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6ft 8 inch teenager Pallavi Sharma gets Basketball Scholarship in Japan- We speak to those who made it happen
Pallavi Sharma, 6’8, from Kolkata has received a 100% full scholarship from Hakuoh University & High School to stay, study and play basketball in Japan. For the next one year, she will be training at the high school, and then has a chance to play in the college circuit from 2 April 2017 – 31 March 2021.
This player movement was facilitated by young Delhi based entrepreneur Mr Rohit Bakshi back in August 2015, with the scouting assistance of Pursuit, the newly launched talent division of Ekalavyas Consultancy Private Limited, and a Japanese FIBA certified agent. In the specific instance of Pallavi, former India women's captain Shiba Maggon, supported this transfer in the capacity of being Pallavi`s legal guardian.
Mr Bakshi has spent three years building his network among Japanese high schools, colleges and professional teams to send Indian basketball players to play in Japan. After the success of Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh last year, he felt confident that there are more opportunities coming for Indian basketball players.
Bridge between India & Japan: Rohit Bakshi (right) with Pallavi
Explaining the significance of the move, Mr Bakshi said via an email interview. "Hakuoh is among the top 3 prestigious universities for basketball in Japan. Japan has over 758 Universities and each requires one foreign player to play for their team. Having a tall and strong player from abroad gives them the advantage to compete in the National Games. Hakuoh University has been the runner up in the National Games for the past two years and with Pallavi, they are planning to win the championship title. Pallavi`s new head coach is one of the top head coaches of Japan, and has many contacts in USA, Australia, China and the Europe Basketball League. He has also worked with Dwane Casey: the current head coach of the Toronto Raptors. The future of Pallavi Sharma is bright if she make her mark in Japanese University league."
As Mr Bakshi explained to us, Japan has a special assistance programme for female basketball players. Foreign female basketball players studying in Japan for over 5 years including school and college, will be given the eligibility to play as professionals under the Japanese quota. To promote Japanese players, currently the JBA (Japan Basketball Association) had made a rule of only one foreigner to be played at the time on each basketball game. However, if above conditions are made, there can be 2 foreign players playing together.
Standing 6-foot-8 at the young age of 17 years, Pallavi Sharma has achieved a lot for her school, Modern School Barakhamba Road, New Delhi. Originally from Calcutta, this budding basketballer moved to Delhi to train under Coach Shibha Maggon and has represented Delhi at School Nationals, Junior Nationals and Senior Nationals. But her greatest achievement yet, and a dream come true, is bagging this 5-year long all-paid scholarship from Hakuoh School and University in Japan.
On the very day of Pallavi Sharma's departure to Japan, she shared her thoughts with Team Ekalavyas' Adarsh Rao about basketball, Japan and her expectations from this journey. Watch the interview of this young talented centre:
"I've always told Pallavi to never give up, and to keep believing in herself. She's always been a little emotional so I told her to be tough when she goes to Japan. She won't be pampered over there and she will always be looked at with a performance graph, I made her aware of that. She's also mentally prepared, and she knows that she has to prove herself. She understands her responsibilities and knows that she's representing a nation of 1.2 billion," said her mentor, Ms Maggon.
Maggon also had a message for young players like Pallavi Sharma. She said "Success is just a step away from you. Just keep working hard and like Pallavi, you will also get opportunities to fulfill your dream."
Pallavi (centre) with her father and mentor Ms Shiba Maggon.
Pallavi's father, on an emotional note, mentioned, "It's a big moment in life, my girl is moving abroad, especially through sports. I have no knowledge about basketball at all, and I'm thankful to Shiba Ma'am who has been a guardian figure for my daughter and helped her through Pallavi's injuries. Her comeback from accident is something to be proud of and her improvement to secure this opportunity in something I'm very happy about. I hope she continues to performs better in the coming times."
"Our aim at Pursuit, with the help of passionate basketball stakeholders like Mr Bakshi, is to ensure that there are enough opportunities for Indian basketball talent to succeed," said Pursuit head Mr Vishnu Ravi Shankar.
Pursuit is the newly launched talent management and scouting division of Ekalavyas Consultancy Private Limited. The aim is to find and create the right opportunities for budding athletes with the talent and potential to succeed at the international level. Through its grassroots network, Pursuit is able to spot athletic talent from a young age and help them along their playing careers, whether in India or abroad. Pursuit is headed by Vishnu Ravi Shankar, who is a Director at Ekalavyas, and hopes to become India’s pre-eminent and pioneering basketball scouting and talent management agency.