How Raul Neto Become one of the NBA’s Toughest Players

The last two seasons have seen Raul Neto working hard to define his role and make his mark with the Washington Wizards. Last season he was a starter under Scott Brooks but since Coach Wes Unseld Jr took over, Neto often finds himself being the first sub off the bench at point guard.

With an average 7.9 points and 2.6 assists, the team has come to depend on him to not only push their pace when they need a speedy offense but also to dash around the court defensively. It is no easy task and many have commented that his body must be taking a pounding.

Often his teammates describe him as a “pest”; however, this is to do a disservice to just how hard he works. Neto has spoken about how his father would tell him that he has to work harder than everyone else and believes that this work ethic is thoroughly engrained in his DNA.

As fans will know, Neto comes from a Brazilian basketball playing family. His father, also named Raul, was a world class player who represented Brazil internationally. However, he did not spend much time teaching his son technical basketball skills. Rather, he taught him to be fiercely competitive, which has allowed him to thrive with the Wizards.

These lessons will have been particularly important for Neto when he was growing up in Brazil. The country does not have a huge basketball traditional and he will have had to have been incredibly determined to pursue the sport to such a high level. In fact, when he was a child, there were so few organized basketball teams that he would often play just three or four games a year. At one point he did consider switching to football, but ultimately, his love of basketball was far greater.

Eventually, the combination of the lack of practice gyms, coaches and trainers in Brazil led to Neto leaving home at the age of 18 to play in Spain’s professional league. There he said he both had to learn a new language and how to cook for himself. He credits his teammates will helping him fit in and develop both on and off the court.

It is the combination of his ability to adapt and his toughness that has enabled Neto to make his mark at the Wizards.

Compared to his extremely tall teammates and opponents, Neto appears misleadingly stocky. Caldwell-Pope once joked that there is no way he could be 6 foot tall when asked about Neto’s height (he is in fact 6 foot 2). Furthermore, he is almost a bulldozer of a player, charging into the foul lane shoulders first. While he seems to have unlimited reserves of energy for runs on defense, if he can’t find space to maneuver, then he seems to prefer to just go straight through whatever may be in his way.

Coach Unseld has described him as a true professional who easily overcomes whatever physical limitations he may have. He has praised Neto repeatedly for his energy and determination. His teammates have also expressed their admiration for his work ethic. He plays hard from beginning to end and there is no doubt that he is one of the toughest players in the league.