Delhi Private School girl's dreams stand tall
Joannu Ann Varghese still has a year and some months before she leaves Delhi Private School Sharjah for university, but she has already charted her future plans.
The Grade 11 student wants to pursue a career in medicine and she is looking at some of the best universities in that field, but with a condition.
"I am searching for a university which has basketball," Varghese said. "I want to go for medicine and I am working towards that, but I can do my studies and play basketball, that's no problem."
While Varghese has an excellent academic record she is also passionate about her basketball.
She was part of the school's athletics team when T Ali, the head of DPS Sharjah's physical education department and the basketball coach, invited her to take part in basketball trials.
She fell in love with the game instantly and, according to Ali, she could hold her own against the finest female players.
"She is as good as any university player in India or anywhere else," said Ali, who was a basketball coach at a university in the southern Indian state of Kerala before coming to the UAE.
"She is a very good player and you can see that when she is in action. She is not tall, but she is very fast and very aggressive. She is our main ball handler and she is one of the best ball handlers.
"She certainly has a bright future, but it depends on what choices she makes after finishing school."
Varghese may seem a little soft spoken, but on a basketball court, especially in matches that matter the most, the 15 year old almost always comes to the forefront. And she has a cabinet full of trophies to prove that.
Varghese was the player of the final as her school defeated Emirates Private School in the final of an inter-school basketball tournament organised by Sharjah's Ministry of Education in 2009.
In June this year, when DPS Sharjah competed against women's teams in the Indian Basketball Society League, she was again the player of the final as her school stunned the favourites, Lifebuoy Jaguars, 28-26 in the final.
Earlier in the year, Varghese was adjudged the Most Valuable Player as DPS Sharjah won the Skyline Inter-School Sports Festival basketball crown.
And she was MVP again last week as DPS Sharjah won the Sundeep Batavia Memorial Inter-School basketball title for the third consecutive year, outplaying Millennium School Dubai 39-12. "She keeps getting MVP or Most Promising Player awards in virtually every tournament we participate in," Ali said.
"She was one of the best players at the CBSE Nationals [an annual tournament of schools following the Central Board of Secondary Education curriculum] last year.
"We got fourth place in that tournament, and it is the first time a team from the Middle East has finished so high."
Given her performances so far, it is no wonder Varghese wants to "continue playing as long as possible".
She has the full support of her parents, especially since both of them have been active in sports during their younger days.
"My father used to be an athlete, a sprinter and everyone in my mum's family plays some sport or the other," Varghese said.
Her parents must also be proud of her excellence in her academic studies, according to Vikram Dutt, another of her PE teachers.
"She is very good in basketball and her studies as well," he said. "So the way she balances those two is really impressive."