By Julia Waraksy
KINGSTON, R.I. – With the basketball team nine games into its 2018-19 season, redshirt junior Laura Perez is continuing to change the culture of the Rhode Island women's basketball program.
Perez spent all of her life in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, before attending college in Kingston.
"Since growing up in a city, I've never been exposed to a suburban area, let alone much of a beach town," said Perez. "Despite the change in environment for me, I knew that this was the place where I wanted to pursue my academic and athletic goals."
Along with working toward an undergraduate degree in Accounting, Perez was ready to take on another challenge. A member of the Dean's List every semester who has received multiple academic awards, she also earned an internship with one of the "Big Four" accounting firms (Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young or KPMG), thanks to her unmatched work ethic.
"Since Spanish is my first language and English is my second, at times it was difficult for me," said Perez. "But numbers were always easy to me. I understood them."
Something else came fluent to Perez; basketball. Despite what country she was in, the game of basketball always made sense to her. Playing since she was 6 years old, she always dreamed of playing at the collegiate level.
In 2014, Perez was asked to be a member of the Mexico Women's National Team. In July she played in the Czech Republic for the FIBA U17 World Championship and for the FIBA U18 America's in August. Perez' statistics in these two tournaments are what led her to her dream of being a Division I athlete. Coach Daynia La-Force and the coaching staff watched Perez' recruiting videos, showing that she was a dominant force for her team. During the FIBA Americas she led her team with 10.5 points per game and shot 41% from the three point line. When representing her state team, Baja California, in the U17 Nationals, she was the team's leading scorer with 16.5 points per game, along with 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.8 steals.
"I always wanted to go to college in the United States and get the opportunity to play the sport that I love for another four years of my life," Perez said. "Now I get to represent the University of Rhode Island."
Now a redshirt junior, Perez has appeared in 38 games throughout her career thus far. On the court, she shot 44 percent from the 3-point line her junior year.
"Being a team leader for the past two years, I have learned so much not only about my team, but myself," said Perez. "Both my team and myself have had to face much adversity throughout the past three-and-a-half years."
Just two games into her sophomore season, Perez suffered a season-ending ankle injury that would lead to a long year ahead. Getting surgery and rehabbing her right ankle, Perez was eager to get back on the court. The following year in the summer of 2018, Perez had another opportunity of a lifetime. She was invited to join the Mexico Women's National Basketball Team again that would go on and participate in the FISU Pan-American Games. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, Perez helped lead her team to the bronze medal.
"Once I heard from Coach Cesar Valencia, I knew I couldn't refuse this opportunity," said Perez. "The fact that I was given a chance to play basketball and represent my country again, it was a no-brainer."
While traveling the world and playing for her country, Perez also had the responsibility of not only continuing to workout with Rhode Island, but also working at her internship with Ernst and Young, one of the world's largest professional service companies. Perez had a lot on her plate, but this was nothing she couldn't handle.
"She brings everything to the team," said senior teammate Jalissa Ross. "She is the definition of the perfect teammate, always setting a great example on and off the court."
With her busy summer coming to an end, Perez was ready for her fourth season as a Rhode Island Ram.
"There is something really special that we have this year," said Perez. "The amount of hard work that we've put in this past summer and this pre-season, our chemistry is finally clicking."
After facing Kentucky and Clemson on the road this past week, the team's record is 5-4, which has already surpassed the team's win total from the 2017-2018 season.
Rhode Island's next game is tonight at the Ryan Center against Hartford. Game time is 7 p.m.