Talking with Houston's Janeth Arcain

Nothing Beats An Original

One of the last remaining original WNBA players, Comets guard Janeth Arcain is one of the most decorated international players in basketball history. A four-time WNBA champion as well as a four-time Olympian representing her native Brazil, she was named the WNBA Most Improved Player and an All-WNBA first team selection in 2001. She took the year off from the WNBA in 2004 to train for the Olympics, but is back with Houston this season helping to lead them back to the playoffs.

Q. Between Brazil and U.S., do you consider yourself one of the lucky ones who gets to experience summer all-year long.
J.A.: "In Brazil, the weather is obviously tropical and we don't normally have very cold weather. It can get chilly and you have to wear long sleeves sometimes, but yes, it's nice to be in a warm climate all year long. I think it's definitely better because I don't like cold weather. I like not having to wear so many clothes or layers and I like the beach. I don't live near the beach, though. I live in Sao Paolo, like 30 minutes from downtown Sao Paolo."

Four-time Olympian Janeth Arcain has a silver and a bronze medal playing for Brazil.
Michael Steere/NBAE/Getty Images
Q. How popular is basketball in Brazil? Is it growing?
"Basketball is the third most popular sport in Brazil behind soccer and volleyball. Both beach volleyball and court volleyball are popular among men and women. I am definitely a soccer fan and I definitely know how to play. I think everyone knows how to play soccer in Brazil. But it is very difficult for basketball to compete with soccer because it is so big and popular. They have so many great players, but we are working to build the sport there."

Q. How would you describe the country and the people for Americans who have never been to Brazil?
"For people who want to come to Brazil, Rio di Janeiro is really the great city. We have great beaches and a great party there every year called Carneval in February. It is a week-long party and lots of tourists come. There is a lot to see there. Though when I go there, I feel like a tourist, too, sometimes. And Sao Paolo is like New York Everyone is busy and working."

Q. How much fun is it teaching the game at your camp back home? Do you see coaching in your future?
"Well, I would say it is more than a camp. I have a foundation where the kids practice and learn all year round. As for coaching, it could be something I might try in the future. I'm not sure I have so patience for that. But right now, it is fun teaching and learning from the kids. They look at you like some big star and they will do anything you tell them to do on the court. We teach kids between ages 7 and 14 years old and they don't have to pay anything to be there. I feel like I have a lot to give and I want to give back to the game of basketball because it gave me so much - my friends, my experiences and my life. So I like giving back."

Q. So when you were younger and first starting out with the Comets, what was the toughest adjustment living in a new place?
"The language. Definitely learning English. No classes or tapes or anything. I would just pick up little things here and there that my teammates would say, what the coaches say, or by watching television and trying to figure out what they are saying. You ask people to talk slowly or repeat things a lot in the beginning. My vocabulary is still not so good, but I'm learning words a little bit at a time."

Q. Well we are having a nice conversation, right?
"(Laughs) Yes, right.

Arcain is one of three original Comets left with the team.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

Q. I'm not speaking too fast, right?
"No, not at all. Right now, I don't really have too much trouble, but that first year was difficult. I had no problem with the food or anything. I will eat everything you put in front of me."

Q. So along with Sheryl (Swoopes) and Tina (Thompson), you are one of the more experienced players on the team and in the league, but what is it like playing with 22-year old kids? Do you feel responsible for them?
"I don't feel very responsible for them like they are kids, but they are going to grow up and learn a lot from the experienced players by just being around them. When you have a team with a good mix of experienced players and young players, it works for everyone. They give us a lot of energy and we have a lot to show the show them and teach them. Like right now, for example, we have a good team of veterans and young players who are looking to be their own stars. That mix is helping the team.

Q. What was it like playing them in the Olympics last year? Do you think the rest of the world closing the gap and catching up to the U.S.?
"I think so. The big difference is that the WNBA is in the United States and draws the best players in the world to come here. Many overseas leagues don't have the same draw because there isn't a lot of money or sponsors there. But in the United States, so many kids are growing up playing in high school and at the universities, so that makes a big difference as well. But I really like playing in the Olympics and World Championships and getting to play against my friends and teammates from the WNBA. Everyone has different colors and uniforms on, but afterwards, we are all still good friends.

Q. Of all the places you've gotten to see and visit thanks to basketball, what has been your favorite?
"Wow, there are so many. A lot of places stand out between Europe, the United States and Asia. I don't have a special favorite place, but the United States is one place I'd like to get to know a little bit better. I really want to visit San Francisco sometime. Once I finish playing, I will have so much time to do the things I have wanted to do and see the places I have wanted to see."

Q. It seems like you have very little time to rest. How hard is that? Don't you get tired?
"I don't get a lot of time to rest because I also play back in Brazil during the WNBA offseason. I still think I have a few more years, maybe three or so, to go, and I really enjoy playing. Whether it is five years, two years or what, I have to leave it all out there on the court. After I play for a few more years, I will know when I've had enough. I don't want to stop and try and come back. I want to make sure I leave everything on the court before I go."