Although the Houston Comets did not win their fifth straight WNBA championship, there were still reasons to celebrate the team's season. One reason was the emergence of guard Janeth Arcain, who in the absence of marquee players like Cynthia Cooper (retired) and Sheryl Swoopes (injured) stepped up and became one of the premier players in the league. At the end of the regular season, the Brazilian native was named the WNBA's most improved player. Little wonder: She ranked fourth in the league with 18.5 points per game, fourth in free-throw percentage at .900, and seventh in steals with 1.88 a game.
Those who follow women's basketball closely probably weren't surprised by Arcain's emergence. In her native country, better known for its soccer than its basketball, she twice was the leading scorer of the Brazilian League, not to mention a multiple MVP award winner. She even earned a silver medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as a member of the Brazilian team.
The 32-year-old Arcain quickly has won over fans in Houston, not only for her roundball skills but also for her wide-eyed enthusiasm. "In Brazil, we don't have as good an organization as here," says the five-foot, 11-inch Arcain. "We don't have as many fans as here. And I enjoy it here. I love to be here."
During the Comets' off-season, Arcain still plays professional basketball in Brazil, with Team Vasco da Gama, named for the Portuguese explorer. The team won its league last year. Because of her hectic schedule, Arcain hasn't had much time to rest during the past five years, and this off-season is no exception. As soon as the Comets' playoff run was over, Arcain headed for home to continue shooting hoops in South America. However, she says she would like to spend more time in Houston, adding that the only thing she really misses about Brazil is her family.
"The place where I live there is on the beach," says Arcain. "But I like the Houston weather."
She also feels at home at Fogo de Chão, the Brazilian-style rodizio on Westheimer where the chefs know their way around a piece of meat.
Right now, Arcain can't stay year-round because of the contract in Brazil, she says. "But I hope one day to stay here and enjoy more of my time and get a little closer with the fans. It would be nice for me."