January 13, 2019

Punjab (Men) and Indian Railways (Women) are India's 2019 National Basketball Champions!

After eight days of the highest-level of basketball India had to offer, the last teams standings offered some familiar faces. Held in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, the 69th National Basketball Championship for Men and Women concluded on Saturday, January 12 with the finales. Indian Railways, the reigning women's champions, repeated their triumph again this year with a 88-71 victory over Tamil Nadu. The star-studded Punjab Men squad crept pass Services 74-65 to win the gold in their division.

The 'Senior Nationals', organised by the Gujarat State Basketball Association and the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), featured 32 Men's and 27 Women's squads from state and units across India. The tournament was held at Bhavnagar's Sisdar Sports Complex and tipped off on January 5.

At the finals on Sunday, Railways started a little slow against the talented TN squad, but turned things around after the first quarter. Leading 42-40 at halftime, Railways kicked into top gear in the third with a 27-15 run that essentially pulled the game away for good. International stars Rajapriyadarshani Rajaganapathi (23) and Navaneetha PU (16) led the way to a 88-71 Indian Railways triumph. Sathya scored 21 for TN in the loss.

The Men's finale was a closer affair most of the way, featuring two strong and gritty squads, Punjab and Services. Both teams remained neck to neck most of the way, with Punjab holding only a slim 53-51 lead after three quarters. Punjab, who had shocked holders TN in overtime on Friday, found their extra surge in the fourth quarter at the final. The duo of Arshpreet Singh Bhullar (24) and Jagdeep Singh Bains (19) helped see them through to the 74-65 win. India's international point guard Joginder Singh led Services with 26.

Punjab's Amritpal Singh, the international star who recovered from a serious injury to star in this tournament, was named the Men's MVP. The Women's MVP award went to Tamil Nadu's unstoppable post-threat Pushpa Senthil Kumar.

This was Indian Railways' incredible 29th title in the Nationals, while Punjab won theirs for the seventh time - and the first since Chennai 2011.

Tamil Nadu finished third in the Men's division with a 84-65 with over Karnataka, led by Muin Bek Hafeez (20), Justin Joseph (19), and Hariram Ragupathy (17). Jitender scored 17 for Karnataka while Rahul Sarathy added 16. The Women's third place was a high-octane matchup between Kerala and Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh's giant player Poonam Chaturvedi dropped 41 points, but Kerala survived to a 7--73 win led by their national team veterans Jeena Scaria (21) and Poojamol Kochuparambu (18).

Final Scores
  • Women: Indian Railways (Rajapriyadarshani Rajaganapathi 23, Navaneetha PU 16, Ramya 13) bt. Tamil Nadu (Sathya 21) 88-71 [18-23, 24-17, 27-15, 19-16].
  • Men: Punjab (Arshpreet Singh Bhullar 24, Jagdeep Singh Bains 19, Amritpal Singh 15) bt. Services (Joginder Singh 26) 74-65 [22-19, 15-14, 17-18, 20-14].

Final Standings

  • 1. Indian Railways
  • 2. Tamil Nadu
  • 3. Kerala
  • 4. Chhattisgarh
  • 5. Telangana

  • 1. Punjab
  • 2. Services
  • 3. Tamil Nadu
  • 4. Karnataka
  • 5. Uttarakhand

January 9, 2019

2nd Khelo India Youth Games to tip off in Pune, Maharashtra

For the second-straight year, the Khelo India programme of the government's Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports will organise a massive, nationwide gathering of the best young athletes in dozens of sporting disciplines from across the country. The 2019 Khelo India Youth Games (formerly Khelo India School Games) will be held in Pune, Maharashtra this year, starting on Wednesday. The Games are scheduled from January 9-20, 2019.

Ranging from ages 10-21, this year's KIYG are expected to host over 6,000 athletes between the ages of 10-21 in 18 different sporting disciplines. Expanded divisions of sports will mean that young Youth Olympic champions, World Cadet Wrestling gold medallists, Olympian athletes and medal-winning shooters will be among the participating athletes this year.

The KIYG's basketball tournament is set to begin at the TT Hall Courts from January 15. The Basketball fray will be extended from last year and will be held in four different sub-categories: Under 21 boys, Under 21 girls, Under 17 boys, Under 17 girls. At the KISG in Delhi last year, Kerala (Girls) and Punjab (Boys) emerged as champions. With a overall tally of 38 gold medals, Haryana were crowned overall champions of the KISG 2018.

The Star Sports Network will broadcast KIYG 2019.

January 5, 2019

Indian basketball's biggest domestic tournament - the Senior Nationals - begin in Bhavnagar, Gujarat

You would've seen the anticipation building over the past few days. Inter-state events around the country. Each state/unit team lining up for the long road trip. Blessings and wishes on social media. Nerves. Stress. Anticipation. Hope.

Today, the biggest festival of domestic hoops in India - the 69th National Basketball Championship for Men and Women - will tip off in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. The 'Senior Nationals', organised by the Gujarat State Basketball Association and the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), will feature dozens of the top state and unit teams from January 5-12, 2019 at the city's Sisdar Sports Complex.

69th Senior Nationals Participating Teams

  • Level 1, Group A: Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat.
  • Level 1, Group B: Services, Indian Railways, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand, Kerala.
  • Level 2, Group C: Telangana, Delhi, Goa, Meghalaya, Mizoram.
  • Level 2, Group D: Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland.
  • Level 2, Group E: Haryana, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Puducherry, West Bengal.
  • Level 2, Group F: Odisha, Assam, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh.

  • Level 1, Group A: Indian Railways, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, West Bengal.
  • Level 1, Group B: Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana.
  • Level 2, Group C: Punjab, Goa, Gujarat, Puducherry, Uttarakhand.
  • Level 2, Group D: Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Haryana, Odisha.
  • Level 2, Group E: Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya.
  • Level 2, Group F: Rajasthan, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand.

Last year's Senior Nationals were held in Chennai, and the host Men's team - Tamil Nadu - took home the gold medal in a final win over Services. The women's tournament was won by Indian Railways in a blowout over Chhattisgarh. All four of these teams will again be among the favourites for the title at Bhavnagar, as well as Punjab and Indian Railways (Men) and Karnataka and Kerala (Women).

December 31, 2018

2018: The Year in Indian Basketball

India is complicated: that is not breaking news. There are goods and there are bads, there are opportunities and risks, there is optimism in the horizon and pessimism that lurks in the dark corners.

And basketball in India, of course, is a microcosm of the country itself: complicated, topsy-turvy, and often undefinable. Indian basketball in 2018 positive results, negative news, losses (lots of losses), and big wins that signalled bleak hope from the future from alternative sources. Here's a look back at the year's biggest highlights:

- University of Calicut completed an incredible three-peat at India's most prestigious national women's collegiate title - the 2018 All India Inter University Women's Basketball Championship for Women - in Chennai in the beginning of the year.

- A couple of rivalries - some old, some new - were reignited at the biggest stage in domestic Indian basketball during the finals of the 2018 Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. The tournament, featuring the finest teams and players in the country, came to a conclusion with big victories for Indian Railways (Women) and hosts Tamil Nadu (Men), both of whom lifted championship trophies with victories over Chhattisgarh and Services respectively.

- The basketball tournament at the first-ever Khelo India School Games (KISG) in February was won by Kerala (Girls) and Punjab (Boys) at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi.

- Three Indian players - Sejin Mathew, Princepal Singh, and Pushpa Senthil Kumar - were among 43 prospects, ranging in age from 16-18, from 36 countries around the world for the Basketball Without Borders camp at the 2018 NBA All Star Weekend in Los Angeles, USA in mid February.

- And at the 18th Asian Games Invitational Tournament 5x5 Basketball Test Event in Jakarta in mid February, India's Senior Men's team lost in the gold medal game to hosts Indonesia.

- Indian basketball descended into turmoil in late February when an alleged "clerical error" by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) disqualified two of India's top players - Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh - from taking part in FIBA World Cup Qualifiers in Bengaluru, despite both players having returned to India from their pro leagues in the NBA G-League and NBL Australia respectively. Without those two and the injured guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, India lost both games to Jordan and Lebanon at home and fell to 0-4 in the qualifiers.

- Indian basketball stars Amjyot Singh and Jeena Scaria were honoured at the Times of India Sports Awards 2018.

- First-timers in the Asian circuit, Australia, routed hosts China in the final to win gold at the delayed FIBA U16 Asian Championship in Foshan in early April. India finished last among the 13 participating teams.

- Over the weekend on April 14-15, Australia's Women and Men both won their respective finals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games Basketball tournament in impressive fashion at home. India returned from Australia losing all their games in both Men and Women's divisions.

- In early May, former Lakers center (now with the Bucks) Brook Lopez visited India to promote youth basketball development initiatives for the NBA.

- With Lopez in attendance, the youth teams from Bengaluru and Delhi won the girls and boys (respective) Jr. NBA National Finals in Greater Noida to qualify for the Jr. NBA World Championship later in the year.

- In a battle of 3x3 basketball rights, the Basketball Federation of India announced a controversial ban of 3x3 players hoping to participate in national 5x5 basketball events, and vice versa. This was done primarily to thwart the growing clout of the FIBA-approved 3BL basketball league announced earlier in the year.

- Out of a tryout of 50, eight players were chosen to join the existing contingent of the NBA India Academy in Greater Noida

- In the final of the 32nd Federation Cup National Basketball Tournament in Chittoor in early May, IOB (Chennai) exorcised years of demons against the dominant ONGC squad to win a memorable title, ending ONGC's five-year run at the top. In the women's final, Kerala's young squad added another feather to their cap, defeating neighbours Tamil Nadu in the final.

- Rajesh Patel, the most-decorated coach in Indian basketball, passed away in early May. I wrote an obituary on The Times of India Sports.

- In mid May, at the 69th Junior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women in Ludhiana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu (Women) and Kerala (Men) celebrated with the title, after impressive victories in their respective finales.

- NBA Academy India held a first-ever Women's camp in Greater Noida from May 27-29. Sanjana Ramesh of Bengaluru and Vaishnavi Yadav from Allahabad were named the camp's Co-MVPs.

- The 2018 Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp was held in India for just the second time from May 29-June 1. The fourth and final day of BWB Asia 2018 concluded in thrilling fashion as the 66 campers from 16 countries and territories in Asia-Pacific competed in championship games and a pair of All-Star games. India's Sanjana Ramesh shone among the continent's best and was named women's MVP.

- The BFI made controversy again by banning two of India's star players - Amjyot Singh and Palpreet Singh - from Indian basketball for a year citing "indisciplinary activities".

- Two more games. Two more losses. India's ill-fated road to the 2019 Basketball World Cup ended with road losses to Syria and Jordan. They finished 0-6 in the First Round.

- Khelo India announced in July that 40 young basketball players had been selected for talent development scholarship.

- New Zealand won 2018 William Jones Cup for Women in Chinese Taipei (July 25-29); India (0-5) finished last.

- The inaugural Jr. NBA World Championship was held in Florida, USA, from August 7-12. US Central won both boys and girls divisions. India's junior teams also took part.

- The most talented and dominant team of India's inaugural 3x3BL - Delhi Hoopers - took home the crown after six rounds of the league's first season, displaying their command over opponents and showcasing the exciting rise of 3x3 basketball in the country.

- The first Indian player to ever be drafted into the NBA, Satnam Singh made another first, joining the St. John's Edge of Canada's NBL this season.

- China swept across all categories of basketball at the 2018 Asian Games, winning gold in the Men's, Women's, 3x3 Men's, and 3x3 Women's events in Jakarta. India's women took part and returned winless.

- At the 35th Youth National Basketball Championship for Boys and Girls, held in Udaipur, Rajasthan in the first week of October, Rajasthan (Boys) and Punjab (Girls) emerged as champions.

- Also in October, seven-time NBA champ Robert Horry made his second trip to India to celebrate start of new NBA season.

- India hosted the 2018 FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women in Bengaluru from October 28 - November 3. 16 of the top teams in the Asia and Oceania took part, divided into higher (Division A) and lower (Division B) sections. China's U18 team raced to grab the the gold medals. And for the third time in various women's FIBA Asia events, India - starting in Division B - played a perfect tournament to win promotion to Division A.

- Uttar Pradesh (Boys) and Maharashtra (Girls) win 2018 Sub Junior Nationals in Kangra (Himachal Pradesh) in mid November.

- Undisturbed by the drama back home, Indian star Amjyot Singh returned to OKC Blue of the NBA G-League for second season.

- Mr. UTEP 2-Step Tim Hardaway visited India to promote the growth of basketball and NBA India's recently announced McDonald’s NBA-themed promotion.

- Sanjana Ramesh (17), already enjoying a stellar year, made history by becoming only the second Indian to receive scholarship from NCAA Division 1 programme - Northern Arizona - which she will join in fall 2019.

- Zarkawt BCA won season 5 of Mizoram Super League in Aizawl, making it their second win in two editions of the tournament in the same year. Once again, Mizo basketball legend Lalrina Renthlei was named MVP.

- The year ended on a high: the NBA officially announced that India will host their first-ever preseason games, in Mumbai, in October 2019. The games will feature the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings and are bound to become a flagship moment in the history of basketball/NBA in the country.

The NBA India Games will surely be the most anticipated event for the game in 2019, but there will be FIBA Asia events and more individual achievements for India to look forward to. Hopefully, there is less drama and more focus on the growth of the game to meet India's potential!

Hoopdarshan Episode 72: Sanjana Ramesh on upcoming NCAA D1 journey + next year's NBA India Games

Episode 72 of Hoopdarshan comes around Christmas and New Year's with a double dose of gifts for the holidays. We are joined by Sanjana Ramesh - the Beagles Mamba - who discussed receiving a NCAA D1 scholarship from Northern Arizona, her basketball journey in Bengaluru, and her favourite dosas. Hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok also discuss the impact of the historic first NBA preseason games between the Kings and Pacers coming to Mumbai next year.

Ramesh (17), the youngest guest yet on Hoopdarshan, has joined an exclusive club by becoming only the second Indian to be offered a scholarship by an NCAA D1 team. She will join Northern Arizona next year. Originally from Bengaluru, the talented all rounder has featured in India's U16 Women's team, the senior team for the William Jones Cup, and earlier this year, won the MVP of the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp in Greater Noida.

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!

Hoopdarshan can be found on...

December 21, 2018

NBA officially announce first-ever preseason games in India: Indiana Pacers vs. Sacramento Kings in October 2019

It's time to finally write that new chapter in basketball history: after much anticipation over the years - including leaked rumours just a few months ago - the NBA has made it official: for the first time in history, India will host two NBA preseason games between the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings next year. This will also be the first time any North American league has staged games in India.

The two matchups of NBA India Games 2019 will be held on October 4-5 at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai. The announcement was made on Thursday by NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum and NBA India Managing Director Yannick Colaco in Mumbai.

"Our inaugural NBA India Games will help further untap the enormous basketball potential in a country with a thriving sports culture and a growing, young and engaged population," said NBA's Commissioner Adam Silver. "We thank the Kings and Pacers organisations for participating in this historic event."

In addition to the games, the league and its partners will conduct interactive fan activities, Jr. NBA youth basketball programming and NBA Cares community outreach events that will bring the NBA experience to fans in Mumbai. The NBA India Games 2019 will be promoted by BookMyShow and AEG and supported by a roster of marketing and merchandising partners. The games will air live in India, and will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories on television, digital and social media.

"We are proud to be the first global sports league to bring games of this scale to India," said Colaco. "The NBA and basketball have never been more popular in India, and fans will get to enjoy world-class showcases for our sport between two exciting teams in the Sacramento Kings and the Indiana Pacers."

The Kings are the first (and only) NBA team with an Indian-born owner, Vivek Ranadive. Ranadive will fulfil his long-running dream of bringing the Kings to India for an exhibition game, and particularly to his hometown of Mumbai. Under Ranadive, the Kings helped Canadian Sim Bhullar become the first player of Indian-origin to play in the NBA. The Kings have the longest current playoff drought in the NBA (12 years) but feature an exciting young team who are finally turning things around this season. Led by guard De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, and featuring this year's No. 2 draft pick Marvin Bagley, they have become one of the top scoring teams in the league and currently hold a 16-15 record.

The Pacers have a much sunnier present-day outlook, as they stand 20-12 and look healthy for a mid-tier playoff spot in the East. They are led by All Star Victor Oladipo, rising Lithuanian forward Domantas Sabonis, Bojan Bogdanovich, and Myles Turner. They have one of the league's best defensive units, and in Oladipo, likely the biggest star at this showcase.

"The Sacramento Kings are proud to be playing in the first NBA games ever held in India," said Ranadive. "As an Indian-American, it is an honour to help bring this historic moment to the country where I was raised. The sport is experiencing tremendous growth in India and we are excited about continuing to expand the NBA’s reach to fans across the globe. The world wants to watch basketball and India is a fast-growing new frontier."

"We are thrilled to be one of the first two teams to play the first-ever game in India and proud to be part of the expanding NBA worldwide footprint of our game of basketball," said Herbert Simon, Pacers' owner.

Tickets to the games will go on sale at a later date. Fans can visit nbaevents.com/indiagames to register interest for information and tickets.

Since 2006, more than 35 current and former NBA and WNBA players have visited India on behalf of the NBA. The NBA office in Mumbai opened in 2011. The NBA Academy India, an elite basketball training center in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) for the top male and female prospects from throughout India and the first of its kind in the country, officially opened in May 2017.

December 15, 2018

Zarkawt BCA win season 5 of Mizoram Super League in Aizawl

2018 was the year of Zarkawt BCA in the Mizoram Super League. Two editions of India's most-fanatically-supported basketball league were held in the calendar year, and both times, it was Zarkawt who emerged as champions. Their most recent victory came as they closed out their opponents Tuikual South BC 2-1 in the three-game Finals series, winning the clincher in Aizawl 82-68 on Friday, December 14 at the Hawla Indoor Stadium. Mizo superstar Lalrina Renthlei was again named leagued MVP.

The MSL Finals were held in Aizawl from December 10-14. Zarkawt dominated Game 1 to win 100-77; Tuikual South bounced back in a close Game 2 finish, 95-93; and Zarkawt clinched the series in Game 3, 82-68.

Season 5 of the MSL tipped off on October 23 this year and featured six teams: Tuikual South BC, Zarkawt BCA, Vikings, Zarkawt Serpents, Khatla TBA Basketball, and Bethlehem Basketball Club.