February 12, 2011

Hoops DNA: Shireen Limaye follows her mother's footsteps to basketball stardom

Nature or Nurture? It has been an age-old argument: are an individual’s personality and skills developed by their DNA, or are they developed by the way in which the individual is raised? Or to put it simply: Are we born the way we are, or do we become who we are because of the environment around us?

It’s a complicated debate with possibly no absolute answer: every individual seems to be influenced by a little bit of both.

Shireen Limaye, Maharashtra’s budding hoops star, is probably not going to be any help in solving the debate either. See, Shireen is lucky to have the best of both worlds: She’s got hoops in her DNA, as her mother, Suvarna Limaye, is a former player National level basketball player. But Shireen has also been nurtured to become the best player she can be, playing basketball under her mother’s coaching from when she was just five years old.

The fruits of her nature and nurture are now developing into an exciting final product. If you read this before Sunday, Shireen would still be 15-years-old. She turns 16 on February 13th, and at her young age, she has already charted great peaks. She is currently part of Maharashtra’s Federation Cup squad, as she is one of the youngest, if not the youngest participants at this ongoing championship in Raipur (Chhattisgar). She got her first senior call-up for Maharashtra at the Sr. Nationals in Delhi last month, and a confident showing proved that she could hang tough even with women twice her age.

“Of course, the first time I took the court as a Senior player, I felt a lot of pressure going against the best,” Shireen admits, “But at the same time I felt very proud to be there.”

Shireen’s mother, Suvarna, says that Shireen has grown up around the game. Suvarna, who is a coach in Pune, says that she used to carry Shireen on the court since she was just six months old! Shireen began training under her mother, and by age nine, she became the youngest to represent the Pune district in the U13 tournament.

“In a way, it was really easy to work with Shireen,” says Suvarna, her mother and her coach, “She has basketball in her genes! But also because she is incredibly passionate about learning the game.”

Shireen has much more than her mother’s basketball skills in her genes: her father, Vijay Limaye, has been a National-Level swimmer; her elder brother, Animish Limaye, has represented India’s U17 basketball side.

With this sporting background, Shireen had no trouble thriving in an environment where she was encouraged to play the sport she loved. Her high-point came when she represented the Indian Youth Team at the Youth Asian Basketball Championships, which were held in Pune in August 2009.

But she had a curious change of course since: Shireen got an interesting offer to change sports for a little while and represent India in the Netball tournament held at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She practiced for a year with the new Netball team, before getting a chance to represent the country in Delhi, but this time, in a different sport.

“It was strange for me to switch to Netball at first, and the first two weeks it took some time to adjust but after that I got a grip of it,” said Shireen, “When we finally got to Delhi, it was great! We had a cheering Indian crowd behind us to make a good atmosphere.”

It took another brave, sudden transition in sports for Shireen again: The Commonwealth Games, where she represented India in Netball, lasted from October 3-14, 2010. 10 days later, Shireen joined the Maharashtra Junior Basketball Team that played at the Junior National Championships in Vashi. Along with other young stars in the team, Shireen helped Maharashtra ride the home support to reach the final of the tournament before they lost to Kerala.

“The transition between sports, I admit, was pathetic!” Shireen exclaimed, “But I had to manage.”

She also vehemently denies any further calling towards Netball. “I will always pick basketball! I don’t think Netball will have a future for me!”

As long as she can keep honing her skills, Shireen is sure to have an improving future in the game. She plays a versatile game, switching between guard and forward positions with ease. At 5”10, she is taller than most girls she competes with at her position, and with good ball-handling skills, she is looking to perfect her point-guard game which will allow her to overpower smaller opponents. She has also learnt from watching her mother play: “My mother had really good pivot moves in the post, something that she worked on with me and I have been able to pick up.”

With a lot of potential waiting ahead, Shireen is ambitious about her future.“After I finish my 10th Boards, I want to go to America to study,” she says, “In five years, I wish to see myself in the WNBA.”

Blessed with the perfect blend of nature and nurture, Shireen has little reason to doubt her dreams!

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