Lee University will occasionally look internationally to procure the best athletes for the team, and Daniel Costa Prata from Brazil is a prime example of this type of recruiting. He's one of South America's best young athletes.
Daniel, 20 years old and a current sophomore at Lee, started playing for the Lee Flames in the fall of 2016. He’s currently enrolled as a mathematics major with an actuarial science emphasis.
Born and raised in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Daniel started tennis at an early age.
“I started competing in national competitions when I was 13, and at my first tournaments, I did not have impressive results,” Daniel explained. “But when I was 16, I got good results. I was number three in Brazil for the ‘under 16’ Tennis Nationals. By time I was 18, I got to number one for a couple months.”
Not only did Daniel excel in competitions, but he has also had the opportunity to practice with numerous pros. Daniel said, “While I’ve never met Federer, which would be an excellent experience because he is the best player ever, the famous players I have met and had practice with include Mercelo Melo—who used to be number one in the world in doubles—Bruno Soares and Thomaz Bellucci.”
With such an impressive tennis resume, according to Lee’s Men's Tennis Coach Patric Hynes, deciding to recruit him was an easy decision. “The first time we spoke to him, it was apparent that he would be a great fit for our program and where we wanted to take it,” Hynes said. “It was obvious that he had a really positive outlook on life and his tennis. The combination of his talent, dedication and character made him a natural fit for our team.”
Daniel has worked hard to up his game for collegiate sports. “Since being at Lee, I’ve tried to train myself to be more aggressive inside the court—because when I play in Brazil, we play normally in clay courts, which makes the match slower,” Daniel said. “My style was more defensive and more patient. But now, because of the hard courts, the game is a lot faster. So, I train every day to be more aggressive.”
This training has paid off. Since being at Lee, Daniel has advanced his ability, placing fifth in singles and third in doubles at competitions under Coach Hynes.
However, the transition to America has not been without some challenges. Daniel had to quickly learn the English language in less than four months. “I only had around 100 hours of English training in my life before coming here. Of course, English was taught in our high schools, but they were really bad,” Daniel said.
According to Coach Hynes, “He came in with the attitude that he wanted to embrace the culture here and do everything he can to make Lee tennis a better program. The toughest adjustment for him coming in here was speaking a foreign language. He self-taught himself English back home, and it took him a little while to fully express himself.”
Phillip Bullard, Daniel’s roommate and fellow sophomore, speaks of Daniel’s initial difficulty with the culture barrier as well, “In Brazil, people get real close—like to touch, kiss on the check, etc. When he first came to America, he would try to do that. It was hard for him to understand why people were being rude to him, when in fact it was him that was being ‘rude’ to them—he just didn’t know it.”
As a mathematics major, Daniel has expressed interests in many fields after college: “Right now I have a lot of options with my major. I could go into the health finance industry or I could go into stocks and investments. I just really like the field of mathematics and business.”
Daniel is not even sure which country he will be working in. “I don’t know what I’m going to do after Lee,” Daniel said. “Brazil right now is in a bad situation. But I’m an international student, so it is more difficult to stay in foreign America after college.”
Phillip, his roommate, echoes Daniel’s hesitancy: “He doesn’t know if he will stay in the United States. He loves Brazil; he is always talking about home. He is all about business and making money, and he wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps. He will probably work for his dad because he is Daniel’s role model.”
Wherever Daniel Costa Prata ends up after his time here at Lee, it is obvious that he has built himself a community here that can help him pursue his tennis ambitions.
Coach Hynes reflects, “I think that he will continue to grow with his game and be the kind of leader our team needs. He loves the game, so I think he will always be involved in tennis in some capacity. We feel blessed to have him involved in our program.”