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25/03/2013
Damiris Dantas (BRA)

SÃO LUÍS (2013 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - There's no place like home right now for 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women MVP Damiris Dantas, currently back in her native Brazil, where she has been trying to lead Maranhao to a play-off Championship.

Tipped to make it to the very top level from a very young age, the performances of Dantas in Puerto Montt, Chile, a couple of years ago, sent her profile into orbit. She averaged tournament bests of 20.9 points and 12.6 rebounds per game to inspire Brazil to bronze and their first-ever medal at the Championship.

With an appearance at London 2012 sandwiched between her initial pro-stint in Spain and current assignment on home soil, it's been a busy time for Dantas, as she tries to somehow live up to the lofty expectations imposed upon her by others.

"It always has been my dream to play in an adult league in my country," said the 20-year-old.

"Here the fans want much more from the team than in Spain, although over there, the games are even more competitive.

"I am working to improve in all aspects of my game and I'm in a phase of always learning more.

"Today, I act in the position of power forward, but I want to be able to act more like a small forward and for that, I need to improve my kick-out for example.

"But, I'm living in a great learning moment."

Dantas still reflects on her accomplishments two years ago with considerable pleasure and who can blame her after posting such a string of majestic performances?

"It was the best championship of my life, not only the results, but also because of our group of players," she recalled.

"The group that played in Chile was very united and we are all very friendly.

"We were actually worried about the games and our performances, but were always talking about good things and wishing only positive things for each other.

"Off the court, the Chileans always received us very well and they cheered for Brazil, so I only have great memories of that championship," added Dantas.

If there's one particularly redeeming aspect to the forward, it's her candidness and self-awareness. Looking back on her first Olympic experience last summer, she doesn't hold back from admitting she had yearned for more after averaging 4.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

She said: "It was my first Olympics and I learned a lot and matured even more.

"Obviously I expected more from my production which was caused by a little nervousness.

"Being in the athletes' village and watching the games was very good, because we had the opportunity to meet our idols like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and the Brazilian duo Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa.

"I think it was very important to have participated in this campaign by the experience and I'm sure next time will be different," Dantas added.

The small matter of next time will of course, be as hosts at Rio 2016. Although Dantas is trying to focus on the priorities in the foreground for club and country, rather than scanning the horizon.

"Naturally I'm very happy to be able to play in an Olympics at home, and we'll work to get a medal. My dream has always been to represent my country and fight for them on the court," she said.

"But I don't think too much about the pressure so as not to cause anxiety.

"I think we just have to take it step by step, since this year, we have the FIBA America Championship and hopefully this will qualify us for the FIBA World Championship in Turkey during 2014 - that's what we have to focus on at this moment.

Dantas is also looking to determine her more immediate future. She was selected in the 2012 WNBA Draft and a move to the US is on her mind for 2014.

"I don't yet know what I'll do when the season ends here in Brazil. I'm looking for a team to play for in Europe, but have nothing right now," she said.

"As for the WNBA and the Minnesota Lynx, I would like to go next year, when I believe I would have more time on the court."

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