One-on-one with Isalys Quiñones '19
Over the summer, Isalys Quiñones ’19 played on the Puerto Rican Women’s National Team.
Isalys “Ice” Quiñones ’19 has been a consistent leader for the Big Green as one of only three players to average double digits each game; she records 10.1 points per game. This past summer, Quiñones earned a spot on the Puerto Rican Women’s National Team and had the opportunity to play in the Women’s Centrobasket Championship in the Virgin Islands and the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup in Argentina. Puerto Rico ultimately finished third in both tournaments, which qualified the team for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup this upcoming fall.
Last season, the team went 8-19, and currently the team is 9-6. What can you say about the team’s performance this season?
IQ: I don’t want to say I’m shocked because I’m not — I think we could have done this last year too. The core, the seniors and the juniors — there’s eight of us so that’s a majority of the team — have all matured, and we’re finally able to work together. We know each other’s strengths and know each other’s growth opportunities and how to move toward those strengths and use them effectively.
What has led to this different season? Is there anything that has changed in terms of training or strategy from previous seasons?
IQ: I think we’re pretty much working as hard as we did last year. We only have 13 players, but the group of people that we have want to be here, want to improve for themselves and want to improve for the team. You can see that, and that’s something different that we haven’t had the past years. It really does help in terms of chemistry and in terms of confidence within the team.
After a strong start to the season, the Big Green opened Ivy League play with a win against Harvard University. Despite coming off of a recent loss to Harvard in Cambridge, how does the team plan on shifting the momentum going forward in the season?
IQ: I think we can take this, and we can learn from all the mistakes that we thought we made in the Harvard game and we could learn from the stuff that we did well. Our defense was really strong in the game. We weren’t hitting as many shots as we had in past games, but if we play defense like that we limit the other team from scoring even if we’re not scoring well. We can take some stuff that we’ve learned and that we’ve done well and really apply it to all the games that we play.
Looking further into the schedule, are there any specific teams that you think will be particularly challenging? If so, who and why?
IQ: The Ivy League in general, everyone is pretty strong. It’s the ninth-best conference in all of women’s basketball, so it is a really tough conference. For me personally, I think playing the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University is our hardest weekend. Penn won the Ivy League Championship last year, and Princeton just played Penn and ended up beating Penn by 15 points, so those are two teams that we need to show up and really compete well against. I’m looking forward to those games.
What is the team’s ultimate goal for this season?
IQ: Our saying is “Mind on 18,” which is we have our mind on our 18th Ivy League Championship. Dartmouth has won 17 in all the years that they’ve played in the Ivy League, and so our mind is on the 18th championship, but first we want to get to The Palestra [the site of the Ivy League Championship tournament], which is for our league and new for us. We weren’t able to get there last year, so our goal is to get to The Palestra and then from there on, hopefully win the tournament and win the Ivy League Championship. The last time that Dartmouth won the Ivy League Championship was in 2009, so it’s been a while.
This past summer you were named to the Puerto Rican Women’s National Team. What did it mean to you to be selected and to have the opportunity to play at such a high caliber?
IQ: It was really a surprise. It was something I dreamed about my entire life: to represent a country and especially to represent my culture. My parents, they’re both Puerto Rican and we speak Spanish at home, so that culture lives in my house every day. It’s an honor, and it’s amazing to see so many grown women who have so much pride in their country and who still love the game. It was amazing to be part of it.
What made you try out for the national team?
IQ: I actually got a call from the team’s general manager. My parents had been trying to set it up for a couple years, and we finally got to know someone directly related to the national team. I finally got a call, and then they said come out and try out. I really wasn’t expecting much but the opportunity to try out was amazing to me, and I ended up making the team. I didn’t get as much playing time as everyone else, but I was also five years younger than the majority of the people. It was just a great experience for me.
Can you explain a little about how the tryout process, training and competition works?
IQ: They call you for a tryout. It’s not like open tryouts. The tryout was about a week, and it was basically just going over the team’s offense and seeing if you fit in well with it. If you make the team, for me in my case, we played in a tournament. We would train almost every day, you get one day off a week and you lift twice a week. It’s pretty similar to what we do at Dartmouth. We would leave two to three days before the first tournament, just to get a feel for the country, get a feel for the court, playing in a different environment and stuff like that.
In our first tournament in the Virgin Islands, we ended up doing well — we placed third. The trick is you have to medal in the first tournament to make it to the next tournament, so we medaled in the first tournament and we got placed in the next tournament, which was in Argentina. We went back to Puerto Rico and trained again for two or three weeks until the next tournament. That tournament was broken up into two pools, five teams in each pool. You had to finish top-two in your pool in order to play in like the next bracket. From that final bracket, you had to also medal in order to make it to the World Cup which is in Spain this year in September. We were fortunate enough to medal, so Puerto Rico is heading to the World Cup in Spain.
Are you also planning to compete with the team for the World Cup as well?
IQ: Hopefully. The hope is that I’ll be getting a call for the tryouts and then get to play.
So you have to make the team again?
IQ: Yeah, there’s a pool of 40 girls who can get called at any point. They call a bunch of people then they try out. So you know, it’s pretty incredible.
How did training and playing with the Puerto Rican National Team improve your game?
IQ: It definitely made me more physical. I had to learn to play against women, people who had been doing this for 10 more years than me. I had to play at a whole different level compared to college. It’s a much faster, much more physical game and the rules are a little more fluid. I don’t want to say it in a bad way, but you’re allowed to get away with a little more physicality at that level. I had to learn to play a little bit faster and play a little bit stronger in order to keep up with them.
Were you able to bring that back to Dartmouth women’s basketball?
IQ: I gained a lot of confidence in a way that I was able to step on the court and be like, “I’m here to play.” That’s the mentality you have to have while playing with the pros because they can sense fear, and they can sense if you’re timid. I think I was able to bring that out a little bit more this year at Dartmouth. It’s definitely a different game, college versus pros. In the pros, it’s more free flowing — if you want to shoot the ball, you can shoot it. In college, you have to know your place in order to better the team, so it’s a little bit of a different game in that sense, but I was able to bring some of what I learned over.
What was the biggest takeaway from the whole experience?
IQ: For me, it was just to have pride. These girls have grown up on this island, and they’re representing an entire country and that’s something that I’ve never experienced before. I’ve never experienced representing thousands of people, and that was something extremely special to me. I wasn’t born there, but I still have that sort of connection and it was awesome to have that “I’m representing a country and you’re not going to stop me” sort of attitude. I’ve definitely brought that to Dartmouth, representing the women and the championship winners who have played before me and the people at Dartmouth who truly care about women’s basketball and who value sports. For me, this pride has helped on the court so much more now than it has in the past.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.