QUINCY, MA — Neemias Queta and Jordan Walsh were at North Quincy High School on Friday morning for the Celtics All-Star Program Launch Event. They spoke to 900 middle school students about the program, ran some drills, and gave away a pair of tickets to a Boston Celtics home game.
Both players drafted teams to compete in a dribbling race, and Walsh’s team took home the win. The Celtics rookie also selected the kid who ended up winning the tickets, so it was an 0-2 day for Queta.
“I was trying to get the right one,” Queta said after the event. “I had taken a loss, so I was just trying to get a win on this one. So, a couple of losses today, but we’ll bounce back.”
Despite losing at today’s community event, it’s been a winning training camp so far for Queta. Boston signed Queta to a two-way contract earlier this summer after he was let go by the Sacramento Kings. The 24-year-old spent most of his time in the G League last season, where he finished as the runner-up for MVP.
Queta is the only NBA player ever from Portugal, and the entire country is behind him. Any tweets, videos, or posts about Queta are immediately flooded with love and support from Portuguese fans, and at the Celtics’ final home game of the preseason, a fan was even waving a Portuguese flag in the crowd.
“I’m blessed, honestly,” Queta said of having his entire country behind him. “It’s just a great opportunity for me to be able to play basketball at the highest level and having so much support from so many different people from different places. So I just feel fortunate for that. I just try to keep working so I keep making them proud.”
First introduced to the game of basketball at 10 years old when he went to his older sister’s basketball tryouts in Barreiro, Portugal, Queta has been in love with the game ever since.
He was recruited by the professional team there, worked hard at his craft, and now wants to do everything he can to become one of the best.
“Basketball is such a fun game,” said Queta. “You make so many connections with people. And it’s, and it’s a way of life for me. I feel like it’s something that has given me so much in life that I really want to be able to keep playing and be able to be one of those guys that gets known for being one of the greats.”
For any player, moving to a new city and a new team is a daunting change, but Queta’s Celtics teammates have been helping him out.
“I’ve asked all the guys pretty much,” Queta said when asked about who he’s turned to for guidance. “I’ve asked Luke [Kornet], I’ve asked Sam [Hauser]. KP [Kristaps Porzingis] has been a really, really big guy, too JB [Jaylen Brown]. All the guys have been really, really helpful in anything I need.
“I’ve asked for restaurants. I’ve asked for places to live. I’m really just getting acclimated, and their help is just making it a lot easier for me.”
Queta even mentioned that he’s found some places that remind him of Portugal.
“I’ve found a couple,” Queta said when I asked him about whether or not he’s found any good restaurants. “I’m really enjoying it, for real. There are a couple of good Portuguese ones, too. Don’t get me started. I’m feeling like home.”
After playing his college ball at Utah State and spending two years split between Sacramento and Stockton, where the Kings’ G League team is located, Queta’s to the East Coast provides a new opportunity with the Celtics.
And Portuguese fans are grateful they can watch Queta’s games earlier this year. They only have to deal with a five-hour time difference now rather than an eight-hour one. A Portuguese fan relayed to me that tons of people stayed up to watch his games with the Kings, so for the sake of their sleep schedules, seeing him in Boston will be a much better experience.
As for Queta, he’s enjoying the change in location, and he’s very hyped about the on-court product the Celtics are putting out there.
”I’m enjoying it over here,” Queta said. “So I’m really having fun. I’m enjoying the city. I’m definitely having fun with my guys, and we’re over here playing great basketball, so we’re excited about the future, and I can’t wait for what this year has [in store].”