As the only Indian to have been invited for selection trials by the U.S. Women's National Basketball Association League, Geethu Anna Jose is on a high.
Even as she is dribbling past defenders and scoring baskets at will in the on-going Ramu Memorial tournament in Mumbai, 25-year-old Geethu Anna Jose, India's most accomplished and celebrated hoopster, will be thinking hard of how she'll fare in the sport's biggest league—Women's National Basketball Association in the U.S. Geethu has been invited by WNBL teams Chicago Sky and Los Angeles Sparks to attend their selection trials.
The Southern Railway superstar's dreams, in a way, have come true. Having played or Ringwood Hawks in the Australia Big V league and earning a name for herself, Geethu knows that this could be her best and probably, her last chance, to get into a WNBA team. “I am really excited. I know it'll be very difficult. But I want to do my best,” she says.
No stone unturned
This is the first time in the history of Indian basketball that an Indian has been given a chance to play in the league. Geethu is leaving no stone unturned and is preparing diligently off the court. She is making inquiries about the teams and ways and means to impress the jury. And also the areas the WNBA coaches would be looking into. Geethu did talk to Sheeba Maggon, an International referee. “Sheeba told me that you have to be physically and mentally tough,” says Geethu.
While Chicago Sky is a relative new-comer to the WNBA league entering the fray only in 2006, Los Angeles Sparks is a veteran of sorts having started way back in 1997. In fact, it has won the championship twice in 2001 and 2002.The Chicago Sky trials are scheduled for April 26 and 27 and Los Angeles Sparks try-outs are to be held on April 30 and May 1. “The difference between the Australian and American leagues,” says Geethu, “is that Americans play very hard, physically and you need to be physically fit. There is no scope for relaxation.”
Geethu is thrilled for another reason, too. Her move will definitely inspire the younger generation to think global. “If I get selected, I will open the gates to our junior players,” says the top-scorer in the FIBA Asian championship in Chennai in 2009.
Geethu says her position as a centre in India where her job is mostly to score, will be irrelevant once she starts playing in WNBA. “I am used as a Centre here where I score off rebounds. As a power guard there, I will not only have to score, but also assist and my overall performance will be assessed,” she explains. “I am ready for that, too.”
Spotted and nurtured by coach Venugopal, Geethu showed tremendous improvement going on to represent the Indian junior team in Asian Basketball Championship (ABC) in Chinese Taipei as a 17-year-old in 2002. Two years later, she participated in Senior ABC.
In the same year, Geethu played for Ringwood Hawks Club, a Australian lower division team for the next two years, and in the process honing further her fitness and scoring prowess. The senior ABC in Chennai in 2009 gave her fans and supporters an opportunity to see her perform against Chinese and Japanese hoopsters. Geethu managed to impress even as her teammates struggled.
Geethu feels that if more Indian players got selected for WNBA, it will certainly help Indian basketball grow. “I am really lucky to have been chosen,” she says modestly. The Indian hoopster will leave for the U.S. either on April 21 or 23 and is already dreaming of scoring in a key match. “I am always dreaming of scoring in an important contest,” she laughs.
The 2006 Commonwealth Games put her into International limelight where she won the Most Valuable Player Award and top scorer, rebounder and best shot-blocker awards. Since becoming an important member of the Indian team, Geethu hardly gets time for an activity she yearns for. “I love to sleep regularly for long hours but I don't get the time for that,” she says. And with a path-breaking assignment coming up, Geethu will have no choice but to postpone her sleeping plans.
Geethu initially took up volleyball as a kid.
Her first major International tournament was the Junior Asian Basketball Championship (ABC) in 2002.
Geethu played in Australian Big V League from 2006 to 2008 for Ringwood Hawks, being the first Indian woman basketball player to play for an Australia club as professional.
In the 2008-09 season, she was invited to play in the Australian Women's National Basketball League, but didn't take up the offer citing personal reasons.
Geethu was the top-scorer in the Senior ABC in 2009 in Chennai.
She watches Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi movies. Often listens to songs from these three languages.
If Geethu gets selected for WNBA, the minimum salary she could possibly earn will be around $36, 570 for the 2011 season.