Next Star Didi Louzada has come a long way from his home state of Espírito Santo in Brazil. Now several months into his career as a Sydney King, the Brazilian wing has been a key component behind the league-leading Kings' current 12-3 record, contributing 10.7 points per game in 23.8 minutes a night.
It's been a smooth transition both on and off the court for Louzada, aided by the presence of family, starting with his mother Rosane and older brother Joao Pedro, whom Didi calls his idol.
Note: The interview was originally conducted in Portuguese via Didi Louzada's translator, and has been translated into English for contextual accuracy and clarity.
"My mum and my brother got here around September-October and they'll be staying here until next month. My cousin who just recently got here is heading back on the 19th. But... I'm really happy they spent some time with me here as they've helped me a lot and I'm sure I'll miss them when they go back next month."
Over an insightful feature from The Sydney Morning Herald's Andrew Webster, Louzada shared a story on how the family rallied around Joao Pedro's battle with an allergic reaction that nearly robbed him of his life, and how Didi made a promise to his brother back then, that's taken him on a journey to Australia, an environment whose climate reminds him of Brazil.
One big learning curve for the young star has been the language barrier. After being drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2019 NBA draft, one of the incentives for the team to stash Louzada in Australia for a season, was to help him build his language skills up.
"I'm studying English four times per week, 1 hour sessions, and it's going very well. I'm trying my best so I can learn it as soon as possible. Australian English has a slightly different accent, which is a bit harder, but I'm handling it and want to be able to speak
English as soon as possible."
While his English proficiency is a work in progress, Didi says that it has not been difficult to communicate with teammates and coaches.
"I handled [the language barrier] well, it's not hard to get your message across on the court as some of the terms are identical to the ones we used in Brazil. The coach and my teammates have been really supportive, helping me use the correct words."
Louzada has been fortunate to be on a team filled with highly decorated veterans. The Kings possess 7 players that have been a part of the Australian Boomers program, and multiple players with NBA experience. Many of them have helped guide him during his time with the team.
"Experienced players like Casper [Ware], [Andrew] Bogut and Brad [Newley] have helped me throughout the season, especially Bogut who often gives me advice on and off the court."
Kings head coach, Will Weaver, also with NBA G League and Boomers stints on his resume, has also been pivotal in Louzada's development.
"[Weaver's] a good coach, I really like him. He's very intelligent and all I can do is thank him for this opportunity. He helps me in training and during games but also outside the court too. I watched some of Australia's national team's games where he acted as assistant coach and he was great. I'm really enjoying working with him."
It's been a whirlwind year for the 20 year old Louzada. The Brazilian has gone from playing for Franca in the FIBA Americas League, to being drafted in June, participating in NBA Summer League in July, playing for his country in the FIBA World Cup over September, and then straight to the NBL. It's a unique journey that Louzada did not see coming.
"To be able to play for my national team is priceless. It was my first World Cup, unfortunately we didn't qualify for the quarter finals but it was an experience I'm sure I'll carry with me throughout all my career."
"I [didn't] know about [getting stashed in Australia]. [When] I was first drafted there were talks of me coming to a different country to learn English and I'm sure they have my best interest in mind, so that I can evolve in my career, in life, as well as learning the language."
And evolve he has. Louzada has found his role as a defensive minded, '3 and D' stopper for the Kings, and it's a job he continues to work and improve at, especially when it comes to perimeter shooting.
"Lately I've been perfecting my 3-pointers," Louzada, who's currently shooting 31% on 4.8 three attempts a game according to SpatialJam.com, shared. "It's a skill I believe I have improved quite a lot but there's still plenty of room to improve.
"My offensive moves are good and mainly my defending, which I prioritize, I believe are the strengths to my game. What I need to perfect is my passing, reading the game, rebounds... I think these are areas I can still improve."
Similarly, Weaver likes what he's seen from Louzada so far --he terms the daily shooting practice "vitamin"-- and talked about the perimeter shooting, with the assistance of a drill that involves a bin.
“The trash can behind him is there so he can’t fall backwards, Weaver explained. "Sometimes, he has a tendency to fall backwards with his shot. Because he has that tactical reminder, he’s more conscious of it."
The fast-paced nature of this year's NBL season provides similarities to the NBA, offering a quality proving ground for young players aiming for the next level.
"The style [in the NBL] is fast paced, similar to [the] NBA, very physical, similar to the Summer League. I don't know much about Europe, but I believe it's slower, more tactical, not as physical whereas here it's more in the style of NBA Summer League."
He hopes his contribution can help land he and his Kings team a championship before he heads back to the NBA.
"We're a very tight group, very focused. I'm positive if we keep this bond going and carry it onto the court we can make it to the final and win this all important title for Sydney."