How a leap of faith changed Chicago Sky center Kamilla Cardoso's life, and made her a top WNBA Draft pick

Eight years ago, Kamilla Cardoso’s life changed forever.

At just 15-years-old, Cardoso hopped on a flight from Montes Claros, Brazil, to the United States in hopes of accomplishing a dream for her family.

"I was really nervous," Cardoso said. I’m coming to a country that I didn’t know nobody. I didn’t know the culture, everything was really different from Brazil. But I knew I had a dream that I wanted to accomplish."

That dream was to give her family in Brazil a better life by playing professional basketball. 

It started at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Tennessee. There, Cardoso played under Keisha Hunt.  

"I saw her video, and she was probably about 6’4, 6'5," Hunt said. "She probably was about 13, 14 in the video. She was running up and down the court. As fast as the guards. Very coordinated."

As Cardoso adjusted to playing basketball in America, she was also adapting to the American culture. That included learning the English language.

"She really didn’t know anything, just a few words. Maybe, yes," Hunt said. "She didn’t really know anything. She wasn’t the first international student that I’ve coached so we did a lot of google translate."

"That is why I am so proud of her, seeing her talk in interviews now. You would never know that she was once that kid in the classroom and saying, ‘I’m not going up there saying anything.’ to now just feeling so comfortable that she just speaks with such confidence."

Cardoso would graduate from Hamilton Heights as the No. 1 ranked center in the Class of 2020 and even earned McDonald’s All-American recognition.

After a season at Syracuse, she transferred to South Carolina to play for Dawn Staley, a three-time NCAA national championship coach and two-time AP National Coach of the Year.

"She’s incredibly competitive," Staley said. "She’s got a chip on her shoulder that she doesn’t always unveil. But when she gets to that point, there’s no stopping her."

In her 3 seasons at South Carolina, the 6'7 center earned numerous awards from being named the SEC's Sixth Woman of the Year,  SEC Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time NCAA national champion and the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament this past season.

"Looking at Kamilla now, it’s well worth the sacrifice because she’s learned so much," Staley said. "She’s learned a new language, a new culture, while not sacrificing her culture."

From being a two-time NCAA champion to being selected third overall in the 2024 WNBA Draft, Kamilla Cardoso is living her dream.


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