Every Ohio State women’s basketball senior gets her moment at the team’s final home game — walking onto the court with her parents one last time and taking a look at her contributions from a wider perspective.
For forward Savitha Jayaraman, Senior Day comes with a few twists.
Jayaraman is the only senior walking this year. She hasn’t played this season after injuring her back early in the fall, and she started her Buckeye career as a walk-on sophomore on a depleted roster.
“From a culture aspect, I know how the team operates. I know what’s expected of everyone,” Jayaraman said. “So I’ve tried to be the team mom, if you will. I try to make sure everyone knows where they’re supposed to be and how we do things here.”
Jayaraman grew up 20 minutes from campus and attended Olentangy Liberty High School, where she once had 10 blocks in a game.
She said she garnered attention from middle-tier programs in high school but never thought she’d end up playing for Ohio State.
Though she played in just three games a year ago and none this season, Jayaraman has made a lasting impact on her team — a team with just two upperclassmen on its roster.
She’s been especially impactful off the court, where Ohio State director of player development Ericka Haney has helped Jayaraman transition during her injury rehab.
“She’s kind of been the kid that they look up to for having a voice,” Haney said. “That’s one of the things that we appreciate her for. Just having her experience and maturity level is really instrumental for our team.”
Jayaraman’s success at Ohio State hasn’t just come in the locker room. She earned an athletic scholarship after one year as a walk-on and was Academic All-Big Ten her sophomore year. Now, she has secured a merchant position in Abercrombie & Fitch’s Leadership Development Program after she graduates, when she will lead the product side of the business and manage merchandise, according to the program website.
“I knew I wanted to work in the fashion world. I love fashion, and I have my business degree, so I felt like that would be a good combination of my interests and my knowledge,” Jayaraman said.
Jayaraman said traits learned through basketball such as hard work and dedication transfer effortlessly into the corporate world. She credited Ohio State’s Eugene D. Smith Leadership Institute, a resource for student-athletes to prepare for life after college started by athletic director Gene Smith, with helping her find the opportunity with Abercrombie & Fitch.
Maddy McIntyre, director of the institute, said Jayaraman’s drive for success helped her stand out as a student-athlete.
“The way that she’s been able to be involved and really take advantage of her resources, Savitha is really special,” McIntyre said. “Because there are resources that are available for all student-athletes, but not all of them take advantage of the resources.”
As a former three-time Ohio State softball captain, McIntyre knows the importance of leadership on and off the court.
“Senior leadership is something that is hard to put into words how important that is, and I think the example that Savitha has been able to set for that program is really important,” McIntyre said.
On a roster where the top seven scorers are freshmen and sophomores, Jayaraman has contributed more than just basketball advice.
“I think our younger kids can see the importance of being a student-athlete and having a vision of what you want to do afterwards,” Haney said. “So some of our younger kids can see now, like, ‘Hey, that internship, maybe it’s important that I take that more seriously.’ She gives them the ability to look ahead and say, ‘Hey, we can start being more serious about what we want to do.’”
Jayaraman isn’t looking too far ahead just yet. She said her favorite memories at Ohio State include winning the Big Ten Tournament her junior year, scoring in an NCAA tournament game and attending the football game against Michigan her freshman year.
“I have great memories. I’ve met people that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet without basketball. I’ve gotten to travel a lot to places I won’t go again, places I wouldn’t have gone,” Jayaraman said. “It’s kind of been a crazy journey.”
Jayaraman will be honored at the Ohio State women’s basketball Senior Day Feb. 25, when the Buckeyes take on Northwestern at 6 p.m.