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Kings' Queta carries hopes, dreams of Portugal on shoulders

NBC Sports
Neemias Queta

The Kings swung for the fences when they selected Davion Mitchell with the No. 9 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, but he wasn’t the only college player the team selected on Thursday.

With the No. 39 overall pick, general manager Monte McNair chose Utah State 7-footer Neemias Queta, a shot blocking center with all kinds of potential.

Born in Barreiro, Portugal, Queta is the first Portuguese player to make it to the NBA. He’s going to need some time to get acclimated to the league, but he carries the hopes and dreams of an entire nation.

“I believe it’s something I try to carry on me, like a chip on my shoulder,” Queta said during Saturday’s meet and greet with the new Kings additions. “It’s something that I want to help kids and represent Portugal the best way I can. And with that, comes great responsibility.”

How does a kid from Portugal find his way to Utah State and then Sacramento? It’s a unique story that is still unfolding.

“I started playing basketball at 10,” Queta said. “I got into Utah State playing basketball playing for the national team in Portugal. After playing the under 18 tournament in Estonia, I got a couple of offers from different schools. Utah State ended up being the school because of how the coaching staff was going to treat me.”

According to Queta, Utah State sent their coaches to Portugal to recruit him and he had a very good experience during his three seasons with the Aggies. 

 

Queta was an impactful defensive player during his time at the NCAA level. In his junior season he posted 3.3 blocks per game, finishing as the No. 3 shot blocker in the nation.

Listed at 7-foot-.5, 245 pounds with a 7-foot-4 wingspan and a 9-foot-3 standing reach, Queta has really good instincts as both an on-ball shot blocker and as a weak side help defender. If his game translates to the next level, the Kings might have found an elite rim protector.

He also managed to score 14.9 points, grab 10.7 rebounds and dish out 2.7 assists in 30 minutes per game. Queta tied with Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn for the third most double-doubles in the NCAA this season with 16 in 29 games.

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Like Mitchell, Queta comes to the NBA as a slightly older prospect. He’s 22 years old and there is a chance he can step onto the floor and at least play some minutes in his rookie season. 

“To get two guys who have been in college for a few years and can hit the ground running is certainly a nice bonus, and I think two-way players as well,” McNair said. “That’s something we always look for. These guys are such good defenders, but let’s not forget on the offensive end with their playmaking and scoring.”

Despite coming to basketball late, Queta has a good feel for the game and his passing ability is surprising. He needs to refine his overall offensive game to fit in with the Kings’ style of play, but there is a lot to like about his overall ability.

The Kings were excited that Queta was still on the board when they were selecting in the second round. He’s the type of low-risk, high-upside prospect that teams look for in the second half of the draft. He comes with an elite skill as a rim protector, but he showed enough during his time at Utah State as a scorer, rebounder and passer to intrigue the Kings.

Fans won’t have long to wait if they hope to catch a glimpse of the Kings’ new additions. Both Mitchell and Queta confirmed that they will suit up and play at the California Classic on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. They will also partake in the Las Vegas Summer League from Aug. 8-17.