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Mar

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Changing The Culture: Camille Zimmerman And Her Impact On Columbia Basketball

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If you don’t come to senior night on Saturday, we can’t be friends anymore.

With the Columbia Women’s Basketball team tied with Cornell at the bottom of the league with 2-10 conference record, the team will certainly be playing their final games of the season at Levien this weekend, and seniors Camille Zimmerman, Paige Tippet, and Jillian Borreson their final games of their Columbia careers. As such, Bwogger Isabel Sepúlveda takes a look back on the career of a woman who has already gone down in university history.

Last year, Bwog asked the most important question in Columbia basketball: is Camille Zimmerman (CC ‘18) the greatest player of all time? Now that she’s a senior, we’re not asking—we know. She’s the highest scoring player in Columbia history as of late January, and she’s been consistently excellent throughout her career. As the season winds down, she stands at 1,937 career points (fifth in Ivy League women’s basketball history), and 914 rebounds, only 23 off of the program record. Stats can’t tell the whole story though; Zimmerman’s impact on the team has been far greater than the points she scores as she works to change the culture of Columbia women’s basketball.

Zimmerman got her start in the sport the through her local Y. She played both soccer and basketball until high school, when she had to make a choice between the two because they share a season. She selected basketball because she liked the creativity and speed of the sport more. “I love how it’s high-paced. There’s scoring on both ends. You’re always doing something, you’re not really ever stagnant,” she said. A four-year letterwinner and two-time captain at her high school, she said she decided to bring her talents to Columbia because it’s “the best education I could get. It’s in New York. And I was just really sold on the idea of coming to a smaller school, helping to turn the program around, helping to change the culture.”

Zimmerman’s impact on the culture of Columbia women’s basketball is obvious. Coaches and teammates alike praised her ability to lead by example and mentor younger players. According to head coach Megan Griffith, when other team members see her on the court, her work ethic rubs off of them. She also gets to know teammates on a one-one-one level, going out to breakfast with them and generally bonding the team as a unit. This was echoed by first-year teammate Andrea McCormick, who described Zimmerman as a “gym rat” and said, “She’s gotten us in the gym definitely more than we would have on our own.” She also spoke fondly of working out with Zimmerman on Sundays and working on German homework together. McCormick called her the “mom” of the team, and the tone in which Zimmerman praised her teammates and talked modestly about her own accomplishments bore out that observation.

Zimmerman believes the cultural shift she wanted to begin is underway. She said that in the locker room, she finds more and more people who want to be there. She also shared that in her freshman year, “I would come and shoot in the mornings or I’d come and shoot at night, and I was the only one I’d ever see in the gym on Sundays, on off-days” Now, she says if she’s in the gym, she’s going to see someone else “because they want to get better, because they see the vision that we have.” She also has mentioned that she’s seen the fanbase for women’s basketball grow alongside the dedication within the team, to the point where people she doesn’t know will stop her

Much of this cultural shift can be attributed to Zimmerman’s work ethic. Despite her success in high school, she claims she came in “pretty weak, not the best basketball IQ.” From her self-professed struggle with turnovers, to honing her leadership skills,she has definitely grown over her time here. When asked about how she manages the notoriously difficult balance between being a student and an athlete, she professed that “ I enjoy what I’m doing so it’s really easy for me to just like grind things out and want to go hard and do them the best that I can.” She continued “If you really love doing something, it’s going to be easier.”

Griffith recognized this dedication and drive early on. At one of her first meetings with Zimmerman, Griffith said, “[Camille] told me she wanted to be great. I told her I would do whatever I could to help her get there.” If the records she’s been smashing left and right are proof of anything, it’s that her desire for greatness has been achieved.

Zimmerman said her favorite game this season was the Lion’s beating Cornell in Ithaca early in the season, after three consecutive season sweeps against Columbia in previous seasons. As for what she’ll miss most about being at Columbia, that would be being with her teammates all the time, though she said, “they’ll always be part of my life.” Zimmerman’s absence will be felt by her teammates as well. In discussing who will step up to fill the role Camille filled on the team for the past few years, McCormick that whole team will have to step up their roles because they “have to fill some big shoes.” Coach Griffith expressed a similar sentiment, saying that when you lose a class, no one person steps up to fill that leadership role. “The team changes,” she said. “So it’ll be a different team next year.” Only time will tell what that team looks like without Zimmerman and her fellow members of the senior class.

Going forward, Zimmerman wants “to play at the highest level…and then whatever comes after that, I’ll figure it out along the way.” Right now, though, she’s focused on the more immediate future—this weekend’s games. Camille Zimmerman still has one more weekend to show Columbia what she’s been working for all these years.

definitely Columbia’s GOAT via gocolumbialions.com

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