April 21, 2011
Geethu Anna Jose – Q&A: WNBA Dreams
Two weeks ago, the dreams of lakhs of Indian basketball players and fans came one step closer to realisation, as word got out that India’s superstar Center Geethu Anna Jose is set to be offered tryouts by several professional teams in the Womens’ National Basketball Association (WNBA), the most competitive and prestigious Women’s basketball league in the world. It has been learnt that Geethu (26) will be trying out for the Los Angeles Sparks (two-time WNBA Championship winners), the San Antonio Silver Stars (2008 Finalists), and the Chicago Sky from April 23 – May 8.
The opportunity couldn’t have come for a more deserving player – Jose has been the biggest Indian basketball star for several years: she has captained the Indian Women’s side at the FIBA Asia Women’s Basketball Championship in 2009, where she was leading scorer in Asia. She has represented India in several major tournaments, including the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia and the 2010 Asian Games basketball championship in Guangzhou (China). Jose, who stands at 6 feet and 2 inches, is currently working for Southern Railway in Chennai, and, representing Indian Railways, has won seven consecutive National Basketball Championship titles. She was also the first Indian women to play professionally in Australia, when she represented the Ringwood Hawks, a lower division team in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), and won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2008.
I got a chance to speak to Jose about her historic bid to complete the WNBA dream
Hoopistani: When did you first hear the news that your WNBA trials have been finalised?
Geethu Anna Jose [GAJ]: Troy Justice [Director of Basketball Operations, NBA India] emailed me and told me the news. I had handed him CDs of my game tapes, which he had taken with him to the USA, and he had been trying to set up meetings for me for a long time. In the first week of April I heard about my trials finally being confirmed.
Hoopistani: How does it feel to be given this incredible opportunity?
GAJ: There are few words left for me to express my happiness. Two years ago, I had gotten a similar offer, but back then, I refused to go: I didn’t feel confident in my own fitness to go for this kind of test. Ever since then, I felt a lot of regret about letting an opportunity like that slip by. I thought I would never get my chance again. But here it is: I’ve been very excited since I heard this news!
Hoopistani: So this time around, are you ready?
GAJ: Yes, I think I am.
Hoopistani: The WNBA is the ultimate dream for basketball players around the world. Was this your ambition too when you first started playing the game?
GAJ: When I first entered the basketball world, I dreamt of one day becoming the captain of the Indian basketball team. I achieved that dream in 2009 when I captained the Indian side at FIBA Women’s ABC. After that, I thought to myself, “What now?” And I knew that the WNBA should be the next step. In most cases, my age (26) might be a little too late to try for that next step, but my fate has been good because American coaches like Troy Justice and Tamika Raymond have come to India and helped me.
Hoopistani: Speaking of Raymond [Indian Women coach for the 2010 Asian Games], how has she helped your development?
GAJ: Coach Raymond encouraged me a lot – she always told me that she liked my game and compared my style of play to her own. In India, I play the Center position, but for the WNBA, I will have to play at Power Forward. Coach Raymond was behind me to help me make that switch when necessary.
Hoopistani: Talk about the competition that you faced during your time in Australia.
GAJ: The competition was very rough in Australia, but it also helped my game a lot. In India, I’m used to being double or tripled team in every offensive possession. In Australia, where there are more girls my size, I was usually defended one-on-one, which added a different perspective to my game.
Hoopistani: At this point, how much do you know about the process of your tryouts with the three teams?
GAJ: I know that, in Chicago, I will be joining the Sky for a training and tryout session. I will also be helped by Bill Harris [Indian Men’s coach for the 2010 Asian Games] over there. Troy Justice has told me not to worry too much about the process – I know that it’s not going to be about the number of baskets I score, but more about my basketball IQ.
Hoopistani: How much do you know about the teams that you will be trying out for?
GAJ: I haven’t followed the WNBA too much in recent years – I do know that the LA Sparks are very talented and have some of the best players in the league. But I’m not concerned about where I go because I think I can fit in with any of the teams.
Hoopistani: Where do you see yourself in the near future?
GAJ: I see myself as a WNBA player. But also, I want to see that my tryout is able to be a great opening for other young players in India to make the leap to the highest level.
Hoopistani: Do you think, then, that more Indian players will follow in your footsteps?
GAJ: Yes. We have a lot of talent here in India, but unfortunately, the exposure is less for them. There are currently very few club teams for women in India – once this number is increased, or if we see a pro league launched in the country, we will see many more talented youngsters come up the ranks.
Jose thanked the efforts of everyone who helped make her tryouts and her trip to the USA possible, including Troy Justice, Jayasankar Menon, the BFI’s Harish Sharma, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), and the Hindustan Group.