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4 Manuela Rios (COL), Colombia v Canada
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Colombia's Manuela Rios is taking next steps in Portugal

MIAMI (United States) - One of the biggest surprises of the last FIBA AmeriCup Women's tournament was point guard Manuela Rios of Colombia. The 24-year-old finished the tournament as the leader in assists (5.8 per game) and was part of the All-Star squad after putting up 12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per contest.

After that solid performance in the top continental event, Rios is getting ready for a new challenge in her career when she makes her debut in Europe after reaching an agreement to play with AD Vagos of Portugal.

"I am very excited about this opportunity to play in Europe. I have high expectations. I'm going to drop everything and try to open doors for Colombian talent. I am going to find a different culture and language, but I am going in with an open mind and heart. Adaptation is also part of the challenge. My intention is to learn as much as I can," said Rios days before making the trip overseas.

The Antioqueña said that the key to her success has simply been the ability to play the game.

"It was a great help for me that the league was held in Colombia after the pandemic. It went very well for me and that allowed me to get a contract in Argentina (with Quimsa where she averaged 10.2 points, 4.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds). I was able to stay active year-round, on pace to get to the AmeriCup in good shape. There I was able to measure up, I prepared myself for that, I focused. We had a chance to go to the World Cup Qualifiers, unfortunately we couldn't get it, but we showed that we have a level in Colombia. Being part of the All-Star team was thanks to my teammates, I believe in being a team player."

From a very young age, in her beginnings in the Arrieros de Antioquia club, Rios dreamed of reaching this point. It has been a path of work and effort that is rewarded today.

"Basketball has always been everything to me. I started playing when I was 11- years old at the Arrieros de Antioquia club. It all started at the Itagüi sports center when the men's professional league played there. At halftime of the Arrieros games I would go down to the court and shoot. One of the girls' mom, who was in the club, saw me and when I left the floor, she approached me and asked me if I was interested in playing in the training sessions of Arrieros and of course I said yes."

It was the starting point of an outstanding youth career that led her to represent Colombia for the first time in the U-15 category. Later, in 2016, Rios made her debut with the senior team and has represented her country ever sense.

“Colombia has done a good job of growing the youth programs all the way up to the national teams. If our professional league can get games consistently played for several months, I am sure that we will be able to qualify for World Championships.”

In addition to playing, Rios is currently also studying Physical Education and Sports. Even though she is at the peak of her career, she understands that she must prepare for the future. One of her main projects is to serve as a coach for the little ones.

“I want to have my own basketball club. I have to work for it, but I am training myself to be able to do it. I want to graduate to dedicate myself to that in the future, work with children. That would be a great way to give back.”