A few years ago, she was shaping up nicely in the jumps. And M. Beena had quite a few events to choose from, since she was good in the long, high and triple jumps.

But one morning, when she saw an ad in a newspaper, inviting tall girls for the SAI Centre's basketball trials in Thalassery, she thought of giving it a try. Just for the heck of it.

Beena, the daughter of a Kasargod farmer, impressed the selectors and soon switched to basketball.

The other day in Bhopal, the 22-year-old led Kannur University — virtually the Thalassery SAI team that was moulded into a strong unit by coach A. Ashfaque — to its maiden all-India varsities basketball title. Beena was adjudged the best player of the championship.

"She's a player you can rely on, especially in tight situations. She is a strong post player who is very good with the defensive rebounds, and if situation demands, she can be a good forward too," says Ashfaque.

"She's very fluent in scoring baskets too, her conversion rate is quite impressive. I remember one match in Bhopal, against Madras, where she scored 42 of the team's 70 points."

Central Railway is now keen to sign Beena, probably to counter Southern Railway's tall centre Geethu Anna Jose.

Stan Rayan