Shining Basketball star, 17-year-old Vaishnavi Yadav, a 5’7″ guard, has signed up with the Pensacola State Women’s Basketball team on Thursday. Vaishnavi hails from Allahabad, and has represented India in the FIBA Asia Under-18 3×3 Championship, FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship and the FIBA Under-16 Asia Cup.

She first grabbed the spotlight last year when she scored 71 points in the 69th Junior National Championship against Kerala — making it the most by a woman player at the national level.

She was also named the MVP Award winner at the first ever NBA Academy India, made her name popular by promoting the stint to inspire fellow nationals.

Yadav credits the NBA Academy for motivating her. “I am very excited to have the tremendous opportunity to attend Pensacola State University. I would like to thank India Basketball, NBA Academy Women’s Program, and Coach Blair Hardiek for making this possible. I hope to take India to the next level by learning all I can about the game and then sharing the knowledge with other basketball players from my country. I hope I can inspire others from India to work hard and go for their dreams,” the teenager said to Firstpost.

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Praising the basketball pro and upon the signing of Vaishnavi, Pensacola State Women’s Basketball team head coach Penny Belford said, “We are very excited to have Vaishnavi join the Lady Pirate family. She will bring a wealth of playing experience and excitement for the upcoming season.”

Her never-ending love for the sport started off at the Amitabh Bachchan Stadium’s Mayo Hall in Allahabad. “I’ve never seen Mr Bachchan there, but it’s named after him. I don’t think Mayo played either,” Vaishnavi had told Indian Express earlier.

Claiming that Michael Jordan was her favourite player while growing up, Vaishnavi recalled, “They asked me about NBA, and I’d never watched NBA. I vaguely knew Jordan. They wanted me to name a contemporary star, but I didn’t know anyone then. Also, I was thirsty, so I kept saying Jordan hoping to finish the interview. Bahut baad mein pata chala, woh game se sanyaas le chuke hai. He was almost 50 then!”

Like most girls in the neighbourhood, Vaishnavi befriended local boys to play the sport with. “Not too many girls at our ground,” she said. Even though Basketball wasn’t her first choice, she eventually leaned on to the sport admiring its quaint qualities. “When I started, Sania Mirza was a rage. I loved her and wanted to play tennis like her,” she recalls. Since there was time for Tennis admissions, she’d joined basketball to kill time, and shown her skill and ball sense.

“My coach Pratibha Chouhan taught me everything. But she had tricked me at the start. She told the tennis coach to reject my admission because I was doing well in basketball,” she recalled. Her uncle Rajender Yadav was her first support, with her cousin training for gymnastics. “My studies suffered because of basketball, so parents said I should leave it. I bawled to my grandfather, who paid my fees then,” she said. Vaishnavi never gave up on her dreams and stayed focused.

Feature Image Credit: The Hindu

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