Super Girl - Solanji
Represented Sri Lanka Basketball team - 2005 to
Represented Sri Lanka Youth and Schools team -
2005 to 2009
Best Player Sri Lanka Schools - Under 15, Under
17 and Under 19
Basketball Colours for Zonal Education
Division - 2004 to 2009
Basketball Milo Colours - 2006
Netball Milo Colours - 2008
Time has been stopped. She can almost hear the beat of her heart as
she bounces the ball twice. There is a deafening silence in the
Peradeniya Indoor Basketball Stadium, as the two hundred - strong
audience watches her with bated breath. With scores tied at 66-all,
Solanji has the matching-winning free throw in her hand.
She can almost hear her team-mates whispering prayers as they tap her
for good luck and take their places around the D for the rebound.
As she lifts the ball to take aim, all thoughts leave her mind. In
that non-perishable moment in her memory, with one hundred percent
concentration, the ball leaves her hand and... as her fingers drop, the
ball swishes into the basket.
The stadium erupts as the ball comes into play and the whistle blows
for the game to end. Solanji Gunawijeya has won the match for her team -
Colombo Schools - in the Colombo Schools Vs Sri Lanka Schools encounter
This is only one of the many such cherished memories in eighteen year
old Solanji Gunawijeya’s basketball career which spans almost half her
life. Towering Solanji, at five feet nine inches was recently judged the
Most Valuable Player of the Under 19 All Island Public Schools
This bubbly teenager breezes towards us like a breath of fresh air,
in her National T-shirt and track pants, with a radiant smile and a
two-page long list of achievements.
She started playing basketball and netball at the age of 9 for St.
Joseph’s Girls High School, Nugegoda. Solanji is a National Netball
player though she wants to give it up shortly. She played GD (Goal
Defense) for the National team in 2008.
There is no glory in netball. You wait for others to make things
happen while in basketball you have as much opportunity as anyone else,’
is how she thinks.
‘I practise basketball everyday,’ Solanji says, brimming with
confidence. She loves the time she spends on the court which is from 4
p.m. to about 8.30 p.m. on all week days. She says her coach Ajit
Kuruppu is very strict about the ‘chit-chatting’ during practices and
often punishes them with squats and push-ups.
But being girls, life is also about chatting and gossiping, so they
often take the punishment and continue their chatter, especially during
off-season practices. Being the youngest and only school girl on the
National team, she enjoys learning skills of basketball and of life,
from the older National players who are mostly Josephian alumni and whom
she fondly calls ‘akkis’.
Most of the ‘akkis’ work in banks now and that is where she wants to
go to as well. ‘I can play mercantile basketball and earn a living too
but I really have not given much thought to the future. The present is
full of so many things to do,’ she says. ‘I am the youngest player on
the national team but the oldest on the school team and I enjoy scolding
the juniors to get the best out of them.’ Captain Solanji says.
The juniors are fond of her but in great awe as well. Solanji has a
big fan club in her school and she enjoys the text messages that they
send her every time that the team wins a match and that, is fairly
The champion under 19 St. Joseph’s Girls School team 2009.
A first year A level student of St. Joseph’s, Solanji’s chosen
subjects are Economics, Sinhala and Drama. I find Drama easy while the
other two are very hard to cope with when I want to spend all my time
playing basketball,’ she says.
Her mother wakes her up everyday at four am to study. ‘I am not crazy
about studying, I’d rather come to school and play basketball,’ she
Solanji Gunawijeya has learnt patience and confidence while playing
basketball matches. Her advice to all basketball players - “When your
team is behind, the idea is not to fret and struggle but to be patient.
Think and play. More than anything practise very hard - especially
shooting, because at the end of the game it’s the baskets that count.”
Solanji’s family of one younger sister (also a basketball player) and
parents are all very supportive of her basketball career as her current
goal is to set a national record of some kind in basketball.
Along with basketball has come the development of a great
personality, close friendships on and off the court and a sense of
honour and sportsmanship. Here is one girl whose life has more meaning
because of an all consuming passion