ESPNHS honors 18 female teen athletes who are doing remarkable things on the field, in the classroom and in their communities. Click here to read about them.
When asked to name one of her strengths on the basketball court, Shilpa Tummala, a senior guard at St. Mary's (Phoenix, Ariz.), has plenty of things to choose from, including a reliable, versatile shot; unusual agility for someone with a 5-foot-11 frame; a sixth sense about the game; and a ridiculous work ethic. Modestly, she ducks the question. "My teammates create opportunities for me to look good," said Tummala, who is the No. 68 prospect in the class of 2012 according to ESPN HoopGurlz. "It's because of my team that I've gotten to this point in my life."
Her team is undeniably great; the Knights are ranked No. 1 one in the nation and just won their second consecutive state championship, and most of their players, now juniors, will land at Division I colleges. Still, Tummala, the team captain, has quite a bit to do with their success. When pressed to name an individual gift, she admits that she loves taking charges. "I know how to get there and set my feet," she said, "It's the best feeling knowing I can change the momentum of the game."
Tummala shines as brightly in the classroom; she carries a 4.2 GPA, is ranked at the top of her class and is, in her words, "really fond of math and biology." Not surprisingly, more than 50 Division I schools were interested in her total academic and athletic package, but the 17-year-old—she skipped a grade in middle school—opted for Harvard, where she'll study biomedical engineering. "I'm planning to attend medical school after that," said Tummala, the daughter of two doctors. "I want to work as a hands-on doctor as well as do research in labs."
But don't peg her as a overly serious teen fixated only on books and basketball. At school, she is vice president of the student council (she plans school dances and runs the meetings), president of the literature club and involved in the Earth club and Letterman's club. She and her teammates never miss an episode of Grey's Anatomy (they also like Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girls), and, she is slowly teaching herself to play the guitar. "I know one song right now: Stand By Me," she said with a laugh. "My teammates give me grief for it."
After this season ends, Tummala will sadly break ties with her beloved teammates as she prepares to settle into her new collegiate team. "I'm going to make a few surprise visits to watch my club team," she says, "I want to show them that I still support them." We suspect the feeling is more than mutual.
Read about how Tummala overcame cultural inhibitions to play basketball.