May 25, 2017

India’s Junior Boys and Girls teams all set to participate in the FIBA 3x3 U18 Asia Cup 2017 in Malaysia

Continuing to ride the wave of the growing popularity of 3x3 basketball, India have sent their junior boys and girls squads to Cyberjaya, Malaysia, to take part in the third edition of the FIBA 3x3 U18 Asia Cup 2017. The tournament will be held between 26-28 May and will see 32 teams (16 each for men and women) competing to be crowned Asia’s best.

India have a strong history at this tournament. At the very first FIBA Asia U18 3x3 held in Thailand in 2013, India's boys and girls both came home with silver medals. However, India didn't play in last year's edition of this tournament, which was won by Qatar (Boys) and Japan (Girls).

India will be starting from a point of disadvantage this time around, as both our boys and girls teams have to go through a qualifying round first before being eligible to make it to the group stage of the championship. The men will be going up against Turkmenistan and Lebanon while the women will face Chinese Taipei and Turkmenistan. If the teams were to top their pool and qualify, the men will be placed in pool with defending champions Qatar while the women would be placed in a pool against Japan – an Asian powerhouse, who also are the defending champs.

Boys Qualifying Draw 1: Turkmenistan, India, Lebanon.
Girls Qualifying Draw 1: Turkmenistan, India, Chinese Taipei.

India’s Schedule [Timings in IST]

  • 26-05-17: India (14) vs Lebanon (15) (8:05 am)
  • 26-05-17: India (14) vs Turkmenistan (8) (8:45 am)

  • 26-05-17: India (14) vs Turkmenistan (15) (8:25 am)
  • 26-05-17: India (14) vs Chinese Taipei (15) (9:05 am)

The matches can be streamed live on FIBA 3x3’s YouTube channel. The link:

The selection trial for this event was held on 21st April 2017 at the National Basketball Academy – Indore, Madhya Pradesh. Former Olympian Dilip Gurumurthy of Karnataka will be leading the boys while girls are being led by Indian Railways’ Jeena Zachariah. "The tournament is going to be a great learning experience for our players. We hope that the exposure they get due to such opportunities help them develop their game and become better as players," said Gurumurthy. "We have been seeded against two of the better teams (Turkmenistan and Chinese Taipei) of the tournament. We aim to give it our best and hope to qualify for Pool C," said Zachariah.

India's Squads for 2017 FIBA 3x3 U18 Asia Cup

  • Bhagyansh Gulati
  • Prashant Tomar
  • Prince Pal Singh
  • Sejin Mathew
  • Coach: Dilip Gurumurthy

  • Ishwarya Janardhanan
  • Sreekala Rani
  • Vaishnavi Yadav
  • Harshitha Kelttira Bopaiah
  • Coach: Jeena Zachariah

May 24, 2017

India win 5th consecutive SABA Championship in Maldives; qualify for 2017 FIBA Asia Cup

We came. We saw. We conquered. And we qualified.

Photo credit:  Basketball Federation of India
With four resounding victories in four games, India's Senior Men's national basketball team won their fifth consecutive title at the South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) Basketball Championship, held in Male, Maldives, from May 19-23. The victory qualified India for the real test ahead: the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup - the biggest basketball competition in Asia - in August.

Led by head coach Sappaniambalam Baskar, captained by Akilan Pari, and under the leadership of star players Amritpal Singh and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, India sent a squad with a strong mix of youth and experience to Maldives last week. The big stars, as they have done so often in recent years, delivered for the team in comfortable wins over neighbouring South Asian nations.

India's campaign began in style against the hosts Maldives, rushing off to a 22-3 lead in the first quarter and keeping their foot on the accelerator throughout the game to double their opponents' score in the 84-42 win. Amritpal Singh, India's starting center and one of the best big men in Asia, posted a game high 25 points to go with 8 rebounds.

Photo credit:  Basketball Federation of India
Amritpal was on fire in Game 2 a couple of days later against arguably the second-strongest team in South Asia, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka gave India their closest competition in the tournament, but a double digit halftime lead ensured that India were still in complete command of things. Amritpal had 28 points and 16 rebounds while star guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi added 26 with 10 assists to beat the Lankans 88-61. Thammitage Perera had 18 in a losing effort for the Sri Lanka.

India's most impressive win was a day later against Bangladesh, who were defeated by a resounding 71 points. India was incredible from the start, starting with a 36-9 advantage in the first quarter and never looking back. Amritpal once again led all scorers with 22 to help India win 142-71, doubling their opponents' scoreline once again. The duo of Kumar Biswas Mithun (25) and Khan Md. Shamsuzzaman (22) put up a valiant fight for Bangladesh in the loss.

There were no let-ups in India's final contest against Nepal on the last day of the tournament on Tuesday. Unlike the previous three games, India relied more on their backcourt this time around, and were led by Bhriguvanshi (22) and Anil Kumar BK (16). India held a 45-12 halftime lead and cruised their way to a 90-44 victory.

Photo credit:  Basketball Federation of India
The victory gave India a perfect 4-0 record in the round-robin tournament and top spot in the SABA zone once again. For his dominant performances, Amritpal Singh was named MVP of the championship.

India now have about two and a half months to prepare for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, set to be held in Lebanon from August 8-20. The team will be hoping that a few more big names, like Amjyot Singh, Palpreet Singh, and Satnam Singh can be in the mix and perhaps give us our deepest roster ever.

May 21, 2017

For The Future

The NBA opened a first-of-its-kind Academy in India. We spoke to Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum to find out why.

I originally wrote this article for SLAM Magazine's website on May 11, 2017. Read the original feature on here.

In only his second year as the NBA’s Deputy Commissioner, Mark Tatum shook hands with history. And those hands, he says, were so large that his own palms completely disappeared.

Tatum was on stage at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to call the 52nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, a little-known 7-1 giant out of Punjab. That young man, Satnam Singh, turned out to be the first Indian player ever to be drafted into the NBA. “I was so thrilled to be a part of that,” says Tatum, “to know that I’ll be part of that history.”

Tatum—and the NBA—haven’t stopped shaking hands with India since. Last summer, he visited the country with Robin Lopez and Seth Curry to attend a Jr. NBA Elite Camp in Noida, a city close to the country’s capital, New Delhi. Tatum is back in the country, helping the NBA launch its most-ambitious investment in India yet: an elite basketball academy where the League will develop top young male and female prospects from around the country. The NBA’s hope is that the results will pay off longterm to build a stronger basketball culture in the country.

On Tuesday, the NBA announced the official opening of NBA Academy India at the Jaypee Greens Integrated Sports Complex in Greater Noida. Twenty-one elite male prospects, who were selected following a three-month, nationwide basketball talent search, will receive scholarships and training the first-of-its-kind academy.

The NBA says that the Academy in India will employ a holistic, 360-degree approach to player development with focuses on education, leadership, character development and life skills.

The official opening of NBA Academy India follows the launch of academies in Hangzhou, Jinan and Ürümqi, China; Thies, Senegal; and the planned launch of NBA Global Academy in Canberra, Australia. The Academies include educational development for top international male and female prospects and mark the NBA’s most significant investment in elite player development.

While the Academy will serve to the top-of-the-line prospects in the country, the NBA has taken steps to reach deep into the grassroots to make basketball more ubiquitous around India. Over the last few years, the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program has trained millions of young players and instructors. The NBA also launched an ‘NBA Basketball School’ earlier this year in Mumbai, with plans to open more in the near future.

We caught up with Tatum over the phone from Mumbai earlier this week to discuss the ambitions for the Academy, the challenges and opportunities presented by India, and more.

SLAM: What has been your very first impression of India and of the basketball talent available for the NBA Academy?

Mark Tatum: My first impression was that the players had a true understanding of the game, and I was impressed by their willingness and desire to learn. I remember Seth [Curry] was teaching them how to shoot and Robin [Lopez] was taking them through drills. I remember vividly a couple of big, young gentlemen listening intently to what Robin had to say. They had knowledge and a passion to want to get better.

SLAM: Cricket is India’s most important sport and basketball is still not popular in the mainstream—no India-born player has played in the NBA. Why did the NBA show so much interest in India and choose to invest in this massive venture?

MT: India has 1.3 billion people. We think it has the potential to be the next China for the NBA. I had the opportunity to call out Satnam Singh’s name as the 52nd pick in the draft—I think it was inspiring and will inspire more Indian kids to play. The sport is really growing in popularity here. Our Jr. NBA program reached six million youth and we have taught five thousand physical education teachers since 2013. We have seven million Facebook fans from India, and that number is growing at a rapid pace.

This Academy is really the next step in helping to develop elite talent in the marketplace by providing best-in-class training and development. For us, it’s a longterm opportunity and investment.

SLAM: Many in India believe that the best-case scenario is to follow that China model. The two countries have similarly large populations and potential, and if India can get a breakthrough like Yao, it would be huge for basketball and NBA in the country. But what do you think India can offer to the basketball world that perhaps differs from any other model?

MT: India is unique in the size of its middle-class population and how young the demographic is. In terms of basketball, China is a very mature basketball market: they have been playing the sport for over a hundred years. The game was brought there in the early 1900s! For us, the opportunity in India is to get more younger kids and more instructors teaching basketball, playing in schools and having a younger demographic who likes action. These youngsters are multi-talented. They are engaged in digital and mobile activities, which the NBA is perfectly suited for.

SLAM: The Academy aims to employ a “holistic, 360-degree approach to player development with focuses on education, leadership, character development, and life skills.” Why has the NBA chosen to taken this additional responsibility for youth development outside the basketball court?

MT: We believe basketball and sport have benefits beyond the sport. Life lessons from team sports, specifically basketball, can help improve individuals and society. The lessons that I learned growing up playing basketball and baseball growing up were: how to be a good teammate, how to respect others, the values of hard work, that if you work hard at something you can get better at it. You learn how to overcome adversity and learn how to lose too. For us it’s about more than basketball on the court – there can be really valuable life lessons that individuals learn from the game.

SLAM: There are already NBA Academies in China, Africa, and Australia. Many of them follow the NBA’s basic curriculum and philosophy in coaching and player development. Each culture is different, and India obviously has its own separate set of challenges and opportunities. What will be the approach for the Academy that will be unique to India at the grassroots level?

MT: I think the opportunity is that, in a short amount of time, there are kids here who have been identified through a national scouting network. What’s so positive is the level of talent we’re seeing from young kids in a market where basketball infrastructure hasn’t been great. It is a huge opportunity that we’re excited about.

The challenge is that there hasn’t been a strong culture of basketball for over a century. How do you quickly build that culture? How do you expose these kids to the best competition in the world? The academy concept is really going to help with that. We’re going to accelerate the development with access to best coaches and best trainers. They’ll have a chance to travel and play against other academies in China, Australia, Africa, and potentially, teams in the US. This is a tremendous opportunity and we have some of the top prospects in the country.

SLAM: You played a part of Indian basketball history two years ago when you called out Satnam Singh’s name in the draft. When you were informed of the Mavericks’ pick, did you feel that this was going to be a historic moment?

MT: Oh yes, I remember that moment so vividly! I was thrilled to be a part of history. Earlier on draft day—all the draftees were at one hotel—I spotted Satnam and went up to say hello to him. He was so nervous and excited about the prospect of hearing his name. I said, ‘Satnam, I hope I get to call your name tonight’.

How the draft works is that I wait in a room in the back. I get a card handed to me, and when I saw his name, I began to smile from ear to ear. I knew how happy he would be and what a huge moment it would be for the youth in India. So, I went out there. I knew where he was sitting, glanced at him, and called his name. it was an exciting moment for me, for him, for the country, for the history of the NBA. We’ll look 10-20 years from now and realize what a big day it was.

I know that he is working hard—he is very talented, very skilled. He had a decent season in the D-League and I think he learned a lot. I still view him as a young big man who has an opportunity to make it.

SLAM: From what you know of India’s potential, how long do you feel it would be for India to produce a decent NBA talent?

MT: There will be lot of divergent pathways. Some kids play in Division I colleges in the United States; some will play in the D-league; some will play in other leagues around the world. We’re hopeful that in the next five-to-ten years or so that we’ll see an NBA talent coming through these academies.

May 20, 2017

Team India is in Maldives for 2017 SABA Basketball Championship hoping for 5th consecutive title

The South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) championship has been held four times, once every two years. India has won the title four times.

This week, India's Senior Men's national basketball squad is in Male, Maldives, to try and make it a perfect five for five.

Team India headed to Maldives for the 5th SABA Basketball Championship from May 19-23 to take part in the five-team tournament. The winner of this championship will qualify for the lone South Asian spot in the continent's most prestigious basketball event, the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, set to be held in Lebanon in August. The participants in this year's events are India, hosts Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal. As can be gleaned from past SABA editions, the Indian men’s team, with a blend of youth and experience, will start off yet again as strong favourites.

India’s attempt at a five-peat of the tournament will be led by experienced point guard Akilan Pari. Also featured in the squad are centre Amritpal Singh, guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and veteran forward Yadwinder Singh, the trio who recently took part in the NBL Draft Combine in Australia. Other familiar faces are centre Rikin Pethani, forward Prasanna Venkatesh, shooting guard Arjun Singh, centre Ravi Bhardwaj and forward Anil Kumar BK. Missing from the squad are a few notable big names that we hope will return to the team if India qualifies for the FIBA Asia Cup, including Amjyot Singh, Palpreet Singh, and Satnam Singh.

Photo via: Basketball Federation of India
Team India at 2017 SABA Basketball Championship
  • Akilan Pari - Captain
  • Muin Bek Hafeez
  • Prasanna Sivakumar
  • Anil Kumar Gowda
  • Arjun Singh
  • Vishesh Bhriguvanshi
  • Amritpal Singh
  • Vishal Kumar Gupta
  • Ravi Bhardwaj
  • Jeevanatham Pandi
  • Yadwinder Singh
  • Head Coach: Sappaniambalam Baskar
  • Assistant Coach: Sebastian Padipurakkal Joseph
  • Manager: Sushil Kumar

"Our motto as a team is to win big and make sure that the juniors of our team get playing time," said Pari, the team's captain. "This championship is important for them to get good exposure and will be crucial in their development as players."

India’s training camp for the tournament was held from 1st-17th May, at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, New Delhi with 33 players, and the final selections were made on 7th May. A conscious effort was made by the selectors and Head Coach Baskar Sappaniambalam to ensure that the right blend of youth and experience was picked for their campaign in Maldives. "India has had a solid record at the SABA Championship and we aim to continue that trend," Sappaniambalam said. "It is the only tournament where we can provide an opportunity to our younger players and hence we have selected 3 players under the age of 22. Our main aim is to win and qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup taking place in Lebanon in August."

India's Schedule at the 2017 SABA Championship
  • May 19: India vs. Maldives
  • May 21: Sri Lanka vs. India
  • May 22: India vs. Bangladesh
  • May 23: Nepal vs. India

Kenneth Faried is in India, watching the Playoffs and chilling at the Taj

In case you missed it, the "Manimal" himself, Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets, landed in India earlier this week in behalf of the NBA to promote the ongoing NBA Playoffs. He will be travelling to Mumbai, Delhi, and Agra during his trip.

Faried's first stop was already at the Taj Mahal in Agra soon after he landed up in India on Wednesday. On Saturday, May 20, he will stop over in New Delhi where he will engage with fans at the Ambience Mall in Gurgaon as part of NBA Zone powered by Jabong, the largest basketball entertainment festival in India. On May 21, Faried will travel to Mumbai for a live television appearance on Sony SIX’s NBA morning show “Around the Hoop” to share his perspective on the NBA Playoffs.

“I’m excited to visit India for the first time and celebrate the Playoffs with fans,” said Faried. “The NBA is doing a lot to develop young players there, and I’m looking forward to seeing the passion they have for the game firsthand.”

“Hosting NBA players in India is an important part of our continued efforts to grow basketball across the country,” said NBA India Managing Director Yannick Colaco. “The opportunity to meet and interact with a player of Kenneth’s caliber will inspire young boys and girls to learn the game and the values it teaches, including teamwork, integrity and respect.”

Faried, a 6’8” forward from Newark, New Jersey, was selected 22nd overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 2011 NBA Draft. Faried was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2012 and selected as the Rising Stars Challenge MVP at NBA All-Star 2013 in Houston. Faried averaged 9.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game over the past season for the Nuggets, who finished 9th in the West.

NBA Zone powered by Jabong is a basketball lifestyle event that brings the NBA experience to fans in India through digital and social media engagement, oncourt competitions, an innovative cinematic experience, gaming, music, merchandise giveaways and more. The event is free and open to the public and will be conducted over 26 weekends in malls across Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi, reaching more than half a million fans.

May 18, 2017

FIBA Asia Women's Cup 2017: India drawn in Division B, Group A

The last time India's Women's squad played in a major FIBA Asia tournament, they returned in failure. India lost all of their preliminary group games in Level 1 and then lost their playoff game, too, to fall down to the lower Level 2 of the tournament. It was a difficult time for our national team, and the last two years have been spent with the mission to return to the higher rung of competition.

In a few months, India will have some extra motivation for success: home court. For the first time since 2009, we will be hosting not one, but two major FIBA Asia events - the FIBA Asia Women's Cup and the FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women - over the next few months. The former of these will be held in Bengaluru from July 23-29.

As the competition dates loom nearer, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and FIBA took the next major step in preparation: On Wednesday morning in Bengaluru, the official draw for the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2017 was held at the city's Krishna Hall. This year's list of squads, for the first time, include teams from the Oceania region in the Asian competition, too. The expanded fray of participants also presented a changed format in the tournament, with two groups in each "Division" (instead of Level). India were drawn into the lower Division B, Group A, along with Sri Lanka, American Samoa, and Uzbekistan.

Results: FIBA Asia Women's Cup 2017 Draw
  • Division A, Group A: New Zealand, Chinese Taipei, North Korea, China.
  • Division A, Group B: South Korea, Philippines, Japan, Australia.
  • Division B, Group A: Sri Lanka, India, American Samoa, Uzbekistan.
  • Division B, Group B: Lebanon, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Fiji.

Japan, the champions from 2015, will be among the favourites again, but will have to contend with a couple of strong sides in Australia and South Korea in their group. China and Chinese Taipei will be the strongest squads in Division A's Group A.

In terms of FIBA's World Rankings, India is still the fifth-highest ranked team in Asia, and should be able to top their group easily. India's main threat is likely to be Uzbekistan. If India can top Division B, they will be promoted to Division A for the next iteration of the championship.

The draw ceremony in Bengaluru on Wednesday was attended by BFI President K Govindaraj, BFI Secretary-General Chander Mukhi Sharma, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, his Sports Minister Pramod Madhvaraj and Minister for Bengaluru Development and Town Planning KJ George.

May 17, 2017

Hoopdarshan Episode 46: NBA Operations' Vanja Cernivec on basketball in India, Slovenia, Spain, China, and more

It's a busy month for basketball, with the NBA Playoffs, Euroleague Final Four, launch of the NBA Academy India, and hoops fever all over the globe. For Episode 46 of Hoopdarshan, Vanja Cernivec - an NBA Operations Specialist currently for the Europe-Middle East-Africa region, joins hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok to talk about all types of hoops: coaching in India, China, Spain, closely observing the Euroleague, NBA playoffs, and the rise of her fellow Slovenian prodigy Luka Doncic

In addition Kaushik and Karan discuss more recent news in Indian basketball, such as catching India's top players at the NBL Draft Combine in Melbourne, India's draw for the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, FIBA's end of the "Headgear Ban", and the launch of NBA Academy India.

Hoopdarshan is the truest 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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