TravelGuides – Sanjana Ramesh, a sign of hope for Indian-born players, is making women’s hoops history

TravelGuides – Sanjana Ramesh, a sign of hope for Indian-born gamers, is making women’s hoops history

Sanjana Ramesh
Sanjana Ramesh

Courtesy of Maria Saldivar/NAU Athletics


In Bangalore, India, a barefoot 12-yr-outdated woman spent an hour cleansing grime and dirt off a basketball courtroom. The air was musty from the mud and cow manure surrounding it — that is how Sanjana Ramesh remembers 2014. She practiced with an orange ball that hardly resembled a actual basketball, perfecting her dribble-drive and well-known crossover that had boys her age falling to the bottom, holding their ankles.

Her ft had been riddled with blisters and her knees had been bloody from diving after basketballs on the onerous concrete — however she did not care. That courtroom, and her dedication, helped her grow to be what she is at this time: the crown jewel of Indian women’s basketball.

Fast ahead to 2021, Sanjana is over 9,000 miles away in Flagstaff, Arizona. She is a 6-foot-tall, gangly 19-yr-outdated sophomore at North Arizona University and a member of the women’s basketball group. Sanjana is a scholarship participant who would not even do her personal laundry anymore. She has an affinity for Cane’s rooster and craves the “Caniac Combo” each time she will be able to get her fingers on it. She’s come a good distance since she was a barefoot woman enjoying basketball on a soiled courtroom.

Sanjana is an anomaly — she is simply the second Indian-born girl to play Division I basketball and represents the altering of the guard between the brand new era and the outdated, the place the concept that lecturers aren’t the one avenue to success for Indians. On the courtroom, she carries not solely her personal ambitions however the aspirations of younger Indians who hope to play basketball on the subsequent stage.

“It’s not only about how I am performing,” she mentioned. “Other people are watching me and trying to understand this all. I am trying to do the best I can, so I tell myself just do the best and everything else will follow.” 

Sanjana follows Kavita Akula, a current graduate of Grand Canyon University, who was the primary Indian-born women’s basketball participant to obtain a scholarship. No Indian-born ladies have made it to the WNBA, and the identical is true for males on the NBA stage. 

“I am a little nervous… because people look up to me and see what journey I am taking and how I am performing in tournaments and games,” Sanjana mentioned. 

Sanjana mentioned she first began enjoying basketball in opposition to her older brothers  — by no means giving them an inch to attain a basket, even at 12 years outdated. Throughout the years, she performed video games with reckless abandonment, diving after unfastened balls, hounding the opposing gamers on protection, and being a thorn on each offensive participant’s aspect. 

Her favourite reminiscence? Her major college group was trailing 20-2 when she entered the sport off the bench. Her play injected a a lot-wanted shot of dopamine into her lifeless group. She by no means glanced on the scoreboard and when she missed a layup within the closing seconds, she collapsed to the bottom in disgust. Her teammates ran to her aspect in celebration and a confused Sanjana regarded as much as see that her group had gained by 12 factors.

Sanjana Ramesh
Sanjana Ramesh

Courtesy of Maria Saldivar/NAU Athletics


“I was like a mad dog out on the court that day,” Sanjana mentioned. 

Sanjana considers this a pivotal second in her younger profession. She remembers seeing her title within the newspaper and considering, “Maybe, I can actually play seriously.” 

She credit her coach, Mohan Kumar, for pushing her to be nice. He would ship three gamers to protect her, forcing her to make use of each offensive weapon in her arsenal to get a shot off. The observe paid off and he or she grew to become the youngest participant on her state’s 18 and below group and in 2016, she accepted an invite to the NBA India Academy, a coaching facility in Delhi for prime males’s and women’s prospects to hone their expertise and get publicity to scouts. 

Sanjana discovered herself in uncharted waters and needed to demand consideration from American universities. She had examine Kavita’s path to school hoops and hoped to be subsequent. “I knew the process, I knew I had to do my SATs and make a highlight video, but I had no idea how to get into contact with coaches or what colleges to look for,” Sanjana mentioned.

After a few months on the camp in 2018, Sanjana gave her spotlight video to Coach Blair Hardiek, who despatched it to American faculties. “I started getting Instagram DMs from colleges, I felt like a celebrity,” Sanjana mentioned. 

Sanjana credit her dad and mom for understanding the chance she had with a basketball in her fingers. She would not assume they anticipated the extent of success she’s already achieved. After all, she was a “slacker in school and baller on the court.” 

When it appeared like Sanjana might do no unsuitable, catastrophe struck. In the Asian Games, she tore her ACL. Multiple faculties pulled their gives. 

“I was really devastated… when you think you are on the highest point in your career and this happens, it’s just the worst feeling,” she admitted. “People in India didn’t understand the surgery. It was hard to get through all that pressure and people watching you expecting to be perfect.” 

However, one school, Northern Arizona University, stood by her, undeterred by the damage that usually requires a yearlong course of of therapeutic and painstaking bodily remedy. That’s one of the principle causes she signed with the college at 17 — they believed in her when others moved on.

Sanjana’s first two enjoying years have been a studying curve on and off the courtroom. She spent her first yr making an attempt to get well from her damage whereas studying the group’s playbook and on-courtroom schemes. Off the courtroom, Sanjana had fallen in love with American meals a lot that Head Coach Loree Payne needed to sit down along with her to debate correct vitamin. 

Her enjoying time has been sparse and he or she says it has been a grind between learning and specializing in basketball in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. The subsequent massive step for her enjoying profession is placing on power so she will be able to play energy ahead, Payne mentioned. 

“‘It’s tough to be a post player and not be quite as developed strength-wise and fitness-wise,” Payne mentioned. “She continues to try to get better and she works hard in the weight room and she’s definitely dedicated in that way to make herself better.”

As Sanjana continues adapting to the school sport, scores of women and Indian aunties message her for recommendation on tips on how to take their very own sport to the following stage. She believes dad and mom in India are starting to grasp the alternatives basketball can provide.

“Parents in India are kind of strict and they don’t want you to go away from home,” she mentioned. “They are beginning to understand the opportunities, you know, like getting a world-class education for free and the opportunity the U.S. provides.”  

Sanjana Ramesh
Sanjana Ramesh

Courtesy of Maria Saldivar/NAU Athletics


Despite the fanfare, Sanjana admits there are powerful moments the place she misses her household and says being a function mannequin for the following era will be overwhelming at instances. 

“When you see the competition around you, they are so much better (than players in India),” she mentioned. “My teammates sometimes are so much better because they have played with trainers, they’ve had these facilities their whole lives. They don’t know that I haven’t had that so they don’t understand my story. Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong here. I’m scared, especially when I go back to India, I have to prove that I earned this.” 

Sanjana desires of following within the footsteps of her idol, Sue Bird, and hopes to grow to be the primary Indian girl to play within the WNBA. If that does not pan out, she hopes to play someplace professionally. In college, she has changed into a diligent scholar, aiming for a 4.0 GPA. When her enjoying days are over, she hopes to assist develop the sport of basketball for ladies all through India. 

“Honestly, If I could choose I wouldn’t choose to be the second, I might have chosen to be the fifth,” Sanjana admitted. “That way it’s not a lot of pressure and I can learn a lot from people who have already been there. But now it’s only me, and I’m guiding people through the journey. I mean someone has to do that job and somebody has to fill those shoes and I am grateful for the opportunity to help other people.” 

TravelGuides – Sanjana Ramesh, a sign of hope for Indian-born gamers, is making women’s hoops history