Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information
MEDFORD, Mass. - Ashanti Sturgis, a courageous 15-year old girl from Cambridge, Massachusetts, was drafted by the Tufts University women's basketball team on January 3 at the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center.
Ashanti and the team were connected through Team IMPACT, a non-profit organization which works to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses by pairing them with collegiate athletic teams. Ashanti was diagnosed in 2002 with Sickle Cell Anemia, a condition in which there aren't enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout your body.
Through Team IMPACT's program at Tufts, Ashanti is the Jumbos' top recruit this year and has become an official member of the women's basketball team. She has already hung out with the team a few times prior to the draft and has sat on the bench for two Tufts games. Ashanti will continue to attend Jumbo practices, games, team dinners, events, and more.
At the draft event, Ashanti was treated like a celebrity upon her arrival at the Tisch Center. The team fashioned its own "red carpet" for her to ascend the stairs to the draft location while several guests gave her a warm greeting.
Tufts first-year Angela Alibrandi stood at the podium to begin the draft festivities by welcoming Ashanti, her mother Audrey and her sister Ashayla. Team IMPACT representatives Elizabeth Higgins and Carolyn Murphy were also introduced.
"Tufts is really where Team IMPACT began," Murphy said, "so to be back here again for another draft, letting us be a part of the Jumbo family, is very special."
Friends as students at Tufts in the late 1980s, Jay Calnan, Kris Herman, Dan Kraft, Robert Tishman and Dan Walsh helped found Team IMPACT.
Jumbo women's basketball coach Carla Berube then welcomed Ashanti and her family, saying, "Our team is all about family, and we're very excited to have you become part of our family. You've already shown us the positive energy and toughness that you have day in and day out. We want you to know that we're here for you whenever you may need us to do the same for you."
Ashanti then signed a letter of intent officially making her a Jumbo. The team presented her with some Jumbo gear and then capped the event by engaging in a spirited game of rock-paper-scissors which displayed the fun and supportive nature of the team that Ashanti has joined.
She is the women's basketball team's second Team IMPACT teammate. Billerica's Shannon Curley, who joined the Jumbos in 2013, recently graduated out of the program. Building upon a partnership that began in 2011, Ashanti is one of 12 Team IMPACT teammates who have been drafted by the Jumbos. Learn more about the organization at http://www.goteamimpact.org/.