March Madness is now underway today and college basketball fans across the country are tuning in to see their favorite teams hit the hardwood to try to bring home a national championship. And while the NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams will get endless media coverage, it’s likely that the NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament, which began Friday (March 17), won’t get the same attention as their male counterparts.
“The women’s tournament is often overlooked or at best receives a smattering of promotion, media attention, and TV distribution,” writes Forbes magazine in a recent article. “It is well documented that the women’s component of the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament has been treated as a second-class citizen in every sense of the term.”
While we wish the best of luck to all the men’s teams in their quest for a championship this year (and will keep a close eye on Latino players like Gonzaga University’s Julian Strawther and University of Tennessee’s Santiago Vescovi), we wanted to spotlight some of the Latina players from the NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament.
Below are five Latinas you should know (and keep an eye out for) during the NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament. And please let us know in the comments which Latina players you have on your radar.
Kamilla Cardoso – South Carolina
Kamilla Cardoso, the 6’7 center from Montes Claros, Brazil, averaged 10 points and 8.9 rebounds per game during her team’s 2022-23 season, which saw the Gamecocks dominate their competition. South Carolina is the only team in both the men’s and women’s Division I tournament that is entering it with an undefeated record. And Cardoso’s team finished the season 32-0.
Last year, she led the Brazilian women’s basketball national team to a gold medal during the FIBA South America Championships. On Friday, South Carolina dominated the No. 16 seed Norfolk State Spartans 72-40. Cardoso had six points and four rebounds in the win.
Lou Lopez Sénéchal – UConn
Lou Lopez Sénéchal is a graduate student and a first-year basketball player at the University of Connecticut where she averages 15.7 points per game. Before UConn, she played four years at Fairfield University where she was named Player of the Year in her conference as a senior. Lopez Sénéchal was born in Mexico and moved to France when she was five. She is a dual citizen of both countries.
Gabriela Jaquez – UCLA
Gabriela Jaquez, the freshman forward from Camarillo, California, is averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. During her senior year in high school, Jaquez, whose roots are from Mexico, dropped 52 points during a playoff game after leading her team to an undefeated 10-0 record. “She plays with a fire in her belly,” her high school coach told the Los Angeles Times.
Stephanie Soares – Iowa State
Stephanie Soares, the 6’6 forward/center from São Paulo, Brazil, is a senior with the Cyclones and averages 14.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game with a 54.4 field goal percentage. At 18, she played for the Brazilian women’s basketball national team. “I just want to be able to help out the team,” Soares said before the start of the season. “They have some very athletic and talented players, and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Esmery Martinez – Arizona
As a senior, Esmery Martinez is averaging 10.5 points per game with a 50.2 field goal percentage and led her team with 8.3 rebounds per contest. Born in Hato Mayor Del Rey, Dominican Republic, Martinez spent her first three years in college playing for West Virginia before transferring to the Wildcats. “I think I’m blessed,” Martinez said. “I just go to rebound the ball anywhere it goes.” On Friday, the Wildcats beat No. 10 West Virginia 75-62. Martinez had 13 points and 12 rebounds.