Teenage sensation Sanjana Ramesh can be an inspiration to many young basketball players. The 19-year-old had set sails in uncharted waters in 2019 when she earned a scholarship from the NBA Women's Academy program in India.
An alumnus of Delhi Public School Bengaluru South, Ramesh had played various state matches as well as been a part of several other basketball camps.
However, it was captaining the Indian girls’ team at the FIBA Under-16 Asia Cup in 2017 that pushed her to the limelight. She led the team to a promotion from Division B to A in the next edition of the tournament.
Today, the young prodigy is just the second Indian-born woman to play Division I basketball. A recipient of Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete Award 2020, Ramesh is the only the second Indian after Kavita Akula to bag a full scholarship to a NCAA Division 1 team.
Ramesh first started playing basketball at the age of 12 against her older brothers. Throughout the years, she played games recklessly, givind the opposing players a tough competition on defense.
During a camp in 2018, Ramesh gave her highlight video to Coach Blair Hardiek, who sent it to American colleges. She soon got attention from American universities.
A teen in isolation
It took some time for Ramesh to adjust to the new games system of play (from an all-rounder, she has to switch to being a power forward), cementing a place in a team with stronger players and playing against physically superior teams.
Adding to that was the loneliness one feels without family and friends in a new country, trying to adapt to the strange accents and getting them to understand her — all of which made her first year in the US an arduous one.
However, her journey to the Northern Arizona University (NAU) basketball side in 2019 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.
Ramesh thus spent her first year trying to recover from her injury while learning the team's playbook and on-court schemes.
But as she was getting the hang of things, the novel coronavirus pandemic brought things to a screeching halt and she had to return home as the colleges were closed. Her playing time has been sparse and she says it's been a grind between studying and focusing on basketball during the pandemic.
The next big step for her playing career is putting on strength so she can play power forward, Payne said.
"When you see the competition around you, they are so much better (than players in India)," she said. "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,” Ramesh told the media.
Currently, Ramesh is back in the US after a three-month COVID-19 break and is looking forward to the upcoming season.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)