From Brazil to Tempe, ASU’s Isadora Sousa inspires on and off basketball court

Despite facing challenges, Isadora Sousa remains focused on her aspirations of playing professional basketball in Brazil and coaching to empower female basketball players. (Photo by Emma Jeanson/Cronkite News)

Playing this far from home comes with its challenges, including language barriers and time zone differences for Isadora Sousa. (Photo by Joe Eigo/Cronkite News)

Isadora Sousa believes her time at ASU “has been really good. We’re not done yet but I can say I learned a lot.” (Photo by Joe Eigo/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – Even while repping maroon and gold for the Sun Devils in Tempe, Isadora Sousa plays with another group of females in mind.

Originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sousa is a graduate student playing in her final season for the ASU women’s basketball team. Eventually, she hopes to play professionally back home and possibly one day coach, with the intention of paying it forward to other girls who want to pursue the opportunities she has had.

“This is what I want to do regardless of if I play or not. Something that I can help the basketball girls be more valued in Brazil,” Sousa said. “Eventually outside of there, just keep being supportive for other girls to have the sense that I had to come out here and have a free education and a free ride scholarship.”

Before joining the Sun Devils in June 2021, Sousa, a 6-foot guard, played for two years at Chipola College in Marianna, Florida.

In her first season as a Sun Devil, she only played seven games due to a back problem and a disc herniation injury that she needed surgery to remove. Since that stint, Sousa battled a string of injuries that have clouded her career, including a tear in both ACLs, a minor heart problem that kept her sidelined for close to four months with no activity, and a stress fracture before the start of this season that required a screw.

Through all of those setbacks, there were moments when she wondered if she’d be able to continue her basketball journey.

“This year was like, am I going to even be able to play or not?” Sousa, 23, said. “I think just having the support from my family, friends and both coaching staff, they were very supportive.”

Sousa also credits the ASU medical staff and herself for bouncing back from her injuries with a sense of determination that she would make a full recovery and play again.

“They helped me come back and overcome this stuff,” Sousa said. “And just me believing in myself. Coming from somebody who has a lot of injuries I feel like the person who can tell the most is myself. So while I still have that hunger inside of me like I wanted to play and believe in myself that I can, I think that’s what helped me overcome to be able to play.”

Since returning to the court in December, after missing the first 10 games of the season, Sousa has found her way for the struggling Sun Devils, who are 11-17 overall and 3-13 in the Pac-12 conference. ASU has two remaining regular season games, both at home. The Sun Devils host No. 8 UCLA Thursday, followed by Saturday’s regular-season finale against No. 7 USC.

A starter in 14 of 15 games she has played this season, Sousa ranks second in the Pac-12 for her 3-point field goal percentage at 56.6 percent. She had a big game Feb. 16 against Washington, reaching a career-high of 16 points on seven shots in 42 minutes of play.

“She just has that veteran leadership and when she’s out there, you know, just to see her healthy and being able to contribute. She’s logged so many minutes that she hasn’t logged previously,” said ASU coach Natasha Adair.

As Isadora Sousa prepares for life beyond collegiate basketball, she expresses gratitude for the opportunities and lessons learned at ASU. (Photo by Emma Jeanson/Cronkite News)

As Isadora Sousa prepares for life beyond collegiate basketball, she expresses gratitude for the opportunities and lessons learned at ASU. (Photo by Emma Jeanson/Cronkite News)

Sousa is among the few veterans on the young team, leading a backcourt alongside senior guard Jaddan Simmons. The pair have been teammates since 2021, Simmons’ sophomore year.

They went through a coaching change together when Charli Turner Thorne retired in March 2022 after 25 years as ASU’s head coach, handing Adair the reins.

Sousa and Simmons have a like-minded mentality on the court that is reflected in their game.

“I have known Izzy since my sophomore year,” Simmons said. “That’s when she came in and I think us both being coached by coach Charli and coach (Adair), we both just had that same mindset of how we want to play and I feel like we both lift each other up.”

Playing this far from home comes with its challenges, including language barriers and time zone differences. Despite those challenges, Sousa has found solace in those who can relate to her experience as an international college athlete.

Roberta Rabelo, who is on the ASU volleyball team, is also from Brazil. Rabelo was connected to Sousa through a friend from home who played with Sousa at Bradesco, a sports club for children and young people who play volleyball and basketball in Sao Paulo.

After Rabelo discovered that Sousa also attended ASU, she reached out. From there, they formed a friendship with an understanding of each other’s routine and life as a college athlete. Their friendship, strengthened by their cultural ties, helps them retain a connection to home.

“We just talk a little bit about the differences in cultures,” Rabelo said. “It’s just good to have someone who understands you and understands where you come from and all the differences and how sometimes we struggle here or when we are away from our families.”

Sousa, meanwhile, draws comfort from their relatability and the numerous things they have in common.

“Sometimes it’s just a relief to me that somebody can understand what I’m talking about,” Sousa said. “Because this language barrier sometimes is like it is now, and sometimes I don’t know how to use the right words to express myself and I can just say something to her and she already knows without much effort.”

With the season and her collegiate basketball career winding down, Sousa has expressed her gratitude for the opportunities afforded in her time at ASU, a journey that will soon be coming to a close.

“I’m very appreciative of the ASU people,” said Sousa, who is pursuing a master’s degree in project management after earning her bachelor’s in urban planning. “I feel like my time here has been really good, we’re not done yet but I can say I learned a lot.”

When she removes the maroon and gold after one final time, Sousa will be walking away with more than what she learned on the court, but also in life as she embarks on her next chapter.

“I’m going to look back and be like that was worth it regardless if I’m going to live in the U.S. or Brazil or anywhere else,” Sousa said.

“I could grow as a person, get ready for the real world and I think that’s the most I can be grateful for.”

Jayla French(she/her)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Jayla French expects to graduate in December 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. French has reported and written for the East Valley Tribune.

Emma Jeanson(she/her)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Emma Jeanson expects to graduate in May 2025 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. She has covered various sports around Arizona and has worked with AIA and AZPreps365.