SAG: Despite being formed just a week ago, Bhutan Basketball Federation’s long wait for an international victory may just be provided by its first women’s national team.

The team has some of the best players from Paro and Thimphu selected through try-outs held over the last three months. According to the head coach of the team, Mike Andrew Behnke, popularly know as coach Mike, the team is composed of some of the best talents in the region.

“Of all the women talent I’ve seen here, these are some of the best we could gather for the national programme,” said coach Mike. “I’m excited with the team.”

Comprised of 12 players, the national team is currently undergoing intensive technical and physical training for the South Asian Games (SAG) next month. The training includes a morning session where conditioning and strength workouts occur. The evening training includes skills and strategy building sessions.

Coach Mike is confident with his team. He said that most of the players know the basics of the game, which makes the sessions easier. “They have played in the local tournaments, however, the SAG games will be a huge step up for them,” he said. “The offensive and defensive style of play are comparatively new to them but they are coping up well with the techniques.”

The team’s captain, Namzay Kumutha, is as excited as the coach. “We have a good team here and we still have a month to practise whereby we can work on our weaknesses and strengths and put up a good show at the tournament,” she said. Namzay Kumutha is one of the players that represented the country at the Philippines last year.

With players like Namzay Kumutha in the front, and Ugyen Wangmo and Sima Das, the tallest of the team in the centre, Tshering Pem as shooting guard, and Tashi Euden and Sonam Yangzom as point guards, coach Mike is hopeful to put up a good show at the regional championships.

“Our main target at the SAG is to compete equally with our regional counterparts,” coach Mike said. “We really haven’t defined our wins and losses as of now, we just want to play a good game.”

Assistant coach with the team, Sonam Tashi, said that the country so far has been represented only by men. “The women’s team we’ve here is strong and they have a good chance at the SAG next month,” he said. “The most important thing with this team is that everyone is positive with the competition, which is very important for any successful team.”

As a tribute to Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, who is also a keen basketball player, coach Mike said that presenting Her Majesty with the best women’s team in the country would be a fitting gift.

Younten Tshedup