Sanjana hopes to make it count in an unfamiliar setting

The 17-year-old, Sanjana Ramesh, received a year-long scholarship programme with the Northern Arizona University (NAU) women’s basketball team for the 2019-20 North American Division I college season.

Sanjana Ramesh captained the India U-16 side to a Division B victory in the FIBA Asia Cup held in Bengaluru, last year.   -  Special Arrangement

“Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

The phrase struck a chord with Sanjana Ramesh – one of India’s brightest prospect in women’s basketball. The 17-year-old from Bengaluru will now look to get comfortable in an unfamiliar setting after signing on for a year-long scholarship programme with the Northern Arizona University (NAU) women’s basketball team for the 2019-20 North American Division I college season.

Her rapid rise over the last one year has made the forward one of the most sought-after players among the North American college basketball scouts.

Her Northern Arizona head coach, Loree Payne, described Sanjana as a player with “limitless potential” and someone who would slot into the set up from the word go. “That was one of the reasons (coach's backing) I chose NAU,” she revealed. “We had discussed the college game style and how I will be suited for that. They play with one post inside and four forwards outside. Also even after the injury, they were very supportive.”

Her progress had hit a pause when she had an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear on her left knee in July, which forced her to miss the Asian Games in August. But Sanjana is excited to return to the court. “Another three months and I will be back playing again,” she said.

For Sanjana, who dabbled in multiple sports like badminton and football, 2017 was crucial as she decided to focus on basketball. She captained the India U-16 side to a Division B victory in the FIBA Asia Cup held in Bengaluru, which helped the team earn a promotion to the next division.

Sanjana at the NBA Academy recently.   -  Special Arrangement

She was voted the MVP in both the NBA Academy Women’s camp and the Basketball without Borders (BWB) women’s division in Greater Noida in May, which was overseen by former and current NBA and WNBA players and coaches.

“The MVP award in the BWB camp and the win over Malaysia in the final of the FIBA Asia Cup are the most cherished moment in my career. I decided to pick basketball as a profession after I played for the U-16s in the FIBA Asia Cup,” said Sanjana.

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Speaking about her stint at the BWB camp at the NBA Academy, she said: “I was hesitant earlier to try something new in counter-attacks or during some passage of play, so they told me to go for it and see if it works. When I did I realised that I am good at it. I play post so I tried power fakes which was good for my game.”

For the moment, Sanjana, a commerce student at Delhi Public School (South) in Bengaluru, is focused on her Class 12 board exam. “I am going to spend these three months focusing on my 12th boards. After that, I am going to push myself to get back in shape. I am going to join a summer course at Northern Arizona University that will help me get back to my usual game before joining the team in August,” she said.

After Kavita Akula (in 2017), Sanjana is the second Indian-born hoopster to earn a scholarship from a Division I college.