Sanjana spreading joy on court

TALENTED: After some impressive shows in the junior ranks, Sanjana Ramesh is knocking on the doors of the senior Indian team. DH Photo/ B H Shivakumar

The art of communication is the language of leadership -- a key quality that sets Sanjana Ramesh apart. The Karnataka girl was the catalyst behind India’s sensational triumph in Division B of the FIBA under-16 women’s Asian Championship in Bengaluru last year. Given the responsibility of leading the hosts on her international debut, the now 17-year-old displayed remarkable composure during the tournament and guided the team to the upper echelons of Asian basketball.

Sanjana wasn’t new to captaincy, having skippered Karnataka at the Youth Nationals, but the experience of leading the national team in an Asian event was just extraordinary for her.  “That experience was just sublime. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I learnt so many different things,” said Sanjana.

What stood out during that campaign was Sanjana’s will to help her team-mates overcome their cultural differences and work in harmony. “I was helping everyone overcome the language barrier in the camp,” Sanjana said.

Serbian Zoran Visic was in charge of the Indian women’s team at the time. “He brings new ideas and it’s been exciting to learn under him. India is improving in basketball because of Zoran sir, who has taught us so many things,” she said.

Earlier this year, Sanjana made it to the senior camp for the Commonwealth Games but could not make the final cut. That setback did little to deter her spirit and she made it to the camp for the Asian Games as well.

Last month, Sanjana was adjudged the Most Valuable Player (MVP) among girls in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Asia 2018 camp in Greater Noida. The camp had 66 cagers from 16 countries taking part. They trained under current and former players such as Caris LeVert (Brooklyn Nets), Kelly Olynyk (Miami Heat), Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks) and former WNBA cagers Ruth Riley and Ebony Hoffman.

“It was so much fun. They bring that energy in and just change the game. It’s a feeling that you cannot describe. I am so happy to have played with them. You realise that basketball or any sport is played just to have fun and they show that,” Sanjana said. “They showed us all the different techniques and how to look at things in a different way. They told us about counter-attacks and moves. They taught a lot of things.”

Basketball is not the most popular sport in India. Some even consider it a risk and passion alone is not enough to make it a career. But backed by her father, a professor in the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) and mother, a homemaker, Sanjana took that chance.

A student of Delhi Public School, Sanjana took up the sport in school just to prove a point to her brother. “I started playing basketball when I was in school. I wanted to get into the team because I wanted to show my brother that I could play a sport and make it to the school team,” said Sanjana, who was 12 at the time.

“My parents are very supportive and they just wanted me to do well. After a year or so they realised that I love the sport and have a passion for it and continued to support me all through,” she said. “You have to work a little harder but you realise that if you want to follow your passion and do what you love, you just have to start and work harder and study better.”

The decision to take up basketball has proved to be a vital one in her life. Her interest grew with time, turning her into a bright prospect. At the local level, she has won numerous titles with the Beagles basketball club. In April this year, Sanjana was the key to her club’s success in the State under-18 basketball championship. In the final, she sparkled with 22 points in their 48-38 win over DYES Vidyanagar.

Beagles coach Mohan Kumar has played a big role in Sanjana’s growth as a player, having trained for nearly eight years. “He is amazing. He’s played such an important role for me,” she said. “He’s like a father figure. He’s advised me on so many things to keep my confidence up. Also, on the court, he tells me the tiny details that makes a big difference.”

Sanjana wants to get into an NCAA Division 1 college in the USA.  “I might go for Division I college in the United States or continue playing in India and hopefully represent the Indian women’s team.”

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Sanjana spreading joy on court

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