ann mary zachariah

Kerala's Ann Mary Zachariah is emerging as one of the top basketball players here at the third edition of the Khelo India Youth Games 2020. (twitter photo)

GUWAHATI — Kerala's Ann Mary Zachariah is emerging as one of the top basketball players here at the third edition of the Khelo India Youth Games 2020.

Playing her first match of the competition against Karnataka on Jan. 17, the 16-year-old was in prime form, scoring a total of 24 points, the most by a player in her category on the day.

Daughter of India's former international basketball players Zachariah Thomas and Jeena Zachariah, Ann Mary is a product of the Mount Carmel School in Kottayam, Kerala, where she had started playing the sport.

"I think what really excited me was the fact that both my parents were former players, and I had seen them play as well. Therefore, I started developing an interest in the sport, and eventually both of them motivated me to take it up at a very young age," said Ann Mary.

The center player took part in the Khelo India Youth Games in the inaugural edition where her team picked up the gold medal, and was also present in Pune when they had to settle for the bronze medal. However, the youngster, who has represented the Indian U-16 and U-18 teams, is targeting the gold medal again with her state team.

"We had a bad match last time around so we couldn't make it to the finals, but I am really determined to win the gold medal again for Kerala. The Khelo India Youth Games have always given me immense confidence, and I felt I was in the zone against Karnataka, and will be going for victory against Delhi today," said Zachariah.

Out to fulfil her parents' dream of taking Indian basketball to a higher level, Ann Mary said she is only focused on one goal. "It was always my parents' dream to help India compete against the best teams in Asia, and then the world. I am happy that now we have a great pool of players at the Junior level who have the ability to produce good basketball, and compete against the best players in the world.

There has always been a basketball culture at the school level, and with more expert coaching and facilities throughout the country, we are slowly getting to a decent level," said the youngster who is a huge fan of NBA great Michael Jordan, and the Golden State Warriors.

The 6'1" player, who had first represented India at the Under-16 level in 2017, aged just 13, emphasized on the importance of having a positive attitude in order to achieve bigger goals. "I have always believed that having a good, positive approach towards everything is an essential part of the development of players across age groups.”

“If I believe that I can improve myself everyday, and compete with the best players from across the country without thinking about the consequences, we can all grow together. I have also been fortunate enough to get the right opportunities and with the training at the NBA Academy, I think I'm reaching a level where I would always want to be - especially in terms of getting the right information on the technicalities of the sport," said Ann Mary.

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