Remember Kobe Bryant's 2005-06 season? How could you forget: the year he averaged 35 points per game and carried a ragtag bunch of Laker teammates to the playoffs. The year where he once averaged over 43 points per game for a whole month, scored 62 points in three quarters versus the Mavericks, and had the legendary 81 point game against the Raptors.
Well, far away from Los Angeles, a 14-year-old High School girl in the city of Kozhikode (otherwise known as Calicut) in Kerala in India has been on a 'similar' scoring tear of her own (this is the most loosely-defined definition of the word 'similar'). Aswathi Jayasankar, who plays for the Kendriya Vidyalaya team, has been carrying her squad with massive scoring nights in a very 2006 Kobe fashion. In the All India Kendriya Vidyalaya tournament last month, she scored 51 of her team's 58 points to lead her team to the championship. Earlier in the same tournament, she had games where she logged 61 of her team's 75 points, and 44 of her team's 50 points.
The inevitable was looming, and then it finally happened on Friday in the Semi-Final of the tournament against against city rivals Providence GHSS. Jayasankar scored all 47 of her team's points, but it still wasn't enough as her squad lost the game 55-47. Yes, she scored ALL the points. Every single jumpshot, every lay-up, every free-throw, every three.
It was a historic moment, even for the 'small-time' world of high school girls' basketball in South India. The Hindu newspaper today had the full coverage of this remarkable feat by writer PK Ajith Kumar:
“In my three decades of following basketball closely, I have never heard of anything like this before,” says K.O. Ommen, a veteran referee and administrator who has probably watched or followed more basketball tournaments than most Keralites. “It’s an amazing feat, no doubt.”
Of course, the youngsters unique Kobe-esque feat also comes with a Kobe-esque asterisk point. Her teammates have been doing their best Smush Parker/Kwame Brown impressions while Jayasankar herself jacks up the shots.
For Indian Girls' high-school competitions, the final scores of these games - between the 40s and the 50s - are actually considered to be high-scoring, which makes Jayasankar's achievement of obviously playing all 40 minutes of all games (although some high school girls' tournaments play 36-minute games) a pretty big deal.
Jayasankar's dominance isn't exactly a novel thing in Indian basketball, particularly at the High School level. It's also not surprising when the star player plays the full game - this happens even when the star player's team is winning or losing in a blowout. That's just the way it is junior level Indian basketball. I've witnessed several games where one player has scored 75 percent or more of their team's entire points. But this is definitely the first time that I've heard of a player scoring all the points. The fact that her team lost shows that the opponents did the right thing in freezing out her teammates just enough. But it seems that in the past this 'strategy' has worked for the Kendriya Vidyalaya side, so it's hard to blame their coach or the player for running with the one-woman show.
I wish all the best to Jayasankar for her future: it sounds like she's a talented young player with a lot of potential. Playing in Kerala, she is also in one of the best environments for basketball in India. Kerala's Girls have been dominating the Junior and Youth basketball divisions in India and have won the majority of the national-level U18 and U16 tournaments that they have participated in. They boast of India's brightest basketball star - Geethu Anna Jose - as well as other strong young players like Jeena PS and Poojamol KS.
Jayasankar has some fine footsteps to follow. Hopefully she can start picking up those assists numbers, too.