“What is your favourite part of basketball: dribbling, passing or shooting?”
“Defence.” pat comes the reply from Prasanna Venkatesh, a 21-year-old guard from Tamil Nadu. There’s a trace of aggression in his voice. It’s almost as if Prasanna is ready to play defense in the middle of the interview itself. The fire is unmistakable; the hunger unmatched.
Unlike many of his contemporaries at Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai like Pratham Singh, Amjyot Singh and Riken Pethani, Prasanna has never played for India either at the junior or senior levels. He fell agonizingly short of an India call up in 2010, when as a starter for Tamil Nadu, his u-18 team finished in 2nd place in the Junior National Basketball Championship in Mumbai. “Unfortunately, the junior India selection camp was held prior to the tournament, so despite playing really well I missed out because of bad luck.”
That luck might be about to change for the better. In the recently concluded 64th Senior National Basketball Championship held at Thyagaraj Stadium in New Delhi, Prasanna’s pestering man to man defense and unyielding hustle in the final game against Punjab left a deep impression. His contribution was one of the key factors that allowed the Tamil Nadu side to reclaim the Senior National crown after a long gap of 10 years.
The last time a player from Tamil Nadu made a mark on the international stage was Coimbatore’s CV Dinesh, who was known for his rebounding and energy. Prasanna appears to be cut from the same cloth.
“I was initially an athlete and in fact joined Sports Hostel, Neyvelli’s athletic programme in 8th standard. Only after I joined, Coach Krishnamurthy saw my relatively tall frame and made me transfer to basketball.” Prasanna kept working hard on his game day and night. In 12th standard, he moved to the Sports Authority of India hostel in Salem. “SAI Coach Manimoli was instrumental in helping me get admission to Sathyabama University Chennai.” Sathyabhama has traditionally been a basketball collegiate powerhouse and is very active in the South Indian basketball circuits.
“I was at Sathyabama only for a year in 2010-11 but played as many as 33 tournaments.” His potential was noticed and the very next year, he was employed by the Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai on a sport quota.
“None of this would have been possible without the support of my family, especially my father. I’m the only person in my family to take up sports professionally.”
After his sterling performance at his first Senior Nationals earlier this month, Prasanna is keeping his fingers crossed for a call up to the senior India team. If he does make the final cut, his selection will be well deserved. “The only thing I want is to play for India. Nothing else matters.”
May his dreams come true.
NOTE: Prasanna Venkatesh went on to make his long awaited Sr. India debut in last month’s 5th FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan, China.