Hilltop Heroes: Yanick Moreira

Yanick Moreira towers above most of his SMU teammates. Standing at 6’11” with long arms and a lean frame, he looks like he was hand made to play basketball. Moreira, who looks quite similar in build to his favorite NBA star, Kevin Durant, has emerged as one of the Mustangs’ most promising players. In just his second year at SMU, he is the team’s top rebounder and second leading scorer.

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Born and raised in Luanda, Angola, Moreira came to the U.S. in 2011 to play at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas where, as a freshman, he starred on the Texans 2011-12 undefeated NJCAA Championship team and was named NJCAA Tournament MVP.

In Angola, school and basketball were separate for Moreira, so mixing the two proved difficult in his transition to life as a college athlete in America.

“It was kind of hard, because growing up I didn’t have to go to school and play basketball at the same time. Say I went to school at SMU, I would play basketball for another club,” said Moreira.

Considering today’s college standards, where athletics and academics are so seemingly intertwined ­– just ask Markus Kennedy or Keith Frazier – it is even more impressive that Moreira has kept his game at such a consistent level.

He kept that consistency progressing into his sophomore season at South Plains, as he was ranked the No. 1 junior college prospect by JUCO Junction on Rivals. It was at this point that Moreira decided to join the Mustangs.

Upon arriving at SMU, Moreira had an immediate impact on Coach Larry Brown and the Mustangs, but knew he had to keep improving. A solid post player, Coach Brown has been working with him to develop his shooting touch.

“I’ve been working on my jump shot more, because I definitely want to get better,” said Moreira.

This past summer, Moreira represented Angola at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, where he averaged just over 17 points and 8 rebounds.

“I first played FIBA when I was 17 or 18 years old [2008 FIBA Africa U18 Championship] but it was pretty special to play for the Senior National team, I never thought I would do that,” said Moreira.

That’s right, he played at the same FIBA World Cup as Kyrie Irving and team USA, and faced off against the likes of Suns guard Goran Dragic (Slovenia) and Toronto’s Jonas Valančiūnas (Lithuania).

When asked about his basketball background, Moreira said, “My father always said I wasn’t good enough.” Maybe his father was mistaken.

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