Thousands of kilometres from his hometown, Eduardo Crespo unexpectedly found a second family.
The talented Brazilian basketball player knew little English and knew no one who lived in Canada. He was rightfully nervous. He was worried about the weather.
But after a year in Alberta, Crespo is thriving. A star on the Red Deer Polytechnic Kings basketball team, while also plying his craft on the soccer pitch for the Kings earlier this fall. He’s found something special.
“Coach has helped me a lot,” Crespo told The Advocate. “He did a really good job in recruitment and in my admission here. He helped me in my first year and helped integrate me into society.”
Much like in Red Deer, Crespo’s hometown of Mococa, Sau Paulo is between two main cities. It’s a small town where his family still resides and he grew up playing both basketball and soccer and developed a love for sports, especially basketball.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a coach from Brazil invited Crespo to play in an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball tournament, which is a high-level high school circuit in the United States.
While in the tournament, a coach from the U.S. recruited Crespo to play at a prep school where he stayed for a few months. Once the pandemic hit, his coach emailed out numerous highlight packages of his game to different schools.
RDP Kings head coach Darren Graham liked what he saw from Crespo and recruited him to bring his talents to central Alberta.
“It was a plan of mine to be in America or Canada to play basketball because here, I know they have a good program to develop the guys and I can still study,” he said, adding in Brazil, it’s rare to be able to play sports and get a college education because there are so many club teams who focus on just the game.
“This year has been easier. I’m more connected with the guys and they’ve made my life easier. To go to my home, come to college, get groceries, or something else they’re always available to help me.”
Crespo has stepped up his game this season for the Kings and is their second-highest leading scorer averaging 18.7 points per game on 56 per cent shooting from the field.
He explained the way they play basketball here is different than back home. The talent and athletic ability in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Association he said are high but in North America, teamwork can sometimes be an afterthought.
In Brazil, if someone is struggling to score or having a bad night shooting the ball, his teammates will help get that player more open shots. Whereas in Canada, if a player is having a bad night that’s what it is and they’re just having an off night.
“What I try to do is I know I need to score points to help my teammates but I also like to help them,” he said. “As a point guard sometimes you need to understand I have a shooter on my team who’s not taking good shots but I need to find a way to get this guy back in the game.”
Crespo takes it upon himself to be a facilitator for his teammates and plays an unselfish game. Rather than having a score-first mentality, he takes what the defence gives him.
Even though he’s in Red Deer on a scholarship for basketball, Crespo played the entire season for the Kings soccer team after finding an arrangement that worked for both sides. With some overlap between seasons, he said it has been hard to manage at times on top of his school work but is happy to be here.
“[Before I came here] I asked people who know Canada and they said Alberta is a good province and you’d like it there. The people there are nice and they will help you because I know in a small town it would be easier to adapt,” he said.
Crespo hopes to one day play professional basketball in Brazil, but in the meantime, he wants to finish his business degree in Red Deer.
Once he completes the degree, he wants to take what he learned and apply it to his business in Brazil. In his hometown, Crespo rents out a soccer field for the locals and teams to use. It has been a challenge to run it from afar but has family and friends who help out.
On top of his many other responsibilities, he also works a job in Red Deer on his off days working for a company in the oilfield where he cleans the machines and around the office.
Moving to a new country he said, was hard to get used to the winters because in Brazil the coldest it would get is 10 C but would average around 25 C.
It’s also common to eat more meals throughout the day in Brazil, much to the surprise of his teammates.
“The guys they always look at me and ask ‘how do you eat that much,’” he chuckled.
At the midway point of the season, the Kings sit in sixth place in the ACAC South Division with a record of 4-6 and will resume the season in January.