By Joseph Staszewski

Mei-Lyn Bautista had her summer plans set, but things quickly went off course for the better.

The Whitestone native and former Mary Louis guard was going to play basketball through the July viewing period with her New Heights travel team to be seen by more college coaches and possibly spark interest from new schools.

It was one of the reasons the junior left her long previous team, the NYC Heat — the chance for more exposure and the opportunity to take the court with different players.

But Bautista’s second visit to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago changed all of that.

“I went on the visit and the relationship I have with [the coaches], I just felt comfortable with the school and could see myself being really, really happy there,” she said.

Bautista, who plays her high school ball at St. Mary’s in Manhasset, L.I., realized George Washington had everything she wanted in her future home and verbally committed to play women’s basketball for the Colonials. She picked them over Seton Hall.

Bautista has developed a great relationship with the Colonials’ coaching staff, who want her to lead the team and help other players improve. George Washington also offers rigorous academic programs and has a location that has plenty to do and see in Washington, D.C.

“I believe the academics, the basketball and the location itself would be a great fit for me,” Bautista said.

She had first built a strong relationship with first-year George Washington assistant Coach Bill Ferrara, who was recruiting Bautista during his time at Hofstra. It meant a lot to her that he directed her to Colonials head Coach Jonathan Tsipis, who led George Washington to a 23-11 record last season.

Tsipis and his staff aren’t asking Bautista, a pass-first point guard, to be anything she isn’t once she gets to D.C. Other coaches had liked her game but wanted Bautista to stray from her comfort zone.

“They’d rather have someone who scores a lot or someone who gets more rebounds,” she said. “Knowing that they want me to play how I play made me feel real happy about myself. I felt like I could be confident in myself and do something great there.”

Bautista is coming off helping to lead St. Mary’s to the best season in program history. The Gaels won the CHSAA Nassau/Suffolk Class AA crown and reached the Catholic state semifinals. Her early college decision leaves her stress-free this summer as she prepares for her senior season. She is starting to get used to life without the pressure.

“I’m still trying to take it all in,” Bautista said. “I’m so used to having a coach call me and trying to get a visit in, getting ready for my next tournament knowing I have to do well. It feels really good, really stress-free, a relief.”

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