Meet Kamilla Cardoso, basketball star who left Brazil as a teen and now leading South Carolina’s March Madness quest

KAMILLA Cardoso left Brazil to chase her basketball dream, but it was with her home nation that she’s had her career highlight.

The 22-year-old center towers over her opponents at 6ft 7ins and has high expectations of making it to the WNBA.

Kamilla Cardoso is the South Carolina star from Brazil

Kamilla Cardoso is the South Carolina star from BrazilCredit: Getty

She left Brazil for the United States at the age of 15

She left Brazil for the United States at the age of 15Credit: Getty

She left her hometown of Montes Claros in Brazil aged just 15 and now plays for South Carolina.

Cardoso remembers the heartache of leaving her mom and older sister to move to the U.S. when she didn’t even know English.

She enrolled at Hamilton Heights Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“Sometimes when I’m in class, I think about them and I just cry. Missing them is the hardest part,” she said in an interview with

“But I was like, ‘I want to do this for real, not just for fun.’ I knew that coming to the United States, I’d get a great education, play basketball and do something I love.

“I didn’t speak English at all. All I could say was, yes, no, bye and hello.

“No one else spoke Portuguese, so I had to learn.

“They used to teach me, and I used to write down every word in translate. That’s how I learned.

“That’s when I wasn’t scared of making mistakes. After I was able to communicate, I was so proud of myself.”

After mastering the language and life in America, Cardoso set about her basketball ambitions.

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She struggled with the food difference in the United States at first but knew she had to fill out her 2.01-meter frame.

The center put on 30lbs and began to dominate on court.

She earned a scholarship to play Division 1 basketball with Syracuse in New York in 2020.

Cardoso transfered to South Carolina two years ago and was a fringe part of the team that won the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

Her development has continued and she is now a key part of the team, as well as the Brazil national team.

Cardoso has high hopes of another successful March Madness and for the WNBA Draft.

She will miss the opening game after being suspended for shoving LSU’s Flau’jae Johnson this month – a scuffle which saw five players ejected.

But representing her home country and guiding them to gold in the 2023 FIBA AmeriCup will take some beating.

“I want to bring basketball to my hometown,” Cardoso said.

“In Brazil, we have a lot of poor people, and sports can save lives. Sports can get young people off the streets.

“I want to bring basketball to help those people.

“There are plenty of girls and boys back at home who have a dream to play basketball, but they don’t think they’re capable of doing it.

“When I’m doing this for my country, I’m representing every one of these little boys and girls.”

Cardoso struggled at first in the US but is now one of women's basketball's brightest stars

Cardoso struggled at first in the US but is now one of women’s basketball’s brightest starsCredit: Getty

Cardoso in action against LSU Tigers this year

Cardoso in action against LSU Tigers this yearCredit: Getty

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