Credit: Kayla Stuart | Mustang News, 2023

The Cal Poly’s Women’s Basketball team is full of friendships, but the on and off-the-court friendship between sophomore point guards Annika Shah and Jazzy Anousinh is clear.

The pairing met during their freshman year on the team, but originally it was Shah who reached out to Anousinh to be roommates through Instagram, and Anousinh said no.

Little did they know, however, they would become close friends as neighbors in the on-campus Cerro Vista apartments. 

“Being with each other in summer and living right next to each other in Cerro we instantly connected,” Shah said. 

Over the last two years, they have spent plenty of time together on and off the court. According to them, that quality time isn’t limited to the pairing.

“Our whole [sophomore] class is super close, we are a little group,” Anousinh said.

With this personal connection off the court, Anousinh and Shah said this makes their basketball connection even stronger. Oftentimes in practice, they are able to push each other thanks to that friendship and their shared competitive spirits.

“I think it’s cool because we usually guard each other, so we are very competitive,” Shah said. “It’s cool to have a friendship that pushes you to be the best.”

In the first year under head coach Shanele Stires, the duo has seen plenty of playing time together, as they both are averaging about 25 minutes per game as members of the starting lineup. 

“They’re a little Batman [and] Robin-like,” Stires said. “Jazzy and Annika have a great relationship because it’s one built on a lot of trust and mutual respect.”

Their chemistry is apparent, as their different styles of play complement each other well. 

“Our games are slightly different, but kind of the same,” Shah said. “We both work off each other well. Jazz is a great attacker and I like to spot up shots, so she will create and then find me on the three-point line. Our games go hand-in-hand.”

Coach Stires echoed this sentiment, acknowledging their differences in personalities and how that plays into their on-the-court success.

“Jazzy is a little bit more outgoing and more of a true point guard, whereas Annika is more of a scoring guard and she has more of a skill,” Stires said. “Jazzy is controlling the offense and is getting the ball to where it needs to go.”

When asked about their favorite moment on the court this season, they agreed that the win over Fresno State where Shah hit a game-winning layup was the highlight. 

“I think anytime you are in late-game situations, especially historically and knowing that the team a season ago struggled at times getting over that hump, it was an epic moment for them to gain confidence,” Stires said. 

Off the court, the point guards have found a bond through TikTok. They send videos to each other, with Shah sending the comedy-based ones and Anousinh handling the dance videos.

“Jazz will find the dances and send them to me and will expect me to learn them,” Shah said. “I really have to lock it, it’s like how we are on the court.” 

Stires said this off-the-court chemistry from players like Shah and Anousinh has helped contribute to the culture of the team as a whole, which could lead to more success.

“They have been really wonderful with how they have bought into the team culture,” Stires said. “That is something we have worked really hard at and our coaching staff brings a lot of energy, and that has inspired and motivated the young ladies.”

After being recruited under former head coach Faith Mimnaugh, there was a chance that the transition to Stires’s program would have been a difficult one for the pairing and the roster as a whole. However, according to Anousinh, the shift has strengthened the team.

“It’s a completely new culture this year, and we have gone through a lot together,” Anousinh said. “Coach pushes us past our limits and going through that with your teammates brings us a lot closer, and our bonds have grown a lot more than we thought they could’ve.”

The team is currently in the midst of their season, with room to display their efforts and unique dynamic.

“We have another gear we would like to find and I think it starts with doubling down on the things we have been training for so far,” Stires said.