Maybyner Rodney Hilario was born on September 13, 1982, in Sao Carlos, Brazil. More commonly known as "Nene", his nickname is Portugese for "baby" and arose from the fact that he is the youngest in his family, yet also the tallest. He is currently in his rookie year as a Forward/Center for NBA's Denver Nuggets, and wears jersey number 31.
On NBA Draft night 2002 in New York, the Nene was selected seventh by the New York Knicks. In a marked contrast to the stoicism of first pick Yao Ming, Hilario made an excited dash to the stage, performing a little shuffle-dance of joy before he shook hands with comissioner David Stern. But the Knicks fans were unimpressed, and began chanting "Fire [Knicks GM] Layden!", making it known that they would rather have drafted some homegrown talent, such as Caron Butler, who remained on the board until the tenth pick.
The boo-birds got their wish, however, when it was announced almost immediately afterward that Hilario's draft rights had been traded to the Denver Nuggets, along with Marcus Camby and Mark Jackson. In exchange, the Knicks received the injury-prone Antonio McDyess (McDyess only played in 10 games in 2001-2, while Camby appeared in just 29) and the draft rights to the 25th pick, which turned out to be Frank Williams of Illinois.
Weighing in at a solid 260 lbs at 6'11" tall, Hilario is an impressive rebounder and shot-blocker who also has a knack for scoring and making steals. He has demonstrated impressive ability in his 9 games so far this season, averaging 8.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.33 spg, and 1 bpg, in 23 mpg, while shooting at 57% from the field. Even more encouraging, is that at the tender age of 20, Hilario has shown surprsing quickness for someone of his stature, as well as the potential to become a dominant inside presence. While his game may be slightly raw, Hilario is blessed with many natural assets, most notably an impressive 7'4.5" wingspan, and will definitely have a great impact on the NBA when his game matures.
Nene first came to the attention of NBA scouts at the 2001 Goodwill Games in Australia. He was an integral part of the Brazilian team, acting as a catalyst in the game where the Brazilians would take the Americans into overtime, although eventually losing 106-98. Hilario scored 8 points, had 7 rebounds, and had 5 blocked shots, before fouling out after only 18 minutes. He helped his team to the bronze medal, while the American team (consisting of young stars such as Jermaine O'Neal, Shawn Marion, and Baron Davis, to name just a few) went on to take the gold.
Prior to his early entry in the 2002 NBA Draft, Hilario attended high school at the Instituto Alvaro Guiao in Sao Carlos, and played for Vasco da Gama of the Brazilian basketball league. In the 2001-2 season, the 19 year old Nene averaged 13.2 ppg, 10.1 rpg, and 1.7 bpg in 30 mpg. He was third in the league in rebounding and blocked shots, while shooting a scorching 66.7 percent from the field.