Priyanka P Bhandari is a surprisingly recognisable face. The recently out-of-her-teens shooting guard can proudly claim to be perhaps India’s youngest brand ambassador among basketball players. “The sports brand ‘Reenix’ is setup in Bangalore and I decided to associate myself with them only after I learnt that their main aim is to make quality sporting attire available at affordable rates to players from smaller towns and villages.”
The daughter of a professional hockey player, at 5ft 7.5 inches, the Uttarakhand girl was one of the tallest in her class. “I remember playing my first inter-school basketball tournament at the age of 12, while studying at the Army Public School in Delhi Cant.”
Constantly on the look out to hone her skills, the Delhi University student even travelled all the way to Bhilai, Chhattisgarh to train under India’s best coaches. “Coaches Rajesh Patel, Zak Penwell, Inderbir Singh Gill and Divya Singh helped fine-tune my basics. The company of junior India players also helped me appreciate the tough nature of the sport.”
Like most athletes, her worst nightmares are the injuries she has suffered—from repeatedly twisting her ankles to lower back troubles. “When you lose a match the pain is temporary and it is an opportunity to learn something new from your mistakes. But an injury is long lasting.”
The girl known as “Priks” or “Naina” by her friends, is keen to contribute in a larger way towards promoting basketball in India. She is the administrator of a popular Facebook page that documents the sport, and just like other talented youngsters her age, hopes to represent the country in the near future.
“I have already played for the Delhi and Haryana State teams and am currently practising at the Kurukshetra University for a minimum of eight hours each day. I love doing individual drills for rebounding, jumping and dribbling, and even do ‘basketball-pushups’.”
When not on the court, she enjoys watching videos of the popular American AND1 streetballer known as ‘The Professor’.
Apart from her favourite coach, the ex-India player Shiba Maggon, Bhandari interestingly looks up to martial artist Bruce Lee for inspiration. “His great saying was “don’t think, just feel”. These words really help me overcome tough situations.”