February 11, 2016

UBA holds selection trials for second season of their basketball league in Bengaluru

Last summer, the Universal Basketball Alliance of India (UBA India) introduced a unique new competition to the annual Indian basketball calendar. For two weeks in July, UBA brought together eight different teams representing major Indian cities to Hyderabad for a short-term basketball league. Although the first-of-its-kind experiment didn't attract India's cream of the crop basketball talent, it provided a strong alternative for hoop hopefuls looking for a payday in a country that still doesn't have a full-size national professional basketball league.

Boosted by the success of its first season, UBA are now set to launch Season 2 of their basketball league on February 18. In preparation for the second season, UBA held selection tryouts at the Jain International Residential School in Bengaluru earlier this week with 195 young players from all over India to form new squads before the league tips off.

Foreign trainers from the US, along with highly respected senior Indian coaches, evaluated the players on a number of parameters by putting them through a series of gruelling sessions. After selection trials in Bengaluru, this year's UBA Basketball League will be divided into two phases of games, in Pune and Hyderabad. The newly formed squads will travel to Pune for the first phase of the Pro League, to be held at the Chhattrapati Shivaji sports complex in Balewadi from February 18-28. The second & final phase will be held at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad between March 21 - April 3. UBA Season 2 will be telecast live on Ten Sports, another first in the history of Indian basketball.

Having the league in two phases allows more fans to witness the star players in action, and also gives teams time to prepare and strategise for the second phase. The eight teams from last year— Pune Peshwas, Hyderabad Sky, Chennai Slam (the reigning champions from the 2015 season) Punjab Steelers, Bengaluru Beast, Delhi Capitals, Haryana Gold and Mumbai Challengers— are back again this time around. The teams will be divided into North and South divisions, and each team will play four games: three against their division opponents and one cross-division match.

"Season 1 was about exploring possibilities and seeing what we could do to create opportunities for players," said UBA India Director Deepesh Solanki. "Now that a platform has been built, the next step is to successfully implement what we have planned."

"We are happy to see that kids are finally dreaming of being pros and having their own Indian basketball heroes to look up to. Instead of following Lebron they will now start idolising Jagdeep Singh Bains."

Bains, a former India star and mentor to Satnam Singh, was among the nine Indian players last year taken to Phoenix, Arizona in the USA by UBA India for a special basketball and fitness training programme.

The 195 players fought for 90 spots in the eight city-based teams for the league. "We have decided to reopen all the spots on the eight teams to give a fair chance to every athlete and for the coaches to take a good look at them." said Solanki, "We have been getting flooded with requests from players to join the tryouts— over 400 calls — but we could admit only around 200."

The coaches of last year’s finalist teams, Pune Peshwas and Chennai Slam, have been retained, and six new coaches for the remaining franchises will be hired. Prasanna Jayasankar, Shiba Maggon, Anthony PC, CV Sunny and Sunny Thomas are few of the respected Indian coaches roped in as part of the long term player development programmes, to ensure players are in top shape from one season to next.

"In my experience of over 30 years in basketball, this is the first time open tryouts have been held," said Jayasankar, a former Indian women’s team captain and longstanding coach, "All the boys are getting good opportunity. Anybody can come and give their best. From Indian players, to school kids, all are participating."

With the league now spreading to two cities and held over a total course of three weeks, UBA India has taken small but positive steps forward to expand their presence in Indian basketball. While Bains seems to be the marquee name in the league this time around, there is still a chance that bigger Indian stars will sign up to test their talent as the league gains traction and grows bigger. A few current and former Indian national players like Ajay Pratap Singh have already signed on for Season 2, and many more names could be revealed soon. A couple of Indian-origin players from abroad have also seen this as a boon to return to their ancestral homeland and participate in the growth of basketball here.

Let's be real, Indian kids are never going to idolise Jagdeep Singh Bains instead of LeBron James as Solanki suggested, but now, especially if the league receives good media and Ten Sports broadcast coverage, there is a chance that both of them can be idolised together!

Hoopdarshan Episode 26: NBA All Star Preview with NBA Canada's Payal Doshi

The 2016 NBA All Star Weekend is upon us, and for the first time, basketball's biggest exhibition event will take place outside the United States - in Toronto, Canada. To bring Hoopdarshan listeners closer to the event, we invited Payal Doshi, the Social Media Manager of NBA Canada, to give us a brief buzz of how Toronto has prepared for All Star. Of course, hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok give their unadulterated predictions and expectations for the All Star Weekend, too. We wrap up this episode by speaking to Payal about her experiences with Indian Basketball and reveal a big Bollywood-NBA surprise for ASW.

Toronto's own Payal Doshi is the Social Media Manager at NBA Canada. With vast experience as a writer, in TV and digital production, and social media outreach, she has worked with ANOKHI Media, The Score, OMNI Television, and more in the past. She was also the face of the famous 'Inside the Purple Room' series. You can follow her on Twitter at: @PayalDoshiTV.

The new episode of Hoopdarshan also touches on recent sobering news in Indian basketball, like the South Asian Games fiasco, and a variety of other topics in the wide breath between India and the NBA All Star Weekend, including Vince Carter tattoos, Sting, Drake, Butter Chicken, and taking Amir Johnson to the Taj Mahal.

Hoopdarshan aims to be the true voice of Indian basketball, and since we're such hopeless fans of the game, it will become the voice of everything basketball related we love, from the NBA to international hoops, too. On every episode of Hoopdarshan, we will be inviting a special guest to interview or chat to about a variety of topics. With expert insight from some of the brightest and most-involved people in the world of Indian basketball, we hope to bring this conversation to a many more interested fans, players, and followers of the game.

Make sure to follow Hoopdarshan on Soundcloud or search for 'Hoopdarshan' on the iTunes Store! Auto-sync Hoopdarshan to your preferred podcast app NOW!

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February 10, 2016

ACG-NBA Jump announces 32 Indian finalists to compete for NBA D-League tryout

Out of a field of thousands from around the country, 32 young Indian basketball players have emerged, taking one step closer to realising their dream to play in the NBA's Development League (NBDL).

Last year, Satnam Singh became the first Indian player to be drafted into the NBA, and within a few months, found his way into playing for the D-League team Texas Legends. To find more Indian players to follow in Satnam's footsteps, the NBA joined hands with ACG Worldwide in October to launch ACG-NBA Jump, the first-ever basketball talent search programme in India.

Split into three phases, the programme aims to to provide basketball players (all men for the first iteration of this programme) between the ages of 18-22 from around the country the opportunity to develop their skills; one top player from the programme would also receive the opportunity to attend the NBA Development League (NBA D-League) National Tryout in the United States. After regional, elite camps in six Indian cities over the past four months (New Delhi, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata), Phase one of the programme is over, and ACG-NBA Jump have chosen 32 finalists to head back to Delhi-NCR for phase two, a national camp to determine the cream of the crop.

Satnam was present himself back in October to launch phase one of the programme in New Delhi.

The national camp will be held in at Jaypee Greens in Greater Noida from February 22-25, 2016, consisting of 32 players representing all six regional camps. While the camp will serve as a selection process, its main activity will be to impart intensive coaching to this select group of players thus enriching the talent pool of the country, reported OneIndia.com.

Via OneIndia

"ACG-NBA Jump has given basketball playing youth in India a pathway to professional ranks. We are committed to grow the program in the years to come," said NBA India Managing Director Yannick Colaco.
"While one out of the 32 players will get the big opportunity of a national tryout in the NBA D-League, the entire pool will be a part of Elite Talent Club and NBA will monitor their progress on a regular basis."
"Promotion of sports and youth development has always been a part of ACG's CSR vision and this programme is an important milestone towards realization of this vision," said ACG Director Karan Singh.
"The final pool of players represents the very goal of the programme that was to identify and hone the untapped talent pool of basketball in India. We strongly believe that our partnership with NBA to tap this potential and create a solid platform for the aspirants has found the right beginning. We are as excited as the 32 selected players and can't wait to see the final chosen one take off to the United States for the D-League National Tryout."

At the end of the four-day camp, the player with the best prospect will emerge as the winner of the talent search. In the third and final phase of the programme, thee top player will attend the NBDL Tryout in the USA for the opportunity to earn a spot on a D-League roster. The selected player will continue to undergo training up until the tryout in June 2016.

Sony SIX, the official broadcaster of the NBA in India, will create a feature around ACG-NBA Jump, following the programme through its various stages and tracking the winner till his NBA D-league tryout.

Finalists for ACG-NBA Jump National Camp:
  • Ludhiana: Dildar Ravinder Singh, Jaipal Singh Maan, Anmol Gurdip Singh, Manjinder Singh, Anmoldeep Singh, Rajveer Singh.
  • Delhi: Darshan, Jotish Joy, Himanshu Sharma, PalPreet Singh Brar, Arshpreet Singh, Sunil, Tushar Vijay, Vishal Kumar Gupta, Akimjeet S. Sohal, Rachit Prem Singh.
  • Hyderabad: Ambati Prudhveshwar Reddy, Dinesh Kumar Mishra, Eswar Ambala, PV Nikhil Sai Kumar.
  • Mumbai: Loveneet Singh, Samson Sandhu, Gaurav Chandel, Sanket Rajendra Kalbhor, Pranav Wagle.
  • Chennai: Jeevanantham Pandi, Arjun Rajagopal, A Surya, S Vignesh, Vijay Pranav.
  • Kolkata: Allen Saju Mattam, Sagar Dinesh Joshi, Manpreet Singh Grewal.

Basketball cancelled at the 2016 South Asian Games (India sends teams anyways)

The ongoing spat between the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has led to the organizers of the 2016 South Asian Games (SAG), currently in progress in Guwahati and Shillong, to cancel the basketball tournament at the event. The games are being held from February 5-16 and the basketball tournament for Men and Women - involving seven countries including India - was initially scheduled to be held from February 11-16. The cancellation came soon after the international basketball federation FIBA de-recognized this event after IOA conducted trials for an Indian team without the BFI's approval.

Unfortunately, the biggest victims of this fiasco have been the national team players representing India and other South Asian countries. The IOA coaxed India's Men's and Women's teams to prepare for the tournament and board on a flight to Guwahati despite BFI/FIBA dissaproval, but soon after, it was announced that the SAG Organisers had cancelled the basketball tournament.

"We tried to sort the issues out and suggested different options like going ahead with the event and give away medals without the results going into record books," Games Chief Executive Officer and Sports Authority of India Director General Injeti Srinivas told reporters, "But there was no response from some quarter. So we have decided not to go ahead with basketball. It will not be held now."

Here's a timeline of how the situation in Indian basketball spiraled down to this eventuality:

The draw and schedule for the basketball tournament at the SAG had already been laid out. India's Men were drawn in a group with Maldives and Pakistan in a six-team contest, and India's Women were drawn in a group with Bhutan and Nepal in a tournament with seven participating teams. Afghanistan, the SAG Men's basketball winners from 2010, did not send a Men's team. India finished with a silver in 2010, and it is a pity that they will not get a chance to go for the gold. Another loss is that India would've gotten a chance to rekindle their rivalry with Pakistan in a new sport, as our neighbours were supposed to be participating in both the Men's and Women's divisions. Even if the tournament had taken place, any records of performances would not have officially counted in FIBA's eyes.

Good job, old bureaucrats in suits, saris, and kurtas. Your efforts have ensured that every basketball team in Asia suffers something much worse than a loss: the finality of not being able to play at all. It's a distasteful irony: the only thing keeping basketball from developing in India are people who manage basketball and Indian sport itself.

February 9, 2016

Madhya Pradesh (Boys) and Chhattisgarh (Girls) win India's 2016 Sub-Junior Basketball Championship in Puducherry

The best of India's under-14 basketball talent got together on the same platform in Puducherry for a week of exciting hoops at the 2016 National Basketball Championship for Sub-Junior Boys and Girls from February 2-8. The 42nd edition of this long-running event came to an end with two closely-contest final games on Monday, February 8th. Madhya Pradesh's boys retained their title with a heart-thumping overtime victory while Chhattisgarh Girls bounced back from their final loss at the tournament's previous edition to claim top spot again.

Organized the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the 'Sub-Jr Nationals' were held at Puducherry's Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium. A total of 23 boys' teams and 27 girls' teams from around India participated.

Chhattisgarh returned to the girls' final with an aim to recapture their spot at the top of the podium after losing to Kerala in the final at Nashik 15 months ago. Facing a strong Tamil Nadu side, Chhattisgarh started the final contest on Monday in style, rolling to a 21-8 lead early in the first quarter. While their shots were falling off, TN played tough defense to close the gap after halftime and make it just a seven point game before the final period. Behind the efforts of Elizabeth Ekka (24 points), Chhattisgarh were able to hold on to a 54-48 win and celebrate as champions. Pavithra Sree led TN with 16 in the loss.

The boys finale pitted the tournament's two best teams - Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh - against each other, and the close finish showed that the two neighbouring states had little to separate them on court, too. The final was a repeat of the tournament's previous edition, where MP had defeated Chhattisgarh in a high-scoring game to win the gold. On Monday, it was Chhattisgarh who got started off on the right foot, with hopes to overturn their bitter loss last time and double up on the success of their girls' team. In a defensive contest, Chhattisgarh held on to a 31-20 lead at halftime. But the halftime break seemed their opponents the boost they needed, and MP turned the tables on Chhattisgarh by making a big comeback to take the lead. Chhattisgarh equalized the game in the last 10 seconds of regulation at 53-53, and when time expired, the game went into overtime. MP, fueled by their second-half momentum, separated themselves from their rivals in the five extra minutes to repeat as champions, 64-59. The duo of Jeet Kharwar (21) and Brijesh Tiwari (19) walked home as the most valuable performers in the final for the winning side.

Earlier in the day, the fight for the bronze medal took place in the girls’ and boys’ categories. In the girls' 3rd place match, Maharashtra comfortably defeated Madhya Pradesh 63-36 to capture the bronze medal. In the boys’ category, Rajasthan clinched 3rd place defeating Uttar Pradesh in a close game 71-66. Despite a few late mistakes, Rajasthan held on to their slim lead to close out the game and take home the bronze medal. Rajveer’s 21 points were crucial for Rajasthan. UP's Priyanshu put up a game-high 25 points in a losing effort, while Aniket added 16.

The winning teams were awarded a cash prize of Rs. 50,000 each, while the runners up were awarded Rs. 30,000 each. The third placed teams received a cash prize of Rs. 20,000 each.

A day earlier, Chhattisgarh girls were made to sweat till the very end in a tightly-contested semi-final contest against Maharashtra. Elizabeth Ekka exploded for 30 to give Chhattisgarh an early lead, but Maharashtra bounced back behind the efforts of Shruti Bhosale (16) to take the game into the fourth quarter. Chhattisgarh showed their late-game class and nerves to edge past for a 66-61 win in the end. In the other girls' semi-final, the trio of Pavithra Sree (20), Deepa D. (18) and Hari V. (16) led Tamil Nadu to a 70-57 win over Madhya Pradesh, blowing open a close game with a huge fourth-quarter run. Rajvi Desai scored 27 for MP in the loss.

MP found more favour in the boys' semi-final game, where they had defeated Rajasthan 59-46 behind a 25 point effort by Pankaj S. Rajveer SB scored 18 for the losing side. Chhattisgarh had little trouble getting past Uttar Pradesh despite a game-high 29 points by UP's star Priyanshu. Chhattisgarh started slow, but gained momentum as the game progressed and were in complete control of the second half en route to the 70-49 win. Rishab (18) and Sajjad (16) led Chhattisgarh's scoring surge.

Final Scores
  • Girls: Chhattisgarh (Elizabeth Ekka 24, Shweta S. 13) bt Tamil Nadu (Pavithra Sree 16) 54-48 (21-8, 8-9, 9-14, 16-17).
  • Boys: Madhya Pradesh (Jeet Kharwar 21, Brijesh Tiwari 19) bt Chhattisgarh (Sajjad Ali 13) 64-59 OT (12-15, 8-16, 15-8, 18-14, 11-6)

Third/Fourth Place Games
  • Girls: Maharashtra (Suzanne 14) bt Madhya Pradesh 63-36 (21-13, 17-6, 12-11, 13-6).
  • Boys: Rajasthan (Rajveer S. 21) bt Uttar Pradesh (Priyanshu 25, Aniket 16) 71-66 (22-18, 12-11, 19-16, 18-11).

Final Standings

  • 1. Madhya Pradesh
  • 2. Chhattisgarh
  • 3. Rajasthan
  • 4. Uttar Pradesh
  • 5. Andhra Pradesh

  • 1. Chhattisgarh
  • 2. Tamil Nadu
  • 3. Maharashtra
  • 4. Madhya Pradesh
  • 5. Karnataka

February 4, 2016

FIBA Asia finalises 2016 calendar at central board meeting in New Delhi

FIBA Asia - the continent's governing body for basketball - held the second meeting of their 2014-19 Central Board in New Delhi, India, the past weekend. During the meeting, FIBA Asia finalised the basketball calendar of 2016 international events and took steps to prepare national federations for the region's flagship competition - the new FIBA Asia Cup - in 2017. The meeting was hosted by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

Until recently, the biggest Asian basketball tournament has been the biennial FIBA Asia Championship, a competition held separately for Men and Women to determine the best team in the continent and to alternatively choose the Asian representative for the Olympic Games' basketball tournament and the FIBA World Cup. But starting in 2017, the format and nomenclature is set to change. The 'FIBA Asia Championship' will now become the 'FIBA Asia Cup' and for the first time, incorporate FIBA Oceania as well to include teams like Australia and New Zealand in the same competition as China, Iran, Philippines, India, etc. The new FIBA Asia Cup will be held every four years. Meanwhile, the biennal tournament previously known as the 'FIBA Asia Cup' - which incorporates 10 best teams in Asia for a tournament - will be changed to the 'FIBA Asia Challenge' and held under it's new moniker for the first time later this year.

FIBA Asia Central Board announced the upcoming season of events, with their full schedule and host countries:
  • 2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship: Iran - July 15-24, 2016 - The competition will qualify the top three teams to the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship.
  • 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge: Iran - September 9-18, 2016 - This event is the first step in the process of identifying the qualifiers for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup.
  • FIBA Asia Champions Cup: Iran/China - October 7-16, 2016 - Featuring the top club teams in Asia.
  • 2016 FIBA Asia Women's U18 Championship: China/Thailand - November 13-20, 2016 - The competition will qualify three teams to the 2017 FIBA U19 Women's World Championship.
The Central Board also decided to set a re-worked strategy for promoting FIBA 3x3 basketball competitions in Asia. It was also at this meeting that FIBA Asia discussed the current conflict between the BFI and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). With the 12th South Asian Games basketball tournament tipping off in Guwahati, India, next week, the IOA held trials to choose Indian national teams against the BFI's wishes. Due to this, FIBA sent a letter de-recognizing the tournament altogether and asked all South Asian teams to refrain from taking part.

February 3, 2016

BFI-IOA spat: FIBA de-recognizes basketball at South Asian Games, tells teams not to participate

Welcome to the latest chapter of the a Dante's Inferno, a descent through the nine circles into Hell, otherwise known as the harrowing drama plaguing the current state of Indian Basketball.

The newest step backward? After the ongoing spat between the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) regarding which Indian team (if any) will participate in the 2016 South Asian Games (SAG) starting this week, FIBA - the international basketball association - have decided to de-recognize the basketball tournament at the SAG altogether. On Tuesday, FIBA sent a letter to all South Asian countries to refrain from sending teams to the Games' basketball event.

The letter, signed by FIBA's Secretary-General Patrick Baumann and dated on February 2nd, was sent to all national federations whose nationals teams are due to participate in the basketball competitions (Men and Women) at the South Asian Games, which are slated to be held in India (Guwahati and Shillong) from February 5-16, 2016. The national federations are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and of course, India itself. It was titled URGENT - Non-recognition of South-Asian Games basketball tournament to be held from 5 to 16 February 2016. The basketball tournament at the Games is scheduled to be held from February 11-16.

In the letter, FIBA writes:

"Please be informed that due to unacceptable interference by the Indian Olympic Association in the affairs of the Basketball Federation of India, FIBA is unable to recognise and endorse the basketball competitions of the South-Asian Games scheduled to take place form 11 to 16 February 2016.
"The Indian Olympic Association as well as the State authorities in charge of sport in India continuously fail to recognise the Basketball Federation of India duly recognised by FIBA despite the several correspondences issued by FIBA to all relevant authorities in India. Accordingly, the Indian Olympic Association has granted to an Ad-hoc Committee the authority to select the Indian national teams due to participate in this event in complete violation of FIBA's decisions and directions.
"As a result, the matter was discussed at the last FIBA Asia Board meeting held on 30 January 2015. During this meeting, the decision was unanimously taken to condemn the actions undertaken by the Indian authorities in charge of sport which in essence deprive the national basketball federation of India duly recognised by FIBA the statutory right to select and manage its national teams.
In view of the seriousness of this matter, you are therefore requested to refrain from sending any of your national teams to this basketball event."

The FIBA warning was forthcoming considering recent developments. As many of you who closely follow Indian basketball may already know, there is a major rift between two parties competing for the helm of the BFI. Due to the fact that they follow BFI constitution in forming their committee, FIBA recognized the side led by President K. Govindraj - Team Govindraj - and they have since been responsible for hosting India's recent national championships and sending teams abroad for international tournaments. But the IOA hasn't recognized Team Govindraj after appeals by the competing group led by President Poonam Mahajan: Team Mahajan. All this confusion has meant that several Indian players have been forced to choose their loyalties between one side or the other and robbed Indian basketball of its necessary cohesion.

The IOA, in consultation with the Government of India, are behind the organizing and executive committee for the planning and management of the 2016 South Asian Games. But because of the broken relationship between the IOA and the BFI, there was confusion about the trials and formation of the Indian basketball teams in the Men's or Women's divisions for the SAG. The IOA announced that they will be holding trials for the Indian teams on Saturday, January 30th, at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi. But the BFI's Team Govindraj 'shot off a warning' on SportStar at the IOA for interfering with the basketball selection trials, which are being held by the IOA outside of their legal jurisdiction. Govindraj claimed to SportStar that Team India trials have already been concluded and the team chosen, but there has been no word released (yet) of which players will actually be representing India at the SAG.

So here we are, with a drama full of characters worthy of Shakespearean or Premchandic dramas. The IOA is organizing the SAG and sending basketball teams not approved by the BFI. Meanwhile, FIBA is telling no basketball teams to go to the SAG. I would hate to be the talented Indian and South Asian basketball player - so worthy of respect and support, so thirsty for international exposure - stuck in the middle of these fighting factions.

India is the reigning runner-up of the SAG basketball trophy (we lost in 2010 in the Final to Afghanistan in Dhaka). On February 11, the 2016 SAG's basketball tournament is due to start. Will anyone show up?