Kerala cager readies for new frontier in America

CHENNAI - Indian basketball is set to take a big step forward this month when Geethu Anna Jose becomes the first player from her country to attend tryouts for the American professional league.

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Published: Mon 25 Apr 2011, 1:17 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:21 PM

The 25-year-old centre will have training sessions with WNBA teams Chicago Sky, Los Angeles Sparks and Saint Antonio Silver Stars in the space of eight days in what could be a history-making moment for the sport in her country.

“There is pressure and high expectations,” the 6-foot-2 (188-centimetre) Jose told The Associated Press. “The Indian basketball community is excited, but then, it is also my dream and I am going to go out there and give it my best shot.”

Jose, who hails from the southern state of Kerala, is easily the biggest draw in Indian basketball and was the topscorer in the previous two FIBA Asian championships.

In the last edition held in India in 2009, the centre averaged 22 points per game to help her team stay in the Elite Level 1 group. India finished sixth in the 12-team competition.

Jose is looking to draw from her experience of playing as a professional for three seasons for Ringwood Hawks in Australia’s Big V Basketball as she eyes an WBNA breakthrough.

“Inside game is very hard outside India,” Jose said. “The players there are really tough. My three years in Australia have given me a lot of confidence and I’d think it was there that my dream of playing in the WNBA was born.”

Jose’s Australian opportunity came after she caught Hawks head coach Tim Mottin’s eye during the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, she said. It was in that tournament she first had a chance to play against Australian centre and WNBA star Lauren Jackson, who has been her inspiration since.

“She’s simply astonishing. I just love her game,” Jose said. “For one who is 6-foot-5, she covers the court with amazing speed and can score from almost anywhere. Against us, she was on court for just 20 minutes and scored 40 points.”

Her encounter with Jackson also served as eye-opener for what it takes to play in the WNBA. “I have watched some of it on television and it’s really advanced,” Jose said. “Scientific coaching, professional approach. Also possibly, they start dribbling the ball at 3 years of age when I started at 13!”

AP



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