Joao and Girlene Batista migrated to the United States from their home country, Brazil, for a better opportunity. Their decision to leave their country in hopes of a better life for their family is what drives their daughter Melissa Baptista.

“[My parents] gave up their lives back in Brazil and came here for a better opportunity,” said Baptista, whose parents thought her last name sounded better with the added consonant. “And I have an opportunity. I got free education, I’m able to play basketball and do things that some people don’t have the option of doing.”

Baptista, Somerville’s three-sport athlete, is not only a force in the classroom, she is also a Greater Boston League All-Star on the soccer field and track.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

But her passion is basketball.

She didn’t grow up in a sports-crazed household. She didn’t idolize a basketball player. Instead, she started dribbling a basketball on her own, and then eventually joined the Somerville travelling team in sixth grade.

That is when the love affair began.

“I don’t know how to put it into words. [Basketball] is something I enjoy [playing] more. I have more fun, its more competitive for me, I always want to get better at it. It’s something that I always love doing after school. It’s just something I look forward to,” Baptista said.

In her first two years on varsity, while only averaging 7 points per game, Baptista struggled to fit in. It wasn’t until the offseason of her junior season, she started to realize that she had potential.

With scouts on hand at an AAU tournament, Baptista realized that she may have the opportunity to continue her basketball career at the college level.

“I didn’t know that I could get recruited before I started AAU,” Baptista said. “When I progressed as a player my junior year, I realized that I could actually possibly be a college player.”

Baptista will be the first person in her family to attend college, and she admits that the pressure of being the first weighs heavily on her shoulders.

“Being the first, I’m doing everything on my own. Everything is new and different, that’s where the pressure comes from” Baptista said.

While the college process may be one of the most exciting times for families as they go on college tours to visit potential colleges, or they sit around the dinner table, browsing through brochures. Baptista’s journey is a little different. Though her parents are proud of the opportunities she has, the senior guard/forward finds herself going through the college process alone. Because her parents have little knowledge of colleges, Baptista is contacting coaches and visiting colleges, trying to find the right fit academically and athletically, while she tries to lead the Highlanders (5-5) to the MIAA tournament.

“Other students, like my friends, their parents lived in America and have gone through the college process, so they’re more aware of what’s going on. But I have to do it on my own,” Baptista said.

While averaging 20 points per game for the Highlanders, Baptista has maintained a 3.9 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. Though she excels in the classroom, she stresses that basketball has given her an avenue to attend college.

“Playing basketball is something that I love to do and now that I’m able to do it, it helps me have a narrowed down list of colleges that I want to attend. And also, money is also an awesome thing that can come from it,” Baptista said.

Baptista is currently undecided on where she wants to continue her basketball career. If she doesn’t get into her four top schools: Cornell, Bentley, Brandeis, or Tufts University, she will go on to prep school.

Games of the Week

Upper Cape at Blue Hills, Monday, 5 – Monday’s game will be a matchup of two undefeated teams in the Mayflower Athletic Conference. The Warriors (10-0) are entering this game haven’t lost a regular season game since 2012. It will be interesting to see if Upper cape (11-0) can put a stop to this impressive streak.

No. 5 Bedford at Newton South, Tuesday, 5:30 – Although Newton South slipped from the top 20 rankings this week, this should be an interesting game. Newton South is looking to get back in the win column against a short-handed Bedford team.

No. 6 Newton North at No. 1 Braintree, Friday, 6:30 – The highly-anticipated rematch Newton North has been waiting for. The Tigers got off to a slow start in its first meeting with Braintree, if they want to win on Friday night, they have to come out the gate aggressive early. It is important for the Tigers to win the rebounding battle against Braintree’s big front court and lessen their turnovers because Braintree loves to run. The Tigers will also need a big game from Infiniti Thomas-Waheed who struggled for much of the game against Braintree.