January 31, 2015

Hundreds join 'Indian Basketball Coaches Network' by Team India Head Coach Scott Flemming

Basketball knowledge is like osmosis: the right chemistry can truly bring about some positive change and help spread the science of the game from one coaching mind to another. And through this beautiful hoops osmosis, basketball techniques and philosophies can be exponentially passed on to greater and greater numbers.

But the sharing of the knowledge first needs organization and a network, and in India, this is exactly what Team India Head Coach Scott Flemming is setting out to achieve. Flemming was hired two and a half years ago by the Basketball Federation of India chiefly to serve as the Head Coach of the National Men's team, a job that he has performed so far by breaking several historic precedents. Flemming has helped the squad win gold medal at last year's Lusofonia Games and perform wonders at the FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan by defeating China for the first time ever.

Flemming's work in India also diverts in another crucial direction: the training and teaching of Indian basketball coaches, who will in turn be responsible for helping to prepare the majority of India's young players and coaches for a career in the game. Over the last few years, Flemming has been conversing with several Indian coaches, answering their questions, and attending camps in various states and cities around the country. Now, to improve the conversation between himself and the state/city coaches around the country as well as to share expert knowledge between them, Flemming has introduced the Indian Basketball Coaches Network (IBCN). So far, the IBCN has close to 300 coaches and Flemming hopes that many more will join in the near future.

"After viewing many games I have some messages that I would like suggest to [coaches] to improve their teams and grow basketball in India," Flemming told me via email, "I also want the IBCN to be interactive where the coaches can respond and even make their own suggestions."

In 2012, Flemming came to India with 30 years of coaching experience, mostly at top college programmes in the US. He last served as an assistant coach to the NBA’s Development League side Texas Legends.

In his most recent correspondence, Flemming discussed the philosophies and approaches required to help foster a better 'Team-First' mentality to the game. "I want to make the point that that every player on the team is important and they all deserve our respect," he wrote, "Obviously there are your top players that merit more playing time and are given more freedom based on their abilities. However, each member should be valued the same." He also used some practical ideas from former NBA Coach Del Harris (who attended the Indian Senior Nationals last February) with the coaches.

"The feedback has been great so far," Flemming told me, "I have heard from many coaches expressing their appreciation for this new initiative."

Photo courtesy: Ekalavyas.com
Flemming added that he hopes to share about a variety of subjects in the future that he feel are important for coaches, such as, practice organization, motivating players, systems of play, etc. "I will also make sure to deal with the subjects that the coaches are asking for," he added.

However, communication barriers - such as language - can always be a challenge. "I am hoping that there will be people to translate on the other end if needed," said Flemming, "We may also explore someone else repeating my messages in Hindi or another language if needed for our coaches in different locations."

In the future, Flemming added, he is also hoping that the IBCN involves the views of Indian coaches more to become a basketball forum.

"My ultimate goal would be to improve basketball in India," said Flemming, "This is just another tool that could have an effect on this growth if coaches will allow it to. From the beginning I have expressed that I am here to help in anyway I can. I don’t have all the answers but I do have experience that I believe can assist in developing our teams and our individual players. It is more than just strategy. I am always looking for ways that we can help each other grow in our profession. One of our main responsibilities as coaches is to help our players reach their full potential in basketball and more importantly in their personal lives."

Interested coaches who wish to join the IBCN can email and request Flemming on: coachesnetwork@indiabasketball.org

January 30, 2015

WNBA star Tamika Catchings tips off Jr. NBA Championship in Mumbai

WNBA and Olympic basketball champion Tamika Catchings is in India this week, and she was present to tip off the Mumbai city championship of the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Programme at the Dominic Savio School in Andheri East on Wednesday, January 28th. The city championship marked the culmination of an eight-week program that took place in 185 schools across the city, including 100 MCGM schools.

More Than 940,000 youth from 1,000 schools have participated in the RF Jr. NBA programme since it was launched in 2013. NBA and Reliance Foundation have distributed 15,000 basketballs and 300 hoops to schools in India over the last few years.

“It is great to see such enthusiasm for basketball among Indian youth,” said Catchings at the city championship, “The joint effort between Reliance Foundation and the NBA has provided students the opportunity to learn the game and the important life lessons that come with it.”

Catchings (35) has enjoyed a highly successful basketball career. Drafted third by the Fever in 2001, the forward has spent her entire WNBA career with Indiana, leading the team to their first championship in 2012. Catchings is a five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, nine-time All Star, the 2012 Finals MVP, and won Rookie of the Year in 2002. At the international stage, she has played an important role for USA, winning the women's basketball Olympics gold medal the last three times (2004, 2008, and 2012) and the women's world championship gold medal twice. Catchings has also played for clubs in Russia, Poland, and Turkey.

In the RF Jr. NBA programme, youth players across Mumbai have learned the game through in-school sessions, clinics, and competitions. The city championship included a 5x5 team competition featuring the top eight boys and girls teams from across the city; a 3x3 team competition featuring more than 450 teams; and the Finals of the Hot Shot individual shooting competition, which saw one boy and one girl crowned the best shooters in the city.

Catchings is now headed to Chennai to host the inauguration of the RF Jr. NBA Championship in that city.

January 29, 2015

Vlade Divac headlines international basketball stars of FIBA's Players' Commission

Regardless of the media hype and talent that is associated with NBA basketball in North America, the folks who really run the sport are located in the little town of Mies in Switzerland. The Fédération Internationale de Basket-ball, or FIBA, define the rules of basketball and, host the major international basketball events, and comprise of the game's governing body. Secretary General Patrick Baumann and President Horacio Muratore are two of the top officials running the hoops world.

But basketball isn't played by officials, it's played by players. And rightfully so, the players have their own FIBA Players' Commission, a committee whose responsibility is to represent all players - men, women and youth - across all types of basketball in the world. The new FIBA Players' Commission board members (for the term of 2014-19) were announced by FIBA yesterday and will be headlined by chairman Vlade Divac. Divac, an international and NBA legend from Serbia, has won two FIBA Basketball World Cups and three EuroBaskets. He was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2010. Divac played in the NBA for the Lakers, Hornets, and Kings, and made the 2001 NBA All Star team. Last September, he became the first-ever players representative and as such serves on the 26-member FIBA Central Board.

The FIBA Players' Commission has 14 spots, 13 of which have been named with one spot from the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) still to follow. Aside of Divac, the other players on the list include Philippines' veteran guard Jimmy Alapag, WNBA and three-time Olympic Champion from USA Katie Smith, and more. Alapag is the only representative from Asia in the Commission.

See the full list of the international basketball stars chosen for the current FIBA Players' Commission here.

January 24, 2015

Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive to join Barack Obama in trip to India

On Sunday, US President Barack Obama will land in India for a historic three-day trip, becoming the first American president to attend India's Republic Day parade in New Delhi. In the process, he will also become the first sitting US president to make two official visits to India. Aside from being the special guest on the parade on January 26, Obama is set to hold meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, help to warm diplomatic ties between two of the world's largest democracies, take part in a bilateral radio show, and even visit the Taj Mahal in Agra.

But that's not all: Obama is set to be joined by several CEOs from top US companies to India, including Vivek Ranadive, the India-born CEO of TIBCO and the majority owner of the Sacramento Kings.

This is going to be Ranadive's second trip since becoming a majority NBA owner: Ranadive came to India in early December with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and former NBA star Vlade Divac to attend events of the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme and charity programmes in his former hometown, Mumbai. Ranadive has been hoping to gain another audience with Modi since the two met during Modi's trip to New York in September; in an interview with me before his last visit to India, Ranadive mentioned that he was interested in discussing future projects - such as readying an NBA ready arena for India - with the Indian prime minister.

According to Forbes, the delegation of business chiefs visiting India with President Obama include Ajay Banga of Mastercard, Dave Cote of Honeywell, Bob Iger of Disney, Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, Arne Sorenson of Marriott, and Ranadive.

Via Forbes.com

But the presence of the corporate captains the White House hustled to recruit for the mission indicates the economic stakes. Warming diplomatic ties between the world’s oldest democracy and its largest are encouraging American companies seeking expanded access to India’s $2 trillion economy.
Modi is pushing to make his country friendlier to foreign investment with new incentives and regulatory reforms. He unveiled a “Make in India” campaign in September aimed at promoting the country as a manufacturing haven. And the US and India are chasing a five-fold increase in bilateral trade, to $500 billion, by 2020.

It's obviously encouraging to see improving relations between India and the USA, and having top US businessmen added to the trip will add to India's growing prestige as a business and investment destination. Ranadive may be visiting in official capacity as TIBCO CEO, but of course, he'll probably use this opportunity to pitch the growth of a future relationship between India, the NBA, and the Sacramento Kings.

January 22, 2015

WNBA and international superstar Tamika Catchings to visit India for Jr. NBA city championships

One of the most successful WNBA and international basketball players of the past decade, American Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever is set to visit India next week to host the inauguration of the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA city championships in Chennai and Mumbai. Catchings will tip off Chennai's Jr. NBA Championship on February 1st at the Santhome School which will see youth from schools all across the city participate. She will also be at the Dominic Savio School in Andheri East in Mumbai on January 28th.

“It is an honor to travel to India on behalf of the Reliance Foundation and the NBA to help teach basketball to young boys and girls in India,” said Catchings. “It is exciting that the sport I love is taking off in India and I am looking forward to working with these kids.”

Catchings (35) has enjoyed a highly successful basketball career. Drafted third by the Fever in 2001, the forward has spent her entire WNBA career with Indiana, leading the team to their first championship in 2012. Catchings is a five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, nine-time All Star, the 2012 Finals MVP, and won Rookie of the Year in 2002. At the international stage, she has played an important role for USA, winning the women's basketball Olympics gold medal the last three times (2004, 2008, and 2012) and the women's world championship gold medal twice. Catchings has also played for clubs in Russia, Poland, and Turkey.

Catchings will be the third big name WNBA player to visit India over the last four years, following 2x champion Katie Smith in 2011 and 3x champion Swin Cash in 2013.

The Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA city Championship marks the culmination of three competitions that have been taking place across the city. There will be a finals of the 5x5 team competition featuring the top eight boys and girls teams from across the city; a 3x3 team competition featuring over 150 teams; and the finals of the Hot Shot individual shooting competition, which will see one boy and girl crowned as the best shooters in the city.

January 21, 2015

Poonam Mahajan becomes the first woman president of Maharashtra State Basketball Association

Poonam Mahajan - a Member of Parliament from Mumbai North Central and a politician of the BJP - was voted in unanimously as the new president of the Maharashtra State Basketball Association (MSBA) during the Annual General Meeting of the association on Sunday, January 18th. Mahajan becomes the first women to be MSBA president in the association's 65-year history, reported The Times of India.

Mahajan succeeds outgoing MSBA president Jaidev Shroff to the post, who now becomes the MSBA's chairman. The previous chairman of the MSBA was M Venkatesh.

Mahajan told The Times of India that her plans for the MSBA include providing support for the players and improving basketball infrastructure in the state.

"It is quite amazing to see basketball being played across all villages in Maharashtra. Basketball has been my favourite sport since childhood and I am very fortunate to lead MSBA," she said.

"The challenges are enormous but with my experience, I will be able to meet them. It will be my endeavour to take the game to even greater heights with the help of all my colleagues in MSBA."

Maharashtra has some of the richest basketball culture in all of the country, featuring well-organized district, state, college, and school tournaments as well as playing host to some of India's best national invitational tournaments, like the Savio Cup and the Ramu Memorial Basketball Tournament. Kudos to Mahajan for breaking a gender barrier in the MSBA fraternity, but how much sense does it make to hand someone with no basketball playing/operational experience (except for it being her "favourite" sport) to lead the basketball association of the entire state?

Basketball in Maharashtra has not been without its turmoil over the past year. In November, the MSBA faced protest from several district associations from the state in the form of a letter requesting for a removal of MSBA officials for causing irregularities, miscommunication, and the misuse of power. That letter was sent to the media by Shatrughan Gokhale, the secretary of the Nagpur District Basketball Association. After the most recent AGM on Sunday, Gokhale was named one of the five vice-presidents of the MSBA.

January 20, 2015

Madras University are crowned India university champions at 2015 UBA national men's tournament

When 16 of the best university basketball teams in India gather together on the same court, fireworks are guaranteed. And for the past week in Chennai, fireworks were delivered. The UBA All India Inter University Basketball Tournament for Men was held at the Sathyabama University in Chennai from January 12-19 as the conclusion of the world's largest combined basketball tournament . The national final was an 'All Chennai' affair, as hosts Sathyabama faced off against local rivals Madras University on Monday. Madras University that emerged as national university champions with an inspired 81-64 victory.

The Universal Basketball Alliance of India (UBA) has acquired the broadcast, merchandise and sponsorship rights to the existing, and self-governing Indian University Basketball Program of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU). The UBA worked on securing television broadcasting arrangements, corporate sponsorships for tournament play, and creating merchandising opportunities at the tournament. They have focused their attention on the AIU and popularizing its All India Inter Zonal Tournament in the same manner as the Collegiate Basketball in the USA. In their first year as organizers of the tournament, the UBA invited star former Indian athlete Anju Bobby George, former NBA All Star Cedric Ceballos and Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan as special guests.

Four teams that finished tops in each of the North, South, East, and West Zones in India were invited to this tournament to compete for the national crown.

The battle of the Chennai city rivals at the final on Monday was a rematch of the South Zone championships finale, where Sathyabama had defeated Madras University just ten days earlier. Satyhabama seemed on course for another victory after they got off to a blistering 13-2 start to begin the game. But Madras University turned the corner after a quick timeout to get on top and hold on to a slim four-point lead at halftime. Behind the dominant post play of Jeevanatham P. (26 points, 10 rebounds) and forward N Nagaraj (20 points, 14 rebounds), Madras took complete control of the second half and raced to a 81-64 win. Anto Bethle added 19 for the winning side. Satyhabama were led by Arun Prashanth (19) and Rakesh (17 points, 16 rebounds) in the loss.

Earlier in the day, the bronze medal game was an offensive explosive between Jain University (Bengaluru) and Bharati Vidyapeeth University (Pune). Kapil Gaikwad, representing the Pune side, scored 48 points to lead all high scorers as Bharati had an 16-point lead earlier in the game. But Jain's 'Big Three' of Kaif Zia (36 points 14 rebounds), Yashas R. (31), and Vinoth (25) sparked an inspired second-half comeback to help their team win 123-115 in the entertaining clash. Bharati's Akshay Bhosle also scored 36 for his team in the loss.

Bollywood actor and basketball enthusiast Abhishek Bachchan was the chief guest at the final and handed over the trophies and medals to the teams. On the occasion, he said “Basketball is growing rapidly and is going to be the biggest sport in this country. The Universal Basketball Alliance will continue to have my full support in this great initiative to promote basketball in India.”

Former NBA All Star and slam dunk champion Cedric Ceballos was also a guest at the opening of the tournament along with star Indian athlete Anju Bobby George. Ceballos, who played 11 years in the NBA with memorable stints at the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers, was also a judge at the UBA national championship's dunk contest.

This Inter-Zonal All-India University Annual Tournament is the most comprehensive on the planet, as it encompasses nearly 10,000 colleges. “It is an honour to be here,” said Ceballos at the opening ceremopny. “This is a challenge for passion, this is a challenge for teamwork, and it is also an opportunity for dreams to come true.”