CHICAGO — As if his journey to the United States of America wasn’t tough enough, 19-year-old Neemias Queta is faced with yet another difficult decision in the coming weeks.
Should he remain in the NBA draft or return to Utah State University?
Queta continues to test his draft eligibility, currently at the NBA combine in Chicago, before a decision has to be made ahead of the NCAA’s May 29 deadline.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Queta said during Thursday’s media availability in the Windy City. “I’ve still got to see my options.”
The feedback he receives from teams will surely determine the outcome.
Standing 6-foot-10.75 without shoes and a measured wingspan of 7-foot-4.25, Queta is the fourth-biggest prospect of all 66 participants, but also tested among the slowest times for centers in the shuttle run and lane agility drills. However, his confidence hasn’t wavered.
“I do. I want to be an NBA player,” Queta declared. “Mark it down.”
Philadelphia, Charlotte, Denver, Orlando, Portland, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston are the NBA teams he’s been in contact with so far.
Also, four days ahead of the combine, he participated in a predraft workout for the Utah Jazz, in which the Portuguese big man impressed the front office with his shooting, but also showed areas where he needs to improve.
“He looked pretty good,” Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin told the media following Queta’s workout on May 11. “He’s still a young kid, so he’s got some things he’s got to work on.
“I think the one thing that impressed me a little bit, because I hadn’t seen him play a lot is, he’s got a bit of a shooting touch,” he continued. “He’s not strictly a back-to-the-basket player. So that will help him, hopefully at Utah State and in the future. He’s still got a young body, so he’s gonna have to get a lot stronger. He got pushed around a little bit today. He reacted well defensively, so it was a good workout.”
Queta came to America from Barreiro, Portugal last August after signing to playing for Utah State. In his freshman season, he helped the Aggies reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and was named Mountain West Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 11.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. His 84 swats are also a single-season record and he sees himself bringing those traits to the professional ranks like another award-winning defender in Utah.
“There’s a lot of players I like to study,” Queta said. “I feel that right now I’m probably a Clint Capela or a Rudy Gobert, but I feel that in the future I can become a Joel Embiid type of player or an Anthony Davis type of player or (Nikola) Jokic.”
Although Queta hasn’t been in communication with Gobert, he knows the reigning Defensive Player of the Year’s game in and out.
“I never talked to him, but I watched a lot of film on him and I feel that he’s a really good anchor for any defense and it secures a lot of guards and wings on the perimeter and just lets them gamble a little bit more because they know he’ll stay there just to erase any type of mistakes they make,” Queta said of Gobert.
Behind the scenes, Queta is being represented by Daniel Poneman of Beyond Athlete Management but is also listening closely to Portuguese basketball star Carlos Andrade, who he calls his “idol” since he first started playing basketball.14 comments on this story
Utah State head coach Craig Smith and assistant Eric Peterson already proved their loyalty to Queta through their constant pursuit to bring him to Logan in the recruiting process, but if he decides to remain a pro, it wouldn’t be a knock on them. The Aggies’ 28-7 record this season tied the third-most wins in school history, so he would be coming back to a strong program on the rise, but ultimately it depends on him and what he learns in the Windy City.
“I feel that we were probably the best team in the state the whole year, so we don’t have to talk about it,” Queta said of Utah State. “We proved everybody wrong. We was the only team from Utah in the tournament. In football, it was the same thing too, and I think Utah State is probably the best team in Utah in terms of athletics.”