SALT LAKE CITY — European basketball players are making a name for themselves in the NBA, and have been for quite some time now.
Recently, guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Rudy Gobert and Kristaps Porzingis have become some of the league’s best players. All of them have made the trek from across the pond to achieve their goals of becoming NBA superstars.
The state of Utah has a shot at watching the next possible European phenom in Utah State’s big man from Portugal. Neemias Queta is from Barreiro, Portugal, and was found by the Aggies while playing for the U20 Portuguese National Team and Benfica SL B.
Queta got his start in basketball when his sister was recruited by a coach at his hometown school. When the coach saw Neemias Queta, he was invited to play as well. From that point forward, Queta fell in love with the game, and decided that he wanted to continue to pursue a future on the court.
It wasn’t long before Queta started to get noticed by universities in the United States. One stood out among the rest: the Utah State Aggies.
"I chose Utah State mainly because of the coaching staff." Queta said. "They were great during the recruiting process, and one of the coaches flew in to see me. I just felt like they were one of the only teams that would do that. I just felt like it was the best option for me to come here."
Queta said he also fell in love with the university's ice cream.
"The ice cream is really good," Queta said laughing. "The Spectrum and the fans also make Utah State a great place to play."
During the 2018-19 season, the 7-footer began his collegiate career with a bang. He started in all 35 games for the Aggies and would set a single season school record with 84 blocks. Queta averaged nearly 12 points per game while also averaging nine rebounds.
Queta’s freshman season also came with many accolades, such as the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year and Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. By the end of his first season in Logan, Queta was named to the Second Team All-Mountain West list and was a member of the Mountain West All-Tournament team.
"I like to compare it to playing with the (Utah) Jazz," junior guard Abel Porter told KSL last season. "They know they can guard the 3-point line because they have Rudy (Gobert) behind them. That’s what I think of in a game. Of course, I don’t want my guy to get by me, but I’m not as scared because I know that Neemi is probably going to block his shot."
In July 2019, Portugal’s U20 team played in the FIBA European Championship and Queta was a standout on the floor. In a semifinal game against Russia, Queta jumped to grab a defensive rebound and upon his return to the ground, his knee buckled and he hit the floor. The diagnosis was a sprained knee and dislocated kneecap. Queta was ruled out of the championship game, and would work hard to be ready to return to Utah State as soon as possible.
Queta didn't return until Dec. 7, 2019 — when the Aggies would take on Fresno State at the Spectrum. But after only three games into his return, Queta injured his leg again against the Florida Gators in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.
"It wasn’t frustrating for me. Mainly because I’m new and I’ve had a career without many injuries, so I knew that one had to be coming soon," Queta said. "I just had to keep going and I had to tell myself that it’s basketball and stuff like this happens. I’m feeling back to 100% now."
Queta returned once again about two weeks later against San Diego State. Since his second return of the season, Queta has averaged 12 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots.
After his freshman season, Queta declared for the NBA draft and showcased his skills in front of multiple NBA teams, but came back to Utah State with new goals he hoped to reach. NBA teams told him he needed to get stronger and work on his free throws.
"One of the biggest things they told me is that I needed to be stronger, stay out of foul trouble, improve my free throws and stay in the game without getting tired," Queta said. "I’ve been doing everything that I need to and I feel like I'm making improvement."
Queta made the decision to return to Utah State to work on his game and to raise his draft stock. In addition to improving his play, Queta said he strives to help younger kids reach their goals.
"Just have fun playing the game," he said. "You never know when it could be over and take advantage of it while you can."