Ashanti Sturgis, a 15-year-old teen fighting sickle cell anemia, was drafted by the Tufts Women’s Basketball team, according to Shelby Carney, marketing and communications coordinator at Team IMPACT. Team IMPACT is a national organization that drafts chronically ill teens to local college teams, according to its website. Carney said that because Sturgis is still a high school student, she will not be available to attend all the games and practices, but she will attend some practices and most of the home games.
The draft took place on Jan. 3 in the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center, according to the Tufts Athletics website. The website states that teammates, coaching staff and Sturgis’ family attended the event.
Sturgis, a sophomore at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, described her experience as “nerve-racking” yet unforgettable.
“[Signing the draft] gives you a weird feeling, like you’ve been waiting for it all your life. And you can really feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself,” she said.
Elizabeth Higgins, the Massachusetts regional relationship manager for Team IMPACT, explained that the draft was coordinated by Tufts Women’s Basketball Head Coach Carla Berube and Team IMPACT.
“We knew [coach Berube], who was looking for a Team IMPACT child, and when we met Ashanti, we knew her humor, positive energy and fighting spirit would be a perfect fit for the Jumbos,” Higgins told the Daily in an email.
Angela Alibrandi, a first-year who officially welcomed Sturgis to the team at the draft event, also noted that Sturgis’ sense of humor is a great addition to the team and her teammates are excited to have her.
“[Ashanti] has a great sense of humor. She always makes us laugh. She is another spark of life in the locker room and on the bench, cheering us on,” Alibrandi said. “She brings a lot of positive energy that I think we definitely need and look forward to have as the season goes on.”
Berube also applauded Sturgis’ positivity. Referring to Sturgis’ experience with sickness, she said that Sturgis would be a source of inspiration for the rest of the team.
“Knowing what she’s been through and what she’s had to overcome and persevere through, I think she’s an inspiration to our team and I think we are really lucky to have her,” the coach said.
Berube added that the team has gotten to know her since December and said it is enjoying her presence, citing an impromptu dance lesson that Sturgis gave her teammates during their team dinner.
“I think everybody’s very excited … It’s great having another member … as part of [the Tufts Women’s Basketball] family. So everybody on the team is thrilled to have her,” she said.
Sturgis, despite never having been part of a basketball team, said she is thrilled to be around her teammates and that her teammates have been a great help.
“What I am looking forward to the most is getting to know all the girls and all the individuals, their personalities, their likes and their dislikes,” she said. “We do a lot of activities together, like practices, games and dinner.”
She added that she hopes to provide the emotional and moral support her teammates need as the season moves forward.
“[Because of] my wittiness and my sense of humor, I can be an example [for the team] whenever they feel like they want to give up. I can tell [the teammates], ‘Look how far I’ve come since I’ve been diagnosed [with sickle cell anemia] … if I can get through all of this, you can do the same.'”