A 6-foot senior forward from Somerville, Melissa Baptista has helped the Tufts University women’s basketball team reach the NCAA Division 3 Final Four each of the past three seasons. The Jumbos were 18-2 through their first 20 games this season and are taking aim at the New England Small College Athletic Conference championships and yet another deep run in the NCAA tournament. Baptista played soccer, competed in track and field, and scored 1,000 points in her basketball career at Somerville High. She scored her 1,000th point at Tufts against Bridgewater State on Dec. 2. Baptista has averaged just over 10 points a game during her career at Tufts and is on the program’s Top 10 career lists in points, blocked shots (she’s at No. 3 with 180), and 3-point shots made. She is working on a degree in film and media studies.
Q. What are the team’s goals for this postseason?
A. Although we did have a couple of losses early, I think those were games we learned a lot from and were able to get better from and when we go against those teams in the future we will be better prepared for them. As far as whether we can get to the Final Four, I do believe we can. We have a lot of potential and as long as we stay focused and get better every day, we have a shot.
Q. Do you have a favorite professional team?
A. The Celtics, for sure. Or the Patriots. I’m a Boston fan through-and-through, so any Boston team.
Q. And a favorite professional athlete?
A. Diana Taurasi. I think she’s really a great role model. She was one of the first superstars for the WNBA and was definitely a trailblazer for women’s basketball. Her game is great and I admire her a lot.
Q.What’s the best piece of advice you have received from a coach?
A. There are a bunch of things I’ve learned from coaches along the way. One is to have the mentality of always being ready for the next play. That next-play mentality. And always being confident. That’s something I struggle with sometimes, being confident offensively and defensively and trying to tap into being confident and get into a zone where I feel I can produce well offensively and defensively. So I guess it’s have that next-play mentality and not be too hard on myself.
Q. What gives you the most satisfaction during a game?
A. Maybe hitting a 3-pointer. That’s pretty exciting for me, especially when it’s a tight game or when we’re losing and I hit a big shot. I guess it’s also exciting if it’s a layup or three-pointer, or an offensive put-back, when it’s a big shot.
Q. What do you like to do when you’re not practicing, playing, or doing schoolwork?
A. I like photography and I like to create art, whether it’s painting or drawing. I also like to watch movies and hang out with friends.
Q. What do you plan to do with your film and media studies degree?
A. I think I want to get into marketing, but I’m still up in the air on what exactly I want to do, whether it’s marketing or design work.
Q. What are your plans for when you graduate in a few months?
A. That’s scary. A lot of things come out about jobs in the spring from marketing and public relations and advertising firms and depending on how well that goes, I’d like to start work sometime in the summer or early fall. If I don’t have a job lined up, I want to travel a little. I do want to travel to Brazil to see family.
Q. Have you been there before?
A. My parents are from Brazil and they immigrated 20-plus years ago to the US and Massachusetts. My brother and I were born here. Portuguese was my first language. I went back to Brazil once when I was very young. I want to go back and see family there. We don’t have much family in the US. Our grandparents and the rest of our aunts and uncles and cousins are all in Brazil. It definitely will be nice to go back and see them all.Allen Lessels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.