’s going to make it so she’s playing some minutes in the game and get the coach believing in her. And after that, she’s just going to have to fly.
MR: Is Damiris a major name in women’s basketball in Brazil?
JA: Yeah, she’s a starter on the Brazilian National Team. She’s the starter, with Erika [de Souza of the Atlanta Dream]. She’s the starter with the Brazilian National Team. This year she has a World Championship after here, and the coach called me and said J, tell Damiris to don’t go to the WNBA because I need her in July to play some games. She said no, coach, I want to be here. I want to be in the WNBA because this is my dream. I know the national team can wait a little bit. But right now it’s my time. I have to enjoy having the WNBA. She thinks she’s in the right place with the right moment and the right people.
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