ALAPPUZHA: When Geethu Anna Jose was in her final year at Kottayam’s Mount Carmel School, Ashey Mathew had just begun to take her first few firm steps in basketball.
“It was a big learning experience watching Geethu ‘chechi’ play. I was very interested in her rebounds and movements,” says the 17-year-old about Geethu, currently one of Asia’s best players.
Now, as she gets ready to leave Mount Carmel after her 12th, Ashey is being hailed as one of India’s brightest young talent in the hoop game.
A few months ago, she helped Kerala win the Youth National title in Lucknow. The team was led by her classmate Shija Joseph and Ashey, a 5-foot 10-inch centre, was the top scorer at the event.
Colleges in Chennai are now keen on roping her. The JPR Engineering College has already begun luring her with some very attractive offers. She is a brilliant student too and that makes her more worthy.
Mount Carmel is among the country’s leading nurseries in girls’ basketball but Ashey has sport in her genes. Her mother, Southern Railway’s Molly Augustine, was the Indian basketball captain nearly two decades ago and her father Mathew Joseph was a volleyball international.
As a little girl, Ashey frequently watched her mother play in tournaments. “That’s how I got hooked to the game. I’ve never seen my dad play, so that could be the reason why I didn’t try out volleyball,” says the Aluva-born girl.
During one of the tournaments, Molly taught her little daughter how to dribble the ball and to shoot. “And my Mount Carmel coach, Biju D. Theman, has been the biggest influence on my basketball basics and my game,” says Ashey. “For, I used to get tensed often.”
And Biju, who had coached Geethu too, had to frequently clear Ashey’s head.
Molly also tries to keep her daughter cool. “We discuss basketball often and my mother advises me to play a tension-free game. When we watch Geethu play on TV, she points out Geethu’s strong points. She tells me to get my game clear, to get my work clear, the rest God will do,” says Ashey.
“I want to be like Geethu,” says the young girl.
But Ashey is aware that she has a long way to go. “I still need to improve a lot. I have to work harder on my inside driving, rebounding and also my outside shooting.”
P.J. Sunny, the Basketball Federation of India’s Selection Committee Chairman who has seen plenty of talent emerge from Kerala, is quite impressed with Ashey’s game.
“Ashey has talent, has a good game and lovely shooting — if only she was a little taller, she could be as good as Geethu,” says Sunny. Thankfully Ashey is still in her growing years.
Even Geethu is impressed. “She is one of the best young girls I’ve seen in recent years,” said the Indian star in a recent chat with The Hindu. “I only hope the sport doesn’t lose her, she is keen on engineering.”
Ashey says: “I won’t give up basketball, whatever comes. I got 90 per cent in 10th. I know I can do well in both.”