With two basketball coaches for parents, senior Camila Tapias said she was practically born with a ball in her hands.
“I started playing when I was five years old,” the Bogotá, Colombia native said. “It’s always been a basketball environment and a basketball family.”
Both of Tapias’ parents were successful professional basketball players and coaches in their own right. Her mother, Yenny Pinilla Garcia, played on the Colombian National Team, where she now serves as an assistant coach.
Her father, José Tapias Patron, was a well-known Colombian basketball player who currently is the head coach of Piratas Bogota, a professional team in Colombia.
Before joining women’s basketball in 2014, Tapias had played on the national level as a member of the Colombian Youth National Team for four years, starting at age 14. She was the leading scorer for the Colombian U-18 National Team in 2012, with 15.0 points per game.
Over the past three years, despite coming to Foggy Bottom, Tapias didn’t stop playing for her home country. Most recently she represented Colombia in the 2017 FIBA Women’s Americas Championship in August. The team finished with a 2-2 record and she appeared in all four of the games.
As a junior, Tapias helped the Colombian National Team earn a bronze medal at the American Women’s Championship in Barquisimeto, Venezuela last year. She averaged 6.3 points and 2.2 rebounds in 14.1 minutes of action across six games in the tournament.
Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said Tapias’ international experience taking on some of the world’s best players has given her a chance to play at a more high-stakes level than collegiate basketball.
“It is a confidence boost to know that you are one of the best in your country at your age division,” Rizzotti said. “To play against other professionals, sometimes when you are playing in other countries they’re not kids that are in college, they are kids that are getting paid to play.”
Despite Tapias’ success overseas, she said it has always been her dream to come to the U.S. to further her education and to play basketball at the most competitive amateur level.
Tapias said international play is slower and more physical, so she adjusts her style of play when coming back to the Smith Center. But one difference she appreciates when playing in Foggy Bottom is the camaraderie of her teammates, she said.
“There’s more teamwork compared to how we play in Colombia,” Tapias said. “I definitely like the style a little more here and how we play here at GW in general.”
Named as one of the three team captains for the 2017-18 year, Tapias said she hopes to bring the leadership skills she learned from her time on the national team into her new position.
“I know what it takes to represent something bigger than myself,” Tapias said. “At GW I know that I’m never just representing Colombia, but GW, the whole University and my family.”
But now in her final year, Tapias said she is looking forward to playing with her team one last time and using her increased role to improve the program.
“I have to change in terms of now having more responsibility,” she said. “I have to hold my teammates accountable for team expectations, so I just feel like I’m excited but of course it’s definitely different.”