'That's Just Mei'

Feb. 9, 2018

By Eric Detweiler, GW Athletics Communications

With the camera rolling in her bedroom, Mei-Lyn Bautista kicks off the show with a smooch for her GW ID card.

The junior point guard recently dropped hers in a storm drain and had to get a replacement. This one is shiny and new. It hasn't been underground. She wants you to know that.

Stay tuned for her senior teammates competing in the #WhisperChallenge and then learn how to say "Happy Valentine's Day" in Spanish.

This is Bautista's "Mondays with Mei" web show, which offers an occasional look behind the scenes at the Colonials. It's 15 minutes of silliness and pure fun.

"That's just Mei," head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said with a smile. "It's her personality. She's obviously never been shy."

Of course, it doesn't take a trip to YouTube to realize that.

For the past three seasons, Bautista has put that outsized personality on display every time she takes the court for the Buff and Blue.

Bautista is the team-first leader who's just as comfortable breaking the pregame tension with a little grooving during warm-ups as she is barking out orders on the court.

The 5-foot-6 guard can get to the hoop and score with a style one teammate described as "New York Swagger", but she'd rather set up somebody else with the perfect pass. She's the captain quick to redirect credit and quicker to shoulder the blame when things go wrong.

This year, Bautista has mastered that balance better than ever, emerging as one of the top point guards in the Atlantic 10.

The Queens, N.Y., native has bumped up her scoring to a career-high 8.0 points per game while maintaining efficiency running the offense. She's piled up 97 assists against just 35 turnovers, a ratio that ranks 16th nationally. Defensively, she's among the conference leaders in steals, too.

Most important, Bautista has quarterbacked a young squad that has kept progressing to earn a place in the top half of the A-10 standings.

"I think people know who I am based off how I play," Bautista said. "I'm crazy. I'm fun. I'm loud. I'm here for this. I'm happy to be here."

Bautista has slowly but surely grown into that role.

When she joined GW in 2015, Bautista had the benefit of playing understudy to star floor general Lauren Chase.

Looking back, Bautista chuckles remembering their first practice battle. She went scoreless guarded by Chase in the intrasquad scrimmage and had the ball swiped from her hands at least three times.

Bautista's solid play in limited duty as a freshman earned her a spot on the A-10 All-Rookie Team and helped the Colonials claim a spot in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. She credits Chase with showing her what it takes to be a D-I floor general.

"She was awesome," Bautista said. "To watch and to learn on the bench and have the coaches talk to you while she's playing, it was like you're taking a class."

A former All-American point guard, Rizzotti arrived in Foggy Bottom before last season to find a youngster with purple hair, a seemingly endless supply of energy and all the tools needed to be special at the position.

Every step of the way, Rizzotti has held Bautista to a lofty standard and watched her do everything in her power to try and meet it.

"She has taken advantage of every minute that she's been with me, just trying to learn and get better," Rizzotti said. "She's been nothing but an absolute pleasure. We couldn't have lucked out more having a kid like that when we got here."

There have been difficult lessons along the way.

Rizzotti recalled a particularly memorable one last season at Dayton. A couple Colonials weren't in the right defense, leading to an easy bucket. Bautista wasn't one of them but got an earful, anyway.

Now, Bautista says her goal is to over-communicate. She's constantly talking on the court to make sure everyone stays on the same page.

"You want a coach that can push you to be better," Bautista said. "All that advice she gives me, all the little details, that means she cares and she has a standard for me that she knows I can reach."

Last season, Bautista was a new starter on a team filled with upperclassmen. It was easy to focus on setting up others with so many proven scorers on the roster. That formula paid off in another A-10 title and WNIT berth.

Bautista knew this year would be a different story with so many newcomers joining the Colonials. She worked hard in the offseason to improve her finishing around the rim and become more of a scoring threat. The idea wasn't necessarily to take more shots but to get better looks and make more of them.

That approach has paid off with jumps in nearly every statistical category. She's creating more offense while taking care of the ball as well as ever. Her shooting percentage has improved by 10 points to 40.4 percent, and she's had one turnover or fewer in 14 of 23 games.

In perhaps the ultimate sign of Bautista's development, Rizzotti is giving her more freedom to take charge and call plays in certain situations.

"When a kid gets to be a senior point guard, you want them to be able to read your mind, basically," Rizzotti said. "She's getting pretty close."

Ultimately, Bautista's job hasn't changed. She's just doing it better. And having more fun, too.

She points to the Jan. 17 road win at Davidson as her favorite performance. She finished with eight points, four assists, a career-high six steals and a pair of shredded knee pads from diving all over the place.

"She's something else," forward Kelsi Mahoney said. "I'm so glad I get to play with her, and she's on my team and not anyone else's."

Bautista prides herself on bringing that fire every time out. When there's something to celebrate, she wants to be the first one to speak up and the loudest, a mindset she traces back to her days playing outdoors in her hometown, including on the famous courts at Rucker Park.

"When you play outdoors and you have a great move or a great shot and the crowd goes crazy, then you want to go crazy," Bautista said. "That energy just translates to you. I brought that from home."

Rizzotti doesn't mind letting Bautista be herself because she's proven time and again that she understands the balance.

The web show, which debuted in October, provides a chance for Bautista to showcase her fun-loving side. She's a marketing major and became interested in personal branding after attending an Atlantic 10 leadership summit.

She wants to peel back the curtain and show parts of the program that rarely get highlighted, even if it's just her teammates being goofy in the locker room.

"She's my coolest friend," Mahoney said, smiling but serious. "I don't know how else to put it. She's almost made me cooler in a way. She definitely has."

That's just Mei.



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