Published in The Crow’s Nest March 2015
It’s no easy feat adjusting to a new city, let alone a new country. But that is exactly what Laura Ferreira had to do in order to play for USF’s women’s basketball team.
Ferreira, 19, came to the United States from Portugal in 2014 after being named the best player in her country for two consecutive years and helped the Bulls to their best season in program history.
Born in Lisboa, Portugal, Ferreira started playing basketball with her sister, Barbara, at 8 years old. Being two years younger than her sister, Ferreira learned the importance of speed and toughness.
By the time she was 14, she joined the Portuguese national team, competing against other countries’ best players. Less than four years later, Ferreira’s U18 Portuguese team finished ninth place in Division A, the best classification for any women’s team in the country’s history. She averaged 8.4 points per game in eight games and was named the country’s best current Portuguese player.
“I improved a lot, especially on my physicality,” Ferreira said.
Being a competitor at heart, Ferreira loves several other sports as well, including soccer, volleyball and swimming. She swam on Portugal’s national team for 11 years while playing basketball until she had to choose between the two.
“I was always tired,” Ferreira said. “But I loved both sports; I don’t regret it.”
In 2014, while leading her basketball team in points per game, averaging 13.8, the guard/forward repeated as the country’s best active Portuguese player. According to ESPN.com, Ferreira was rated a five-star athlete and was given a 96 scout grade.
The young star’s talents quickly gained the attention of USF head coach Jose Fernandez.
“There were two (international) kids ranked in the top 100, one went to Connecticut and Laura came to here,” Fernandez said. “We’re going to try and get the best players for our program. It doesn’t matter where they’re from.”
Although she had the option to play professionally overseas, Ferreira wouldn’t have been able to go to college due to time constraints, so she began exploring her options outside Europe.
When she and her father visited USF, Ferreira was impressed by the school’s atmosphere and how friendly everyone was. So she decided Tampa would be her new home.
“The facilities are really good,” Ferreira said. “And compared to Europe, we don’t have this kind of program.”
Ferreira said it was difficult adjusting to her new home in the United States. She missed her family and her mother’s cooking.
“In the beginning it was a little bit hard,” Ferreira said. “It’s a completely different world. You have different cultures here, different style of life and you need to adapt.”
Her parents haven’t been able to attend a game at USF and see her play in person yet, but Ferreira said they watch the games on television and will probably attend one next season.
“They’re really supportive,” Ferreira said. “They say ‘Do your best and be happy.’ They don’t know much about basketball, but they’re always there for me.”
Currently a freshman, Ferreira is majoring in exercise science. She hopes that when her basketball days are over, she can still have a job related to sports, whether it is a strength and conditioning coach or an athletic trainer.
But until that day comes, Ferreira will continue her college career at USF with dreams of going pro after obtaining her degree. The Bulls (24-6) finished second in the American Athletic Conference during the regular season and will enter the NCAA tournament starting March 20 in hopes of winning a national championship.
“I just work hard at practice, out of practice, in the weight room,” Ferreira said. “I eat healthy and never regret anything. At this point I really don’t care about the individual (goals). I just want our team to get to the best spot that we can ever be. I just want us to win.”
(Photo Courtesy of Tim Britt)