It’s not every day you come across elite athletes who are sisters and Ivy League students. This week’s spotlight is on basketball champs Shayna and Nina Mehta.
Current Location: Brown Univeristy, Providence, RI.
Current Occupation/Organization: NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball, Brown University. Shayna is senior team captain and Nina is a freshman.
What has your journey(s) to becoming NCAA D1 basketball players been like? Can you give us a few highlights?
Our stories are very similar, almost identical. Growing up we were both gym rats, playing whatever sport was offered at school and in our community. We both started playing basketball when we were about 6 or 7 years old, first with our dad, and then with local Rec leagues, which then led to many years of playing AAU basketball on traveling teams. Basketball in middle school pretty much consumed our lives. We were both also fortunate enough to play in the same high school team together for one year, and both have led our small French Immersion high school team to regional titles.
In my sophomore year I was voted player of the year in San Francisco and 2 time league MVP. Nina was also voted top regional player.
I was recruited by Brown University Basketball after going to their elite camp in the summer at the end of my junior year, Nina in the summer after her sophomore year. We both instantly fell in love with the school and the basketball program. The players and coaches were all very welcoming, and the fast pace style of play was everything that we both were looking for in a college team.
Being from San Francisco, I think my biggest accomplishment was last year when I scored a career high 33 points against a crosstown school, Cal Berkeley (ranked top 20 nationally), while setting a school record with 9 three pointers made in a game..
Off the court it would have to be my summer trip to India with Crossover Basketball, a non-profit organization dedicated to impacting the education rates of marginalized communities in India through the use of basketball as a vehicle of change.
Some accolades at Brown: 5th youngest 1,000 point scorer in Brown history, averaged 18.5 in scoring last year (2nd in Ivy League), unanimous Ivy League rookie of the year, 2 time all- Ivy League selection, 2 time team MVP.
What is the best part of being a student-athlete?
Since Nina just started here at Brown, I will give you my feedback. I feel that being an Ivy League student-athlete is very special. I am constantly surrounded by highly motivated, incredibly smart students, who are also some of the best athletes in Division 1 sports. Being a student-athlete has allowed me to make friends not only in my academic curriculum, but also to form a very special long term bond with my teammates and coaches. I am hoping Nina also has this same experience.
What is it like being a South Asian American student-athlete? How has being South Asian affected your careers in sports?
What we like most about being South Asian student-athletes is that we have been able to break gender and ethnic barriers. People don’t expect 5’7’ desi girls to play basketball at this level.
What is something you wish the South Asian community knew about sports/college athletics?
Sports have never been highly regarded in the SA community, especially from the older generation and new immigrants. Things are changing though, and we are both glad to be a part of that change. We wish the SA community knew how much more playing a sport can add to a students college experience. Yes there is a large time commitment, with all the practices and travel, and no doubt it is tough to juggle all of the college experience, but we both feel that the journey is incredible and invaluable.
What do you think the next generation South Asian community needs to increase NCAA participation?
Start as early as possible in picking a sport that you have a passion for and stick with it, no matter what your family and friends say. Be resilient. We were both very lucky to have supportive parents and friends who encouraged us to follow our passion.
Do you want to have a career in sports after you graduate?
Neither of us have really decided yet, but even if it’s not a career, we both know that sports will still be a big part of our lives.