In this edition of NBA India All-Access, we welcome Vaishnavi Yadav.
A couple of weeks back, Pensacola State University had confirmed signing Vaishnavi to their Lady Pirates squad.
From scoring a record 71 points at a junior national tournament to being named the Co-MVP of the NBA Academy India's first-ever Women's camp, the 5'7 guard has been lighting up the junior basketball scene on fire over the past couple of years.
#NBAAcademy India Women's Camp MVP, Vaishnavi Yadav dreams of a day when a woman baller will become an Indian household name. This is her story. pic.twitter.com/zQS5i8v2T6- NBAIndia (@NBAIndia) June 11, 2018
As she continues to rehab from her injury and practice in preparation for her trip to the States, Vaishnavi took some time for a conversation with NBA.com/India.
Yash Matange: How did you get the news of the signing and how did your parents react to it?
Vaishnavi Yadav: When my coaches told me about the college selection, I knew it's importance and was very happy. Once I told my mother, she reacted normally because she didn't want to me leave the country. My father, who has always supported my basketball dreams, convinced my mother to allow me to take up the opportunity.
Matange: Academically and from a basketball standpoint, how did you prepare to be eligible to be signed by the college?
Vaishnavi: Let's not talk about the studies [jokingly].
Initially, I had no knowledge of what needs to be done and how. I was told I had to prepare for SAT but when I looked at the size of the book, I wondered how I would study. Given the difficulty, I did consider writing the IAS exam as an alternative.
The other problem was that in Allahabad, there was no coaching center for the exam. So, I took help from my brother, Sanjana [Ramesh] helped me and I read up a little online as well.
Then, taking God's name, I just wrote the exam and it went well.
Matange: Is there anything you could tell us about your schedule going forward? As in, when you leave to begin at the college and so on.
Vaishnavi: Right now, I have given my passport for renewal. Once that's done, the visa and ticket process would begin. I think by July end, these processes would end.
Matange: You were told about the SAT exams at the NBA Academy India's Women's camp?
Vaishnavi: In the week-long camp, we used to have a team meeting for an hour every day. In the meeting, we were explained the details of the SAT exam, the scores required and so on.
Matange: You have talked a lot about wanting to represent India at the senior level. Is there any player, on the men's or women's squad, who you look up to or style your game according to?
Vaishnavi: I like Jeena [Skaria] didi [elder sister] a lot.
I was part of one India camp with her and her demeanor is what stands out. She has no attitude and even if you make a mistake, she encourages you to keep playing.
MORE: Jeena Skaria signs with Ringwood Lady Hawks in Australia
She puts her body on the line for the game. If she falls, she gets up immediately. If she's turned the ball, she is determined to steal it back. So, these are all the things I like about her.
On the men's squad, it's Vishesh Bhriguvanshi. I didn't know Jeena didi earlier but since Vishesh bhaiya [elder brother] was from my state, I had heard a lot about him as I was playing in the junior tournaments.
Matange: You told us how the NBA Academy taught you to be prepared for the SAT. On the other hand, how did that Women's camp help improve your game?
Vaishnavi: The nicest thing is that we play a team game, so I learned how to motivate your teammates and the importance of coordination between all teammates.
Before the camp, I used to play very aggressively and I still play that way. When I used to miss a shot, I would get disappointed but in the camp, we were encouraged and motivated to run back on defence even if you have missed a shot.
Earlier, if somebody would make a mistake, we would shout at each other and react to each turnover. In the camp, we learned that mistakes were common but we had to constantly motivate each other.
Matange: The last couple of years have seen you rise in the basketball circles of the country but when did you first start playing the game?
Vaishnavi: I first began playing basketball in 2011 but before that, I wanted to play Tennis because I like Sania Mirza a lot.
When I was younger, I used to play cricket or other sports with the boys or cycle around the neighbourhood. So, my family felt that it would be better to have me play a sport.
When we enquired for the admissions for Tennis, they were full but there was a basketball court beside the tennis court. I picked up the ball, ran with it, probably traveled and started liking the sport.
Over the next three-four months, I improved a lot and had gone from the junior to the senior squad.
Matange: Final couple of questions. What do you believe is your biggest strength and what part of your game do you believe you still need to improve?
Vaishnavi: Actually, I have been rehabbing from an injury over the past seven and a half months. I have just started playing. I believe my shooting is good but I have lost some of my dribbling and speed.
Prior to the injury, my right-hand drive was really strong. So, now, I would want to strengthen my left as well. I have confidence that I can convert every right-hand drive but my left is weak.
So, I want to strengthen my left, regain my speed and dribbling, and work on my fake moves as well.
Matange: Last question to wrap it up - who is your favourite NBA player?
Vaishnavi: Stephen Curry.
I follow him a lot. I practice his stepback a lot and have tried them with a lot of variations. I used to watch a lot of videos of his stepbacks, his dribbling drills and his training routine.
If I go to the States, I hope to meet him and see his game live one day.