Putting the team before self

Geethu Anna Jose…“ The basketball administration needs to strengthen the foundation of the game.”-

“ I always believe in team effort. Hence, more than the ‘best player’ award, I was overjoyed that our team won the trophy in the FIBA Asia 3x3 Championship,” says Geethu Anna Jose, as Kamesh Srinivasan listens in.

Geethu Anna Jose is an outstanding personality, driving Indian women’s basketball forward. She won the best player award in the inaugural FIBA Asia 3x3 Championship in Doha (Qatar) where the Indian women won the title.

Geethu, however, put the team ahead of her, stating that the title meant more to her than the individual honour. “I always believe in team effort. Hence, more than the ‘best player’ award, I was overjoyed that our team won the trophy,” she said.

The Indian women had won the 3x3 format twice earlier in the Beach Games. The 3x3 championship is played on half court, with both the teams shooting into one basket. Each team consists of four players, of whom three are on the court at any given time. The duration of a match is only 10 minutes as against 40 minutes in a normal basketball match that has five players a side. In fact, a 3x3 match ends when a team reaches 21 points, which means they do not have to play for the full 10 minutes.

“Yes, we had won the Beach Games twice by the grace of God. I feel there is a lot in common. Both are attended by most of the best teams in Asia. In Beach Games, external factors can have an influence like heavy wind or the playing surface, which can unsettle even the best of players,” said Geethu.

The Indian women had won the South Asian Beach Games in Sri Lanka and the Asian Beach Games in China. In the Asian 3x3 Championship, India beat Mongolia 21-14 in the final. Actually, the Indian team won most of its matches by reaching 21 points. India beat Hong Kong 21-8 in the semi-finals, and had outplayed host Qatar 21-5 in the quarterfinals. In the league, India beat Lebanon 20-6, Mongolia 21-9 and Nepal 21-4. The understanding and cohesion in the Indian team was understandable as the three main players, Geethu, Anitha Paul Durai and Manisha Dange, belonged to the Railways and had helped it dominate the National 3x3 Championship.

“The strength of our team is the long shooting,” observed Geethu in her assessment of the Indian outfit.

In the 3x3 format, outside shooting fetches two points as against one for normal baskets.

“Victory in a game is determined by best teamwork. This happens when the long shooters do their work along with the centre player, with the right combination and coordination. I had discussed with my team-mates the strategy we needed to adopt. Their experience and skill helped us follow our game plan and execute it. My friend Anitha handled the long shooting and driving. Manisha gave us a huge support in the defence. Pratima Singh, our aggressive youngster, also gave good support to the team,” said Geethu.

Indian girls have been improving in regular basketball too, but the consistency against quality teams in the region is still elusive.

“Regular basketball demands a lot of hard work. Many of our players have the quality and talent to take on international players, but they lack stamina. We need to play quality teams regularly to get to the next level,” remarked Geethu.

However, for most of the media, the Asian triumph by the spirited girls did not make news, perhaps because they were busy with the Indian Premier League. But Geethu refused to blame any other sport for the lack of attention for Indian basketball.

“I do feel that every game needs to be given its importance. The players put years of hard work before their efforts translate into success for the country. A little appreciation from the media or the masses will not hurt!’’ said the 27-year-old India player.

The Indian women have indeed come a long way, but Geethu cautioned that the administration needs “to strengthen the foundation of the game.”

“Before we think of reaching the next level, we need to make sure where we stand presently. Thousands of students across the country take up the game to fulfil their dream of playing the internationals one day. They are often disappointed and their dreams are short-lived, due to the poor facilities, lack of proper training systems and zero support for lower middle-class families,” she said.

Of course, the Basketball Federation of India, in collaboration with IMG-Reliance, has been able to lift the overall standard of the players, but a lot still needs to be done at the grassroot level.

The foreign experts and coaches have played a significant role in lifting the quality of the Indian players and their ability to combine strongly as a team rather than allow them be content as sparkling individuals.

“The foreign experts have made a lot of difference to us, with their new ideas, advanced techniques and by basically giving us a lot of hope about faring better internationally,” said Geethu.

An unassuming star in Indian women’s basketball, Geethu always puts team before self, thereby setting a fabulous example for the rest to follow.