June 30, 2015

Hoopdarshan Episode 10: Satnam in the NBA! Our chat with ESPN contributor Mark Winegardner

Satnam Singh Bhamara made history by becoming the first Indian player to be drafted into the NBA. That was Step 1. What happens now? On Episode 10 of the Indian basketball podcast Hoopdarshan, hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok catch up with ESPN contributor and accomplished novelist Mark Winegardner, who has closely followed Satnam's journey from Ballo Ke Village to the IMG Academy to the NBA Draft for the past four years. Mark recalls his experiences visiting Satnam in his village in Punjab, helps us predict Satnam's future in the NBA, and we discuss what this achievement means for India and the NBA.

Listen in to also hear about our draft night reactions and Satnam's incredible journey to becoming an NBA draftee. Karan and Kaushik also discuss the rest of the NBA Draft as well as the upcoming SABA Qualifiers for India's national men's team in Bengaluru.

Winegardner is an American journalist and novelist based in Florida. He is a contributing writer for ESPN The Mag, a professor at Florida State University, and the of books like Crooked River Burning, The Godfather Returns, The Godfather's revenge, etc. He visited India and the village of Ballo Ke to write a 2012 story on Satnam Singh Bhamara's roots and his hopes to become the first India in the NBA for ESPN: NEXT magazine.

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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June 29, 2015

No Strings Attached: Who are the top NBA free agents available this summer?

The season of basketball is over, but the season of business is just about to begin. July 1 will mark the beginning of free agency, when a number of contracts of top NBA players will expire and there will be a several restricted or unrestricted free agents on the market. How many of these players will be wearing different NBA jerseys in a few months? Here is my look at the top free agents this summer, where I also predict the chances of them changing teams this offseason.

Check out my full feature on SportsKeeda.

June 28, 2015

4th South Asian Basketball Championship is back on in Bengaluru after Karnataka High Court grants interim relief

Good news ahead! The Karnataka High Court has granted interim relief to the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) to host the 4th South Asian Basketball Championship in Bengaluru from July 3-5!

Satnam Singh Bhamara was one of the 24 names announced by the BFI to take part in a senior men's national coaching camp in Bengaluru this month, being held in preparation for the South Asian Basketball Championship in the same city. The only problem was that Satnam was never going to be there. The 7-foot-2 19-year-old phenom had other priorities, like making history for Indian basketball in other ways. On Friday, Satnam became the first Indian citizen to be drafted into the NBA when he was selected 52nd by the Dallas Mavericks at the 2015 NBA Draft. All of India - including other star basketball players in the country - erupted with joy.

While Satnam prepared for the big draft day, the other Indian star players who actually attended this camp in Bengaluru were stuck in a limbo. Where Satnam had succeeded as an individual, the government and the federation in India had failed the rest of the Indian basketball team. Despite winning the right to host the 4th South Asian Basketball Championship, organized by the South Asian Basketball Association (SABA), the political infighting between various BFI factions in India led the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to bar all official basketball events in the country. The SABA Championship - which would pit India against other South Asian nations and act as qualifiers for the upcoming FIBA Asia Championship - were scheduled to be held from July 3-5 at the Sri Kantaveera Stadium in Bengaluru, Karnataka.

It was the worst news possible for basketball fans in the country. From our side, we put up a brave face to show that - even if the government stopped the BFI - they couldn't stop Indian basketball, with the #CantStopIndiaBasketball social media campaign. Fortunately, the pressure from those within the legally-acknowledged faction of the BFI - Team Govindraj - were able to score a small victory for themselves just a week before the big tournament.

On the same day (India time) that Satnam was drafted into the NBA, Team Govindraj and the BFI received some good news of their own. The Karnataka High Court has allowed the faction of BFI presided by Karnataka's own K. Govindraj to host the SABA Championship. Indian players who have been at the camp were practicing and preparing under great uncertainty. With the tournament/qualifiers inching closer, this would be a great weight off their shoulders and a chance to focus on basketball instead of the bickering and the politics.

Let Gopalakrishanan R of Ekalavyas tell you more:

BFI Secretary General from the Southern Camp, Mr Chander Mukhi Sharma, hailed the High Court verdict, saying that it proved that the “Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs exceeded its jurisdiction.” He goes on to accuse the Sports Ministry of “damaging the prospect of the game in the country by unnecessarily, illegally and arbitrarily asking BFI not to hold the event.”
This immediately clears visiting team contingents to submit Visa applications online. However, going by the letter, it is next to impossible for Afghanistan to participate at this event, as they need to apply at least 60 days in advance... India will be without its key forwards and centres from Punjab: Satnam Singh... Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh are playing in Japan. It is also probable that veteran starters Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Yadwinder Singh will not be part of the line up, as both these ONGC are yet to join the camp.

India has other problems, too. The team currently doesn't have a head coach, since Scott Flemming left the country last month. While the rest of the country celebrates the potential for growth of Indian basketball following Satnam's achievement, the ground reality at camp in Bengaluru was that there was still a state of disorder and mess. Apart from being without a coach, the team continued to lack match practice without much international exposure and continued to practice and play on less-than-ideal basketball surfaces.

As it was earlier reported, the participating teams at the 4th South Asian Basketball Championship will likely be India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. With a depleted, distracted team, this may be the best opportunity for one of our rivals to spring a surprise and qualify ahead of us for the FIBA Asia Championship. India are still likely to be favourites, but they will need to be careful and remain focused if they want to avoid an upset.

For now, let's celebrate the Karnataka High Court's decision. The qualifiers are back on, and if India win, we will punch in our ticket for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, set to be held in Hunan, China, from September 23 to October 3. Let's hope that the Sports Ministry can do the right thing and lift the ban on Indian basketball events nationwide soon.

June 27, 2015

Bigs are back! Karl-Anthony Towns goes 1st, Satnam Singh goes 52nd, & #IndiaBasketball history is made

The NBA got a whole lot bigger yesterday.

With the first pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Karl-Anthony Towns from Kentucky, a talented 6-foot-11 big man with promises to finally take the team back to the playoffs after 11 years. With the 52nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks selected Satnam Singh Bhamara from India, a 7-foot-2 project who made history as he became the first Indian citizen to be drafted into the NBA.

And in between the two bigs, there were a whole lot of other interesting, infuriating, exciting, and disappointing selections – many of them surrounding other big men entering into the NBA. These bigs came in many forms: from post-beasts to stretch shooters, including Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzignis, Willie Cauley-Stein, Frank Kaminsky, Myles Turner, and Trey Lyles in the lottery.

Click here for my quick analysis of the top 14 lottery picks at the 2015 NBA Draft on SportsKeeda.

June 26, 2015

Satnam Singh Bhamara makes history by becoming 1st Indian drafted into the NBA - picked 52nd by the Dallas Mavericks

I love basketball and I love writing about basketball. In my work, there has usually been two different content paths that I have pursued: Indian Basketball and the NBA. Go down the list of my blog posts or my articles for other publications and you will see news, features, and analysis for these two subject matters, which, despite both being about the same sport, have been mutually exclusive.

From today onwards, that mutual exclusivity is going to change forever.

With the 52nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks selected Satnam Singh on India. And with that one quick swoop, a shake-hand with the NBA's Deputy Commissioner, and a Mavericks hat over his giant head, history was made. Satnam Singh Bhamara, the 19-year-old, 7-foot-2 Indian from Punjab who has been honing his game at the IMG Basketball Academy in Florida for the past five years, became the first Indian citizen to be drafted into the NBA. A dream that started in tiny Punjabi village has ended up on the podium at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. Satnam has achieved what no Indian in the country's 70-year basketball history achieved before: make it to the NBA.

Satnam surprised many people by declaring for the NBA Draft after he couldn't secure a college scholarship, but he has backed up his decision with hard work and impressive performances at the pre-draft workouts. The Dallas Mavericks were one of the seven teams to host Satnam and it now seems that he convinced them of his potential enough for them to pick him late in the second round.

Satnam has a long way to go, of course. He is nowhere close to being ready for big-time NBA action, or even be ready to crack the Mavericks' top 15 roster. But being drafted has given him some security for his near future and puts him in a good position in Dallas to improve and become a better player. It is likely that the Mavericks will stash him into the D-League for a year or two and see how he develops. The Mavericks' D-League team is the Texas Legends, whose former assistant coach Scott Flemming was also the coach of India's Senior National Men's team.

This is also not a time for Indian basketball to rest on its laurels. Apart from his pre-teens where he dominated in junior tournaments in India for Punjab, the majority of Satnam's development has come thanks to the coaches at the IMG Academy, where he has been since he was 14-years-old. Satnam returned to India regularly to play in domestic national tournaments as well as represent the national squad in international championships, but these trips were more of a hindrance than a benefit. Sure, Satnam gained some experience playing in his country's colours, but the negative attitudes of many domestic coaches and selectors in India, and a threat of injury, kept him away, and he (rightly) focused his efforts completely into training for the NBA. Satnam has broken a major barrier, but Indian Basketball still has a long way to go.

I have written a lot about Satnam in the past, and over the next few days, weeks, months, and (hopefully) years, I will be writing a lot more about him. But for now, let's celebrate the day that an Indian basketball player got drafted into the NBA, become a worldwide trending topic, broke an international barrier for the NBA, and reawakened fans in India about the game of basketball. Let's celebrate Satnam Singh Bhamara for achieving the near-impossible through his natural gifts, his hard work, his dedication, and the right attitude to become the best that he can possibly be. Let's celebrate the fact that Indian basketball and NBA news will never be the same again.

Let's celebrate King Singh! #KingSingh, y'all.

June 25, 2015

1st Mamannan Raja Raja Cholan Cup All India Invitational School Basketball Tournament in Thanjavur next month

The Manannan Raja Raja Cholan Rural Basketball Development Trust (MRRCRBT) will be organizing the 1st-ever Mamannan Raja Raja Cholan Cup All India Invitational School Basketball Tournament in Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu) next month from July 22-26, 2015. The trust has invited boys and girls school teams from around the country for this under-19 tournament.

The MRRCRBT has also announced prize money of Rs. 25,000, 20,000, 15,000, and 10,000 for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place finishers in both boys' and girls' divisions. The last date of registering for the tournament is July 7.

MRRCRBT is a volunteer based non-profit trust committed to provide and assist unprivileged students to build a strong foundation, personal character, self-confidence, and self-esteem to reach their potential through comprehensive high intensity practices, competitive league, and high caliber tournament games. They have been holding rural basketball events in Thanjavur since 2007.

June 24, 2015

Dropping dimes for Indian basketball: DIME Initiatives announce youth academy in Greater Noida

Indian basketball - for all its trials, tribulations, infighting, and drama - could sure use a helping hand. In basketball vernacular, that helping hand comes in the form of an assist, a pass that leads to a score. The player who scores receives the ultimate credit, but it's the passer - or the 'dimer' - who is heralded as the man behind the action, whose initial efforts let to the final success.

DIME Initiatives are hoping to be that helping hand, the assist to lead forward towards the greater good and success for Indian Basketball. DIME aims to assist individuals and organizations in India achieve their goals within the basketball market. For individuals, the assist will be to basketball players of all levels hoping to obtain their highest basketball potential through training (both elite and introductory) and providing them opportunities domestically and abroad, while becoming better and contributing members of society during and long after their playing careers. For organizations, the assist will be to help them achieve achieving their goals be it marketing themselves, their players, or strategically developing and implementing their basketball programmes.

As their first major step, DIME has announced the DIME Basketball Academy, a summer basketball training programme that will tip off on July 2, 2015 at the Jaypee Greens in Greater Noida (Jaypee Greens - Atlantis The Club) for players between the ages of 5-22. The highlight of this academy will be the expert coaches, including national-level coach and former captain Divya Singh and former Canadian Basketball Player of the Year Inderbir Gill.

According to Himanshu Dabir, the founder of DIME Initiatives, their vision is to create a holistic, basketball experience for players and organizations, which will provide opportunities in and outside of India. They hope to provide opportunities that are outside the reach of politics and nepotism, but driven by merit and hard work.

Check out the flyer attached to this post for contact information and free structure for the academy. Anyone interested in joining email can also emailDIMEAcademies@gmail.com or find out more information through DIME Academies' facebook page.

DIME previously held a summer camp at Jaypee Greens with India's international players Amjyot Singh and Amril Pal Singh serving as coaches. Both players have now headed to Japan to play in their professional basketball summer league.

DIME Academies is the training arm of DIME Initiatives, aiming to implement a western style of training of Indian athletes in preparing them for school, college and professional careers in India and abroad. To ensure that the programs implemented are up to par with top Academies across the world, DIME Academies has two Coaching partners with extensive experience coaching and playing abroad and in India.

Himamshu Dabir (Founder, DIME Initiatives): Dabir has been working with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) since 2012, and as the Chief of Basketball Operations since 2013. He has been uniquely positioned to develop and lead all of BFI’s major grassroot initiatives – including working with FIBA in creating Coaching Educational Structure, developing the format and structure of the BFI-IMG Reliance Indian School & College Basketball Leagues, and identifying/hiring of the Foreign Coaches who lead the Indian National Teams. He has built strong relationships with all the major stakeholders involved in Indian basketball and continues to expand his network across the world. Prior to joining the BFI, Dabir obtained his B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Pennsylvania State University and a J.D. from Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York City. While obtaining his legal degree, he worked as an intern with the New York Knicks and the NBA Coaches Association. Dabir is in charge of all Business aspects of DIME Initiatives and handles the Operations of DIME Academies.

Inderbir Singh Gill (Co-Director of Coaching): Gill is an International Coach for the Jr. NBA India development program. Within this program, Gill was responsible for conducting after school and elite camps to provide basic and advanced training for top players across India. Gill was a former Player of the Year in Canada, 3x All-Canadian Team, 2x Academic All-Canadian and the 2010 Canadian Male Athlete of the Year (across all-sports). Born and raised in Punjab, Inderbir moved to Seattle, Washington at the age of 11 and immediately thrived playing basketball. With limited knowledge of Indian basketball players in the US, Gill was able to succeed through his hard work on the court and in the weightroom, understanding to reach his full potential, a strong fitness routine is required. Gill will be in charge of the Elite Boarding Academy and in creating individualized training programs for the interested players, while also working with the after-school program.

Divya Singh (Co-Director of Coaching): Singh is a former captain of the Indian National Women's Basketball Team and, most recently, an Assistant Coach for the Senior Women’s National Team under Foreign Coach Francisco Garcia which won the Bronze Medal in Lusofonia Games Goa – 2014 and placed 6th at the 17th Asian Games, Incheon 2014. As a player, Singh has represented India 7 times over here career, with the highlight captaining the Indian Women at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Post her playing career, she her Masters in Sports Management from the University of Delaware in 2010 while working as a Graduate Assistant of the University of Delaware Basketball Team. She was well respected by her teammates for her game skills, leadership qualities, academic strength and fun, outgoing personality. Singh will be in charge of the After School Academy as well as work with the Elite Campers on a regular basis.