Isalys Quiñones ’19 prepares for Olympic appearance with Puerto Rican team
Quiñones will compete with the Puerto Rican women’s basketball team this summer in Tokyo.
Quiñones, who led the Big Green in scoring with 14 points per game during the 2018-19 season, will compete for Puerto Rico in the Olympics this summer.
Former Big Green women’s basketball forward Isalys Quiñones ’19 will make history this summer by competing with the Puerto Rican women’s basketball team in this year’s Olympics — a first for Puerto Rican women’s basketball. Quiñones will travel with the team to Tokyo, where it will square off against China in its first game on July 27.
Quiñones said she is honored not only to have the opportunity to play in the Olympics but also to represent Puerto Rico.
“It’s obviously an incredible experience just to be even part of the Olympics in the first place — not a lot of people get that opportunity,” Quiñones said. “Doing it for Puerto Rico is just another level of special. My parents were both born and raised in Puerto Rico and I’ve always been surrounded by the culture growing up, so for me to do it for Puerto Rico, it is just an awesome experience.”
Guard Jimena Abejon ’22, who played with Quiñones for one season, said the whole team was elated to see her success on the Puerto Rican team.
“I was very excited,” Abejon said. “[The team] talked about it a lot and we celebrated it together. It’s just so exciting…. She’s that woman who can do it all, and we’re so proud of her.”
Forward Georgia Alexander ’22 added that she knows playing for Puerto Rico means a lot to Quiñones.
“She’s very patriotic, family-oriented [and] culture-oriented,” Alexander said. “I think it’s bigger for her than basketball.”
Quiñones finished Second Team All-Ivy during her senior season of 2018-19, starting in all 27 of the Big Green’s games and leading the team with 14.0 points per game. She scored in double figures in 20 games during that season and was awarded the team’s most valuable player award.
Quiñones first started playing for the Puerto Rican national team in 2017 after her parents helped secure her a tryout. She said her time at Dartmouth also helped provide exposure, allowing her to get on the Puerto Rican team’s radar.
After impressing in her first tournament, Quiñones has played an increasingly important role for Puerto Rico. In the team’s pivotal qualifying game against Brazil in February 2020, Quiñones scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds in 33 minutes. This game ultimately gave Puerto Rico the win it needed to earn third place in its group, clinching its first-ever qualification for the Olympics.
Although Quiñones and Puerto Rico were thrilled to qualify for the Olympics, a lot has happened since their celebration more than a year ago. The pandemic forced the 2020 Olympics to be postponed to 2021, which Quiñones described as “super emotional” for the team. Quiñones added that the team went more than a year without seeing each other, while some of the teams that Puerto Rico will compete against this summer had the luxury of living together during the pandemic, allowing them to practice throughout the year.
Even with the postponement last summer, the Olympics could be further postponed — or even canceled — due to rising COVID-19 cases in Japan, which is still under a state of emergency. On Monday, the U.S State Department issued a travel advisory against travel to Japan.
Quiñones said the prospect of the Olympics not being held this summer has been difficult, but the team is in the mindset that competition will start on time.
“We won’t know until we step foot on that court, so it’s definitely been very stressful, very nerve-racking, but this is what it is nowadays,” Quiñones said. “There’s not much we can really change, so [we’re] kind of just riding the wave and still preparing as if it’s tomorrow.”
While Quiñones hopes to be able to play in the Olympics this summer, Abejon said she has already served as an inspiration for the Big Green.
“It’s really good for the reputation of our team, for our program, for ourselves. I think we really have a role model in her to look up to,” Abejon said. “It makes us believe that we do have a good basketball program that can bring in good basketball players … [It] also helps inspire younger players who haven’t made it to Dartmouth yet.”
Quiñones said that although the Olympics will provide a challenge for Puerto Rico, as they compete against the best teams in the world, she is going to enjoy her time in Tokyo because she knows it will be a unique opportunity.
“I just want to go out there and really give it my all and honestly just have fun,” Quiñones said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I don’t know if it’s ever going to come back to me, [or] to Puerto Rico ever again.”