Senior guard Annanya Raghavan’s “we before me” philosophy has played a major role in the team’s success this year
Those who have been following Azusa Pacific’s women’s basketball would know that the team is having a phenomenal year; they are nationally ranked with a current record of 21-3. Those who follow the team would also know the star-power of the team’s top players such as Abbigail Goodsell, Gabrielle Kaiser, Tara Casey, Savanna Hanson and Zoe March, just to name a few.
Yet one of the team’s most important and influential players may not be as well known because of her play on the court, but because of her leadership as both a student of the game of basketball and as a selfless and humble team player.
Senior guard Annanya Raghavan has become one of the key contributors to the Cougars success this season due to her leadership philosophy—a “we before me” approach.
“I was just reflecting on my college career and there’s a lot of things that I have learned. The biggest thing that I had to learn and that I want other people to learn is that when you’re in the environment of a team sport, or life in general, this life and sport is not about me, it’s about ‘we,’” Raghavan said. “We are built to be in relationships with people, as a society, as a team, we have those relationships. It doesn’t matter what we are able to do as individuals, but what is great is what we can do as a team.”
Earlier this year, Raghavan wrote and published an article, entitled “We Before Me,” for The Sports Digest. In the article, Raghavan explains her philosophy on what it truly means to be a team player within a team sport. Her insights on what it takes to put “we before me” quickly became a team anthem, something that the Cougars have taken to heart.
“As a team collectively, it’s important that we all take on the mentality that Annanya has introduced… For ‘Nanya to write that and be a leader on the team, it’s important for people to know that she has that kind of mentality, that she’s willing to be selfless in that way,” sophomore guard Zoe March said. “She’s proved that in her execution, she proves that by taking time out of practice to work with me and she’ll take time out of practice to watch game film with me. Those words are not just words on paper for her, she puts them into action.”
Head coach T.J. Hardeman had high praise for Raghavan who has embodied the identity of a true team player.
“She is awesome,” Hardeman said. “In ‘We Before Me,’ she is so insightful about putting the team first and sacrificing herself. That’s what she’s done. She does whatever she needs to do to help her teammates—she’s phenomenal.”
What makes Raghavan so unique is that she is able to lead and teach her teammates, even as someone who is not considered a starter, or who does not get a ton of playing time in general. Raghavan has proven that one does not have to be a starter in order to make an impact.
“Nanya understands her role as a captain and she does not abuse her role. She is willing to listen to the things that we have to say, she’s willing to correct us, and I think a good leader knows exactly how to communicate to the people they are leading. Annanya knows how to communicate with each individual differently,” March said. “People don’t know this, but she helps us in scout team, she helps us understand plays, she inspires us. Off the court, she’ll work extra time with us—that’s a leader—someone who leads by example.”
Hardeman noted how much Raghavan truly cares for the team, and in return, the respect that the team has for her.
“Her teammates know and respect how much that she cares for them, that she cares for the game, caring for details. They know her basketball IQ is off the chart, and they respect that she’s willing to do whatever it takes before the ‘we,’ and isn’t worried so much about the ‘me.’ She sets a great example for them,” Hardeman said.
However, Raghavan’s “we before me” mentality did not come automatically. It took some time for Raghavan to recognize and accept what being a team player truly meant.
“I knew going into my senior year that I wanted this year to be special. I knew of the talent we had on this team, and it had taken me a while to get to this point. It took me time to learn to not be selfish, because in college sports, everyone wants to do well and be successful, but what I had to learn was not to define success by my stats or my playing time,” Raghavan said. “It wasn’t about my success, it was about our success. That’s when I really learned to embrace it.”
Another one of the expressions that the team has repeated this year is, “being on a team means being selfish in your preparation, but selfless in your execution,” which is something that Raghavan stated multiple times in her article.
“We can’t be a great team as individuals if we don’t prepare ourselves to be great,” Raghavan said. “The selfish part comes in training, going to the weight room, going to the track, putting up shots every day, getting ourselves to be great individual basketball players. Once it comes time for the game, we can’t allow that selfishness to come in. Then it’s about the immeasurables at that point—being a good teammate and trusting in all the work and preparation you’ve put in so far to be a selfless team.”
Raghavan has been playing basketball for the majority of her life, and she has loved every moment of it. Raghavan’s brother, Advit, played basketball at the University of Puget Sound and the two siblings bonded over the sport growing up. She reflected on where she is now as she approaches the final month of her collegiate basketball career.
“When I look back, it’s been about 14 years [that I’ve played basketball]. The team aspect of it is the reason that I fell in love with the game in the first place, so to be able to end my career on a team as special as this is just amazing,” Raghavan said. “I think that getting to play college basketball is a privilege, so I owe a lot to this institution for giving me the opportunity, and I give a lot to the sport of basketball itself for taking me through this journey of life. I want to be the best teammate possible because it’s a team sport.”
This additional knowledge and experience has provided the team a deeper understanding of the game of basketball. Her teammates and coaches consider Raghavan to be not only a student of the game, but also as another coach who happens to be on the team.
“She is incredibly knowledgeable at the game. She is able to see things on the court that you may not be able to see yourself,” March said. “She’s my coach, she’s an assistant coach.”
With this team mentality of “we before me,” the Cougars will look to continue their success and momentum into the rest of the season. The Cougars are still fighting for the number one seed in the PacWest, which will most likely come down to the game against Hawai’i Pacific on Feb. 22. APU will play their next game at Biola on Feb. 3 at 5:30 p.m.
Read Raghavan’s article with The Sports Digest here.