Calm and calculated, Sanjana gears up for season 2 in NCAA

Teenage hoopster Sanjana Ramesh set sails in uncharted waters in 2019 when she earned a scholarship from the NBA Women's Academy program in India.

The NCAA is Sanjana Ramesh's springboard to relish her dream of playing at the WNBA. (File Photo)   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Teenage sensation Sanjana Ramesh has begun her second season in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division-1 on a high as the Northern Arizona University beat UNLV Rebels 75-72 on Wednesday. Sanjana featured for six minutes in her side's narrow win in a match played in the absence of fans under COVID-19 imposed restrictions. 

With the Big Sky Conference underway, Sanjana spoke about the new season where she hopes for more game-time while keeping a measured approach. 

The teenage hoopster set sails in uncharted waters in 2019 when she earned a scholarship from the NBA Women's Academy program in India.

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The journey to the Northern Arizona University (NAU) basketball side has not been smooth. An ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear just before her move to the United States of America (USA) was a major setback. In her first season (2019-20) in the NCAA, Sanjana got only about five minutes of game-time from three games to showcase her skills. 

"I do have big expectations, but I feel I shouldn't keep them that high because the chances of even cancelling few of these games are a possibility. My personal goal is to get at least 10 minutes of game-time or be the leading shot-marker in our conference. We do have 25 games and hope to play all 25," she said. 

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Her tough introduction to the league helped the teenager understand the dynamics of American basketball. But, the youngster, like most athletes, found it hard to remain fit during the lockdown. 

"It was difficult at home. Even now, I don't feel that I'm as fit as I was a year ago," Sanjana said. 

Leap of difference

Sanjana, who returned to India after a year in April, reflected upon the improvements she made in her game. The hoopster further pointed out the goal-centric process that is followed in the States. "When I was in India, I was more of an all-rounder. In the Indian team, there are no specific goals given and I could do anything I wanted."

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"But in the US, you are challenged because my role is different and specific. I have been playing more of posts and a power forward position. The main idea is to be the best in one field instead of being average in five different fields," she added. "Other than that, I feel I've become a lot stronger and play more physical using my body." 

Indian coaching set-up - a need for change

With international experience in her possession, Sanjana pointed out the lapses in the basketball coaching circuit in India. "The potential game-changer in a country like ours would be to add a system into our game-style. We are more of free-style in our approach in India, but in the USA, it is highly advanced, having a system for defence, offence and transition styles." 

In hindsight, the Chennai-born girl credits Tamil Nadu's dominance to its advanced coaching system. "I feel some states like Tamil Nadu do follow a proper coaching system. They have always had international coaches and that's why they have been dominating. I can recognise that now," said Sanjana. 

WNBA - the ultimate dream

The NCAA is Sanjana's springboard to relish her dream of playing at the WNBA. 

"My goal is WNBA. But, even if I fall short of it and get into other leagues, I would still feel happy with myself because I know I did the best I could," she said.