Have You Seen Her? Iziane Castro Marques

Twenty-five-year-old Iziane Castro Marques hasn't taken the traditional route to the WNBA. Instead of attending college, the native of Brazil joined a professional team at age 15 and has gradually risen up the women's basketball ranks. The slender, six-foot guard signed with the Miami Sol as a free agent in 2002 and moved on to the Phoenix Mercury the following season before being waived prior to the 2004 regular season.

After starting for the Brazilian national team at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Castro Marques joined the Seattle Storm for the 2005 WNBA campaign and she hasn't looked back. This past season was her best in the States as she established new career highs in points (12.3), assists (2.8), steals (1.0) and minutes (28.3) per game.

Despite her success and bright future in the WNBA, the Brazilian is remarkably affable and approachable. WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield caught up with Castro Marques recently to discuss her beginnings in the game and her motivation for becoming the best player she can be.

Q. Growing up in Brazil, how did you get your start playing basketball?

A. "It was my physical education teacher in San Luis Marana. He said, 'You should play basketball.' (Laughs.) All year long, he would tell me to play basketball. And one day, I was like, 'OK, I'll play basketball.' That's how I started."

Q. Was your family supportive of you playing as a child?

A. "No, not really."

Q. Brazil is a huge soccer country, obviously. Did your family want you to play that instead?

A. "No, they didn't want me to play anything. I was really good in school and they wanted me to become a doctor. Now that I'm a professional basketball player, I think my mom has gotten over it."

Q. What inspired you when you were younger to get out on the court, work hard and become a better player?

A. "With everything I've ever done in my life, I've always done the very best I could. So when I decided I wanted to be a professional basketball player, I did everything I could to be the best I can be."

Q. Was basketball popular where you grew up in Brazil?

A. "It's big in Sao Paulo. But that's a five-hour flight away from where I grew up. A lot of people around there like to play basketball, but there isn't a big team or a lot of fans there."

Q. At what point did you realize that you were a good enough player to really pursue it professionally?

A. "When I was 15, I decided that I wanted to become a pro. That brought a lot of change in my life because I had to move away from home to Sao Paulo to play with a professional team and with the youth national team. And then when I was 19, I had the option to either go overseas to play or to stay in Brazil. I decided to give it a shot overseas and see how it goes… to see how good I am. From there, maybe I'll be good enough to play in the best league, the WNBA. I played in Europe and then I had the option to come to the WNBA, so I was like, 'Yup!' "

Q. Who was the most influential person to your basketball development, either as you were growing up or somewhere else along the way?

A. "I had a coach in Brazil who taught me the basics and the ins and outs of being on the court. He was very supportive of me. I always used to be in a very bad mood on the court, and he helped me to overcome that. Pretty much everything I know about basketball, I learned from him."

Q. How do you stay in such good shape? Do you have a serious training regimen either from the Storm or from your national team coach in Brazil? Do you like cardio exercise and lifting weights?

A. "Yes, I do like to lift weights a lot. I'm skinny, so I have to do what I can to keep strong. You have to be strong to play in this league.

"When I'm in Brazil, there are several different cardio exercises that I like to do. Run on the beach, ride my bicycle, that kind of stuff. When I'm in the States, I mostly stick to lifting weights."

Q. What's your favorite exercise to do?

A. "Lunges."

Q. What are your favorite activities off the court?

A. "I love to be with my friends. I love to go to the park, hang out and relax. I love to dance. I love to play video games and watch movies."

Q. What's your favorite movie?

A. "Hmmm, there are so many. I love Sister Act."

Q. What is the most difficult thing you've had to do or had to overcome during your basketball career?

A. "The toughest thing I had to face was the distance from my family when I moved away from home. I left when I was 15, and I was the baby of the family, so it was tough to be in a big city like Sao Paulo all by myself. I cried every day.

"My family is still in Brazil, so I go back there pretty regularly to see them. That's my home base. Seattle is my home base here in the United States, but Brazil is really home."

Q. Was there ever a point when you were younger when you almost gave up basketball … when you thought it wasn't worth it anymore?

A. "Yes, definitely. It was kind of funny, because early on, my mom was always the one telling me to quit basketball. But once I committed to it, she was always the one telling me to stay. (Laughs.) 'Now that you've made your decision,' she used to say, 'you're sticking to it.'

"You know, when you're 15, 16 years old and away from home, it's not easy. You want to say 'Screw this, I want my mama,' go home and be a normal teenager."

Q. How did you overcome that desire to head home?

A. "Persistence, you know? Like I said, I really wanted to be the best, so I just tried to stay focused on that and on whatever was in front of me. I didn't leave home to fail. I wanted to persist and accomplish what I had set out to accomplish. Keep doing what you're doing and you're going to get there."

Q. Who is the most inspirational athlete to you now? Is there someone you see out there and say, wow, he or she makes me want to be an even better player?

A. "Yes, definitely. One of them is Hortencia, the legendary basketball player from Brazil. The other one was Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula One driver who was killed in a race in 1994. They've always been inspirations to me."

Q. Do you have a motto or saying that you live by or say to yourself to get you going?

A. "I do, yes. It's that the only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything."

Q. How do you apply that to your life?

A. "Well, I make lots of mistakes. (Laughs.) No, seriously, I'm very hard on myself, so I try to remember that line every time I worry about doing something wrong. I have a hard time getting past the mistakes, learning from them and moving on, so I use that quote to remind me."

Q. Do you have any words of wisdom for fans or kids out there?

A. "I always tell them to believe in their dreams. It's very important to have dreams and to believe you can achieve them and to pursue them. If you don't have a goal in your life, you can't go anywhere. It's very important. You have to believe in yourself and work hard to achieve your goals."

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