September 28, 2011

Draw completed for 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship

Defending champions China were drawn with fellow East Asian team Chinese Taipei, Middle Asia’s India and SEABA’s Malaysia in Group A for the Preliminary Round of the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship to be held in Nha Trang City in Vietnam from Oct 18-28, 2011.

The draw was conducted at the Media Conference Room at the Wuhan Sports Center in Wuhan (China) on Sunday, the final day of the 26th FIBA Asia Championship.

Group B involves Korea, who lost to China in the final of the inaugural FIBA Asia U16 Championship at Johor Bahru (Malaysia) two years ago, along with two WABA teams Iraq and Lebanon and Uzbekistan.

Iran, the bronze medalists from Johor Bahru lead the fray in Group C also comprising Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Japan.

With only 15 teams in fray, Group D will see only three teams and all-SEABA affair – Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“It is a great significance that we are conducting this draw for the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship on the final day of the 26th FIBA Asia Championship,” said FIBA Asia president Sheikh Saud bin Ali Al-Thani who presided over the draw proceedings.

“The 26th FIBA Asia Championship will decide the champion team of FIBA Asia, while the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship will throw up the stars for the future,” he said.

FIBA Asia will run a special event website during the event.

Groupings for the Preliminary Round

  • Group A: China, India, Malaysia, Chinese Taipei
  • Group B: Korea, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Lebanon
  • Group C: Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Japan
  • Group D: Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam

    India’s U16 side qualified for the championship after defeating Nepal and Sri Lanka in qualifiers in New Delhi in August

    About 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship

    The 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship is the qualifying event for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship to be played in Lithuania from July 17-26, 2012.

    The top two teams from the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship will represent FIBA Asia at Lithuania.

    System of Competition

    The 16 teams are pooled into four groups of four teams each for the Preliminary Round.

    The top three teams from each group will advance to the Second Round, and will be drawn into two groups of six teams each.

    In the Second Round, each team will carry forward the results against the other qualifying teams in their Preliminary Round group and will play against teams qualifying from the other Preliminary Round group. The top four teams from each Second Round will qualify for the Quarterfinals, from which stage it will be a knockout.
  • September 27, 2011

    NF Railway organises invitational basketball tournament in Assam

    Six top Indian basketball clubs, featuring some famous names, will be in Maligaon in Guwahahi (Assam) this week for the an All India Invitational Basketball Championship organised North-East Frontier Railway Sports Association (NFRSA). The tournament (September 25-29th) at the NFRSA Indoor Stadium will be one of the biggest basketball showcases in the North-East of India.

    The participating teams are: ONGC (Dehradun), Indian Overseas Bank (Chennai), BSF (Jalandhar), Rail Coach Factory (Kapurthala), Assam Regiment (Shillong) and hosts NFRSA. The six teams have been divided into two groups and the championship will be conducted on a league-cum-knock-out basis.

    Here's more via The Assam Tribune Online:

    Leading national level cagers, who also represented the country in international championships like Arjun Singh, Gagan Deep Singh, Suresh Kumar, Pratham Singh, Hanuman Singh, Virendra, Murali Krishna are representing their respective teams in this tournament which has been recognised by Basketball Federation of India.
    The six teams have been divided into two groups and the championship will be conducted on a league-cum-knock-out basis.

    September 26, 2011

    2011 FIBA ABC Review: China win final over Jordan; India end 14th

    Oh, it was all good just a few weeks ago. In India's first game at the 2011 FIBA Asia Basketball Championship, we held a seven point lead in the final quarter over Lebanon, a team ranked 26 places above us in the FIBA world rankings. We ended up losing that game, by the way, and then, losing everything else that came in our way. A week later, our campaign ended with a loss to Indonesia as we finished the championship at 14th place. That was a depressing finish to my cautiously optimistic hopes before the tournament. Now, the tournament is over, and after weeks of unpredictable and exciting basketball, there is a familiar name at the top of the rankings.

    In front of an electric crowd in Wuhan, hosts China rose to the top of FIBA Asia after a silver medal two years ago by edging out the tough Jordan side 70-69 in a classic final of the championship on Sunday. Led by tournament MVP Yi Jianlian, China claimed the gold medal and booked their place in the 2012 Olympic Games basketball tournament in London.

    The final win was a culmination of a perfect 9-0 record in the competition. China lifted the FIBA ABC trophy for the 15th time.

    Jordan walked out of the arena with their heads held high having entered the gold medal game for the first time. Jordan did extremely well beyond expectations to keep the contest even till the final buzzer. Despite finishing 2nd in their preliminary round group, and fourth in the second round group, Jordan did the impossible by defeating last year's champs Iran in a classic Quarter Final and then getting a win over a strong Philippines side in the Semis.

    For China, Yi accounted for 11 of his team-high 25 points in the third quarter. Yi also had 16 points in the final. Yi continues to confound me, as he is such a dominant force back home but a super-flop in the NBA. Supposed to be China's next big thing after Yao, Yi has bounced around 3 NBA teams in the past four years, and has put up just 8.5 ppg in the course of his career, where he has never been able to earn major NBA minutes. He had his worst year with the Wizards last season, playing only 17.7 minutes a game and putting up just 5.6 ppg. He comes back home and completely DOMINATES Asia, averaging 16.6 ppg and 10.8 rpg as MVP of the championship.

    Rasheim Wright was at the vanguard of the Jordanian cause in the Final with a game-high 26 points.

    Earlier on Sunday, the 3rd/4th place match-up between Korea and Philippines was also a nail biting affair, won by Korea 70-68. Sungmin Cho led the way for Korea with 20 points. The high-scorers for Philippines were Marcus Douthit (27) and Jim Alapag (17).

    Final Standings:

  • 1. China
  • 2. Jordan
  • 3. Korea
  • 4. Philippines
  • 5. Iran

    All Tournament Team:

  • PG: Osama Daghles (Jordan)
  • SG: Takuya Kawamura (Japan)
  • SF: Samad Nikkah Bahrami (Iran)
  • PF: Yi Jianlian (China) - MVP
  • C: Hamed Haddadi (Iran)

    Meanwhile, the Indian contingent completed the tournament with a 1-4 record to end at 14th place. That record is misleading, by the way, because India didn't exactly 'win' a single game at the tournament: we were handed a victory in our 13-16 classification game over Qatar without even playing them. Qatar were made to forfeit their games after their players 'deliberately lost' a couple of earlier games after five of their players were disqualified without proper nationality documentation.

    And we started off as well as we possibly could! Grouped with tough Lebanon and Korea, and with Malaysia, a team we were expected to beat, India needed just one win to move on to the next round. India played without a consistent starting lineup: Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Jagdeep Singh, and Yadwinder Singh were our regular starters, and the other two places were rotated between Hareesh Koroth, TJ Sahi, and Trideep Rai.

    We almost got our one win unexpectedly, against Lebanon. After trailing by 13 at the end of halftime, India went on an epic third quarter run, perhaps the finest quarter of basketball played by the Indian men's team in recent history, as they outscored the superpower Lebanon 32-14 behind a barrage of three and two pointers by Hareesh Koroth and TJ Sahi.

    Less than two minutes away from the final buzzer, India held a one-point lead and were on the verge of making history. But a heroic performance by Lebanon's Jean Abd El Nour denied India its chance at history, as Lebanon survived to win 71-68. El Nour scored eight of his game-high 24 points in the dying minutes of the game to defeat the enthusiastic Indian outfit.

    Hareesh Koroth had 20 points for India and TJ Sahi added 18.

    The game against Malaysia the next night was to be our make or break game: we are ranked much higher than them, and if we had won, we would've immediately improved to our 13th place ranking from 2009 and had a chance to move into the final 12. But an end game burst by Malaysia saw them emerge as 71-67 winners and virtually clinched their place in the second round, giving India another last-minute heartbreak.

    The game swung back and forth like a pendulum: India fell back once again at halftime in this match-up trailing to their opponents by 16 points at the break. But once again, India showed their third-quarter resolve, outscoring Malaysia 24-12 in the period and bringing the game close again. The fourth quarter see-sawed between both the sides, and with the game tied in the final minutes, lower-ranked Malaysia made a final run to edge out a close win.

    Malaysia were led by Ban Sin Ooi, who scored 20 points in the game, although the game's best individual performance came from India's experienced big man Jagdeep Singh Bains, who had a heroic 25 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.

    We were never expected to challenge Korea in our final group game, and we didn't: Korea scored the first eight points of the game and only grew in strength thereafter before romping through for a 84-53 win against India on Saturday to complete their Group A engagements with an all-win record. It was India's third consecutive loss in the tournament, which saw them finish at the bottom of the group and eliminated from the second round.

    Trideep Rai’s 11 points was the only double digit score for India. Despite the disappointment, coach Natt looked at the positives after the game and commented: "We have a long way in terms of going anywhere in Asian competitions. But I think we are making a start with this young team."

    Out of the Second Round and forced to settle for 13-16 qualification, India got a lucky break when we were handed a 20-0 win against Qatar because of the forfeit. We played Indonesia in the 13/14th place match, a team that, with all of our revamped efforts we should've defeated. But like our effort against Malaysia earlier, we once again came up short. India trailed most of the way in the competitive game and failed to close the gap between the two sides, as Indonesia won 84-75.

    India’s sharp-shooter Hareesh Koroth continued his bright showing at the championship, with 22 points off the bench to lead all scorers in the game. India were close the whole game, and trailed by just seven points at halftime. Indonesia continued to slowly extend their lead, and a decent fourth quarter by the Indian side was a little too late to prevent the loss.

    This tournament was the first large scale international exposure for the Indian team under new NBA coach Kenny Natt. Despite the low ranking, India showed flashes of their potential under the new coach, highlighted with the near-upset of Lebanon in their first game. It's tough to say why we under-performed against Malaysia and Indonesia, but perhaps the near-slaying of the giants Lebanon, and the eventual loss, may have been crushed the players' spirits a bit.

    This tournament also gave the chance to several young Indian players to gain valuable experience, and the likes of Amjyot Singh and Amrit Pal Singh stepped up to make their contributions to the squad. Amjyot is the one player who really excites me for the future: playing limited minutes of the bench, Amjyot led India in rebounding (7.3 rpg) and had several important hustle points. Amjyot also averaged 1.8 blocks per game, good enough for second-place in the tournament, only to Iran's Hamed Haddadi, who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies!

    With 1.8 steals per game, India's TJ Sahi finished at joint first place with Sun Yue (China), Osama Daghles (Jordan), and Ibrahim Ahmad (UAE) in steals average.

    Our best player was Hareesh Koroth, who led the team in scoring (15.3 ppg) and was our only consistent scoring threat. Jagdeep Singh played pretty well, too, averaging 12.5 ppg and 6.0 rpg in the championship.

    The biggest disappointment was Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, our former captain and a personal favourite of mine. Playing major minutes, and usually, a major offensive force, Vishesh had 17 points TOTAL in the tournament, averaging just 4.3 points per game shooting an awful 16 perfect from the field. Ugh!

    All the stats above, by the way, were compiled by Siddharth Sharma for SportsKeeda.

    At the end, our ranking actually fell one place from 13th to 14th this year. So, where do we go from here? I made a note in a post last week about India's glaring weakness - the point guard position - and Coach Kenny Natt's desperate need to find a consistent general to lead our side. Beyond that, the future doesn't look too bad for us, actually. This tournament ended on a sad note, but we have a *very* young squad who will only get stronger with this experience. I am talking about our young under 20 bigs Amjyot and Amrit Pal who are on a fast-track to improvement. And of course there's 15 year old Satnam Singh Bhamara, who got limited minutes in the tournament but will be better off with the exposure of this big stage.

    Natt had only a few months with this team to not only raise the talent level of the players at hand, but to also attempt to change the culture and improve the system of hoops in India. With this championship over, he now has two more years until the next one, two more years to train the future crop of Indian players, and to help us make that long-awaited 'baby step' improvement on the international stage.

    Congrats for the win China; and India will be looking forward to 2013.
  • September 23, 2011

    Maharashtra Boys; Chhattisgarh Girls win 2011 Sub Jr. National Basketball Championship

    Basketball fans in Lucknow were given a visual treat on Friday evening as the best under-14 teams from around India clashed in the Finals of the 38th Sub-Junior National Basketball Championship for Boys & Girls in the city’s RDSO court. Eight days of exciting hoops action ended in fitting manner as the boys’ final saw Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra fight neck-no-neck in a classic final, which was finally won by Maharashtra. The Girls’ championship was a repeat of last year’s final between Chhattisgarh and Karnataka, and for the seventh consecutive year, it was Chhattisgarh who emerged as Sub Jr champions.

    Basketball fans couldn’t have asked for a better final than the face-off between Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh Boys, two teams with contrasting but effective styles. The teams stayed close throughout: Andhra Pradesh using taking advantage of their length and speed, while Maharashtra relied on their skill and passing. AP had a slim, one point lead at the end of the half, but couldn’t extend on the advantage: neither side was able to go over more than four point of their opponent for the majority of the game.

    With the game reaching its last moments, Maharashtra had overturned the score and had a three point lead in the fourth quarter, thanks to their talented guards who penetrated and passed very well all night. AP made some crucial mistakes in the end, and Maharashtra’s Zaid Shaikh pulled out big, level-headed plays to give his side a 61-58 win and the National championship.

    “We had practiced very hard for this championship, and came ready to dominate,” said Shaikh, “We had beaten AP in a blowout early in this championship, so we had to be wary of their backlash tonight. Luckily, we were able to play well in the end and win – our team’s strength was our great combination.”

    M. Siva Durga of AP led all scorers in the final with 16 points.

    The girls’ final was a repeat of last year’s final between Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. Chhattisgarh Girls have been an unstoppable force in the Sub-Junior level, and win another big victory on Friday, won their 10th championship in 11 years. Chhattisgarh, who have been the best team in the competition, were in no mood for a slip-up in the final, as they started strong and refused to slow down against their opponents. Saving their best defensive performance for the finale, Chhattisgarh outscored Karnataka 36-7 in a devastating first half.

    Chhattisgarh’s defense focused around stopping Karnataka’s Lopamudra, who had been the best individual player in the girls’ section in the tournament. With Lopa on check, Chhattisgarh were able to cruise in the second half and celebrate their seventh consecutive Sub-Junior national title with a 64-21 victory. Riya Verma led Chhattisgarh in the final with 23 points.

    “We are a strong team because we are very united,” said P. Divya, the captain of the Chhattisgarh side, “We were prepared for this team because we had defeated them in the final last year, and in this year’s tournament, we knew that our team was too strong for any opponent.”

    Earlier on Friday, the 3rd/4th place games were held: In the boys’ game, Punjab overcame a slow start against Chhattisgarh to make a strong comeback and win 70-47. Punjab were led by Guksewala (21 points) and Abhi (16). For Chhattisgarh, Mithun, who had scored 46 points in a loss to AP in the semi-final only the previous night, led the scoring charge of his team with 18 points in the 3rd/4th place playoff.

    In the girls’ game, Maharashtra played a strong second quarter to overturn the score against Kerala and then race to a 48-37 win to clinch third place. Maharashtra were led by Veera who had 16 points.

    Mr. V Ramachandran, the Director-General of RDSO, was the chief guest at the final and handed out the prize-winners trophies. “I was very glad to see the talent on display here and wish to see many of these players representing India one day,” said Ramachandran, “My best wishes go out to all those who took part in this championship. I would also like to thank the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the Uttar Pradesh Basketball Association (UPBA), and RDSO for conducting this big event.

    For the first time in the Sub-Junior nationals, individual prizes were given for the Most Promising Players of the tournament. With the award, the individual players were also given a cash prize of Rs. 5000 each. The awards were given to:

    Boys: M. Shiva Durga (Andhra Pradesh)
    Girls: Riya Verma (Chhattisgarh)

    Final Scores

    Boys: Maharashtra (Shaikh Zaid 13, Astekar Aditya 12, Shaikh Mearaj 11, Shaikh Hammd 11) bt. Andhra Pradesh (M.Siva Durga 16, B.Neeraj Kumar 11, P.Durga Prasad 10) 61-58 (18-15, 13-17, 14-10, 16-16)

    Girls: Chhattisgarh (Riya Verma 23, P.Divya 12) bt. Karnataka 64-21 (23-6, 13-1, 7-2, 21-12)

    3rd/4th Place Matches

    Boys: Punjab (Guksewala 21, Abhi 16, Sukhder 13) bt. Chhattisgarh (Mithun 18, Hitesh 12) 70-47 (10-15, 15-9, 19-9, 26-14)

    Girls: Maharashtra (Veera 16) bt. Kerala (Aleena 14) 48-37 (10-12, 12-4, 12-10, 14-11)

    Finals Standings

    1. Maharashtra
    2. Andhra Pradesh
    3. Punjab

    1. Chhattisgarh
    2. Karnataka
    3. Maharashtra

    Nawabketball? Lucknow has its own special liaison with hoops

    Known to most as the ‘City of Nawabs’, Lucknow is a city that has popular across the country for its history of Kings and Nawabs, for its ‘Chikan’ embroidery, for its amazing monuments, its literature and poetry, its mouth-watering kebabs and biryanis, and its welcoming, secular culture. In the area of sports, the capital of Uttar Pradesh has had a distinguished history in providing some famous names to India’s most popular sport (cricket) and its national sport (hockey).

    But few know that this city holds a special liaison with basketball, too. For the past week, the RDSO basketball courts in Lucknow have been hosting the 38th Sub Junior National Basketball Championship; but let’s turn back the chapters in the pages of history to the year 1978, when the first basketball court was constructed in the RDSO ground.

    This ground holds special significance for hoops aficionados, because, not long after the construction of this new court, the Indian National Basketball team played a match here against the squad from ‘Athletes in Action’, a popular touring basketball team from the USA.

    From that first court, both RDSO and the culture of hoops in the city have come a long way. “Basketball is growing a lot in this city, but things could certainly get better,” says Pankaj Singh, the former Secretary of the Lucknow District Basketball Association (LDBA), “Of course, the main sport here is cricket, which is popular everywhere in this city. And Lucknow also has a great history in hockey.”

    Basketball may not have produced stars from the city like Cricket or Hockey did, but in terms of local success at the state and national level, the game hasn’t been far behind. “Lucknow is one of the oldest cities with a basketball culture in the country,” claims Bhupendra Shahi, the General-Secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Basketball Association (UPBA), “At this point, there must be around 70-80 good basketball courts around Lucknow: it is a city with several good convent schools and they all boast a court.”

    At the senior level, Lucknow also has a five teams which represent the city in State championships: RDSO, Lucknow District, Lucknow University, UP Police, and Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL). Lucknow is one of the few districts in UP which constantly fields strong basketball teams, along with Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, and Allahabad.

    The current RDSO squad, which has been UP champions over the past three years, is littered with several players who have played at the national level.

    Shahi also recalls a great period from the mid 70s to the early 90s where UP Police were the most dominating team in the state, winning consecutive championships for almost two decades.

    Lucknow has also produced a few players who have gone on to represent the Indian Basketball team at the international level. Past stars include Abhinav Singh amd Shagun Singh. Currently, Rakesh Yadav has been a regular feature in India’s international team camps.

    And the epicenter of hoops activity in the city is back where we began: at the RDSO courts, where the Sub-Jr. Nationals are now. There are now three courts at the RDSO grounds – the last two were constructed in 1986. “The main RDSO building is also now being renovated,” adds Shahi.

    Here in these courts, a total of nine All-India Inter-Railway basketball championships have been played, and three pre-Asian championships with the Indian national teams have been held, too. The 38th Sub-Jr Nationals are also the third National Basketball championship being held in Lucknow: in 1986, RDSO hosted the Senior Nationals, and in 2007, the Youth Nationals were held here. The courts have also hosted half a dozen state championships.

    But what excites Shahi more about the city’s basketball story is its future: “We have started a day-boarding scheme at the SAI Center in the KD Singh Babu Stadium in the city,” Shahi says, “All of our Junior level kids practice here and improve their game under good SAI coaches. The improving performance of our junior players at the national level is proof of this.”

    The current Uttar Pradesh Sub-Jr team, featuring several youngsters from Lucknow, continued that tradition of steady improvement for the state. The boys’ team in particular improved their standing from 7th place in 2010 to 5th place this time around, a placing which doesn’t tell the full story of the exciting basketball and hard-work that the youngsters brought to the championship.

    N Shiv Kumar, a former national-level basketball player and current RDSO employee, has spent 19 years in Lucknow, and soon after retiring from the game of basketball, got his first chance at coaching in the nationals when he was handed the help of the UP Sub-Jr Boys team in this year’s Nationals. This team has four players who hail from the city of Lucknow itself, and the girls’ team had six local players.

    Speaking on the boys’ squad, Kumar said: “This team has played well in the championship. And some of these young players have a lot of potential.”

    Kumar does admit that teams who practice and play in Lucknow will tend to struggle when they leave state to play in national championships in other parts of the country, a reason he attributes to the lack of an indoor court in the city. “Lucknow is badly in need of an indoor court,” said Kumar, “Most of the Nationals are now taking place in indoor courts: our players, who spend most of their time practicing outdoors, struggle to adapt at the national level.”

    There were plans to build an indoor court several years ago at the RDSO grounds, says Kumar, but the plans soon went awry as the government funds were allocated to other sports.

    Basketball in the city needs a boost, and the next step in this city of great cultural and special hoops history would be the construction of an indoor court. The city’s burgeoning basketball-loving public await the day when a new court is build at the RDSO, and they can host an event as spectacular as the Indian national team and the Athletes In Action once again!

    September 22, 2011

    Start dribbling kids; India needs a point guard

    When I was younger, one of my favourite movies was the Michael Jordan/Bugs Bunny starrer Space Jam (Unshameful disclosure: it still is one of my favourites, actually). What I loved almost as much as the movie though was the soundtrack. Chris Rock and Barry White captured it best when speaking about the emotions of a young wannabe basketball star in 'Basketball Jones'.

    Then one day, my mama bought me a basketball
    And I loved that basketball
    I took that basketball with me everywhere I went
    That basketball was like a basketball to me
    I even put that basketball underneath my pillow
    Maybe that's why I can't sleep at night

    Aah. How I wish to see the day when hundreds and thousands of young kids in India will grow up with the 'Jones'. When they fall in love with a basketball as much as they love the cricket bat. When they keep dribbling, day and night, so that the by the time they grow up the basketball becomes an extension to their own body.

    No position on the basketball court has more of a 'basketball-an-extension-to-the-body' feel than the point guard. The PG spends (or should spent) more time than any other player on the court with the basketball in their hands, and in my opinion, clearly is the most important guy on the court.

    Point guards are in fashion, aren't they; well at least, in the NBA world they are. Derrick Rose won the MVP award and made it possible for a point guard, for the smallest man on the court, to be a volume scorer and be in a fantastic winning team. Iverson of course did it first, but he was never strictly a PG; the likes of Eric Snow were deputised to bring the ball up for him and them let him go ballistic.

    Where am I going with this? Well, a few months ago, the NBA brought over Brandon Jennings to India, another 6 foot tall (or short, by NBA standards) point guard who preached the good word that we didn't need to be tall to be an effective basketball player. It's an easy message to be bought by the Indian hoops loving public, because seven-footers (or six-foot-nines, or six-foot-sixes) are a difficult commodity to find. It was the same in China, of course, a country made popular in basketball by Yao Ming, but in reality, most of their aspiring stars, like ours are much shorter and dream of moulding their game in the Iverson/Rose/Nash/Paul etc blueprint.

    So, selling point guards in India should be easy, right? If anything, we should be teeming with point guards behind every nook and cranny, basti, and gullie, right?


    India is in desperate need of a point guard, or two. Our national team's performances at the FIBA Asia Championship (ABC) in China over the past week proved this point even further. India played four games, lost them all (even the ones we should've won). Our only 'win' was a Qatar forfeit, and we returned with a 14th place finish. It was a disappointing performance, and one that I will get into in more detail when the tournament finishes.

    India hired former NBA coach Kenny Natt to be our head coach. Natt, a brilliant and experienced leader, has had some experience with good point guards in the past: he was the assistant coach to Jerry Sloan with the Utah Jazz, where a certain John Stockton (you know, one of the best PGs ever, who holds the NBA record for most career assists and steals blah blah blah) was at the helm. Natt chose to take a different challenge by coming to India, and even before the FIBA ABC began, he made clear that, despite his happiness with the team at hand, there was a little 'situation' in the point guard position.

    This is what he said in an interview with The Mint at the beginning of August:

    We’re pretty good with our small forwards, and the two guard, and four and five are in pretty good shape too, but our point guard situation is in limbo. Obviously Sambhaji (Kadam) has taken the lead in that respect. He’s a veteran and he’s shown leadership on the floor, but with his age who knows how long his body is going to hold up.

    Sambhaji Kadam is the 'Jason Kidd' of Indian players: a smary, savvy veteran, known for years to be one of India's best ball handlers and creators. He wasn't without fault in his prime of course, but few are.

    Unfortunately, Natt's worries about Kadam proved to be right, as an injury prevented the veteran from joining the team in China.

    What happened next? India were left with able ball-handlers, who weren't strictly point guards, but were forced to play out of position without our one true leader. Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, a natural SG/SF, is a great all-round talent, but had a troubling championship because he forced to handle the ball too much and couldn't get into his natural flow of the game. Hareesh Koroth is one of the team's best shooters and perimeter defenders, but his handle and creation has always been kind of iffy. Prakash Mishra is a good guard, but not up to the elite level. And then there's Talwinder Singh 'TJ' Sahi, India's best answer to 'The Answer', who has modeled his game a little too much around Iverson: Sahi is a brilliant scorer but wasn't the kind of floor general/passer that fulfilled Natt's needs.

    India did have, in my opinion, someone I felt who was close to the 'ideal' PG to fill in Sambhaji's exalted shoes: Arjun 'Golu' Singh. Arjun Singh is one of the best floor generals I have seen, and who has shown the ability to switch between perfect provider and perfect scorer with ease. But Golu has had a troubled year since his huge performance at the Federation Cup back in February: he suffered an injury that kept him out of the early days at the National camp in Delhi; then, when he was healthy enough to participate, he was found guilty of a minor illegal substance misuse issue; and then he got hurt again. He's still only 21 and may still make that comeback, but we wonder if he will ever live up to the potential that India needs of him.

    There are other options of course. Experienced players who are just not good enough to make the cut. Young players with potential to be decent but not great. We need better than that.

    After three losses at the FIBA ABC, and three games without a proper PG, this is what Natt said in an interview with

    Natt... I have been around long enough to know it's very hard to compete without a point guard, they're an extension of the coach out on the floor. Our guys have played hard without a point guard, they've shown they can come out and compete.
    FIBA: Is it hard to develop point guards without little kids growing up in India with a ball in their hands, playing the game every day?
    NATT: That's the way it happens. Even now I see basketballs being bounced in India, and that's when you know you are getting there. When you can drive down the street and you see the ball under the arm, or someone's dribbling the ball or they're playing basketball in the park, that's when you know they're getting the message of basketball. The Indian people love it, it's just a matter of us continuing to expose them to it.

    What the great coach is talking about right there is what Chris Rock and Barry White talked about on the Space Jam soundtrack. The Basketball Jones. We need a child to love basketball so much that he never lets go of it. We need neighbourhoods of children competing on who's got the quickest crossover. We need players who become so familiar with the basketball that, in the game situations, they can focus on leading, passing, and creating the play, and letting the basketball do the handling for itself, like an extension of their own body.

    So listen: you, 11-year-old in Mumbai or Ahmedabad or Chennai or Kapurthala, with dreams of becoming an NBA star: pick up that basketball and just start dribbling. Dribbling it when you're sitting down. Dribble it when you're standing up. Dribble it when you're studying and dribble it when you're watching TV. Dribble two basketballs, practice the crossover, get faster, dribble while you run, dribble, stop, and quickly start dribbling again.

    As I've learnt from personal experience, few things in basketball are as difficult to master as great handle on the ball, but the younger you start, the more you master it. When you master it, you can look up and see the court, run back and forth, easily spotting the open man, deciding the right time to pass, or whether to pass at all. You will do what the Jason Kidds, Steve Nashs, Chris Pauls, John Stocktons, and Magic Johnsons of the world do best. And you will do this without needing to look down at the basketball, which will be doing the dribbling itself; it will become another part of your body, a weirdly-shaped limb that you can control to a certain extent.

    India needs you kids: go out and get that Basketball Jones.

    September 20, 2011

    Spain are once again Europe's finest basketball team

    Did you follow the EuroBasket? You know, that thing featuring the best basketball teams in Europe, and the best European basketball players, and some incredible hoops in Lithuania the past three weeks? No, LeBron and Kobe weren't there. They didn't need to be: as the EuroBasket 2011 proved, we have come a long way in the last two decades. Basketball in Europe was always competitive and featured high-quality, but now, it is becoming mainstream too, and in my opinion, more exciting than ever.

    With the NBA lockout threatening to keep us away from high-quality basketball for a long, long time, there was no better place to see the next best thing of competitive world class hoops action than the EuroBasket. No fear, NBA-philes, for there was a healthy representation of the league in this championship. The Final of the EuroBasket featured the two teams with the most NBA players: Spain and France. What does that prove? Well, first of all, NBA teams know what the hell they are up to and are signing the world's best players. And secondly, it's showing the confidence that European players are gleaning from their time in the NBA, which is helping up dominate back home.

    The champions were once again Spain, who have now won the EuroBasket for the second time in a row, and are perhaps the world's best team outside of the mighty USA, and were the only team to push the 'Redeem Team' to the brink in the 2008 Olympics. Don't worry, Spain fans, your team will get that chance again: by qualifying for the EuroBasket finals, both Spain and France also booked their place for the 2012 Olympics. USA are already there because of their World Championship victory.

    But back to the EuroBasket final, though: it was a fair final, featuring two of the best teams in the competition. Spain's NBA representation came in the form of the mighty Gasol brothers (Pau and Marc), Rudy Fernandez, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, and newly nationalised Serge Ibaka. Funny, because the one man this list doesn't mention is the man who was actually named MVP of the tournament, Juan Carlos Navarro.

    France had the likes of Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, and Kevin Seraphin. Mikael Pietrus, another talented French player in the NBA, missed the tournament due to injury.

    The final was more or less the Navarro show, as the talented swingman carried off the momentum he had going in the semi-final to pour in 27 points and added five assists in the final. The Barcelona player known as "La Bomba" had 35 points against Macedonia in the semis just a few nights earlier. The EuroBasket MVP averaged 18.7 ppg in the course of the tournament, but saved his biggest performances for the end.

    Spain led most of the way and won the game 98-85, which is quite a high-scoring result for an international game. Pau Gasol, who I still believe is Spain's most important player, seemed to be playing hobbled through the course of the tournament, but he still poured in 17 points and 10 rebounds in the Final. Gasol averaged 20.1 ppg and 8.3 rpg in the tournament.

    Tony Parker was easily the best point guard in Europe in the tournament, and scored 26 points in a losing effort in the Final. Parker was the leading scorer at the EuroBasket, averaging 22.1 ppg.

    One of the stories of the championship was the team from Macedonia. Completely underrated, Macedonia had a fairy-tale run into the Semi-Finals, which included an incredible victory over the hosts and superpower Lithuania in the Quarter-Finals. Macedonia were led by Bo McCalebb, an American born Macedonia-nationalised player, who averaged 21.4 ppg in the course of the tournament.

    And then there was Russia: a team which quietly and efficiently went about their business, losing only one game, that a semi-final to France, en-route to a third place finish in the tournament. Russia were led, as usual, by the brilliant Andrei Kirilenko (who has unfortunately not been that brilliant for the Utah Jazz over the past several years). Russia defeated Macedonia in a close game 72-68, to win third place.

    The biggest disappointment of the EuroBasket was found in Spain too, and he went by the name of Ricky Rubio. Few 20-year-olds have had this many pendulum swings in individual form, team success, and public opinion than Rubio. A player who became a star at 15, was troubling the world's best at the Olympics in 2008, was drafted by the Timberwolves in 2009 and didn't show, won a lot with his club and his country, but somewhere in between, completely lost confidence and now seems to be a ghost of a player we once saw. And all this before he can legally buy himself a drink in America: which is something he should be thinking about right now, since Rubio is finally making his trip to the NBA to play for the T-Wolves when and if the Lockout ends. Rubio had a horrible championship, but hey, he was the point guard / floor general of the best team in Europe. His talent will never be statified, so I won't even try: you have to watch him play and see the team results to decide how good or bad he is.

    So, to sum it up, Rubio was bad at the Euros, but he was good enough to win!

    The other disappointment was Turkey, who, after a brilliant silver-medal performance at the World Championship, couldn't even make it past the group stage in this tournament, and ended at 11th place.

    In the earlier rounds, players like Luol Deng for Great Britain and Dirk Nowitzki for Germany carried their teams as far as they could with good individual play - Dirk had a little more help by Chris Kaman in his side, actually.

    Here are the final standings:

  • 1. Spain
  • 2. France
  • 3. Russia
  • 4. Macedona
  • 5. Lithuania

    Here is the All Tournament team:

  • PG: Tony Parker (France)
  • SG: Bo McCalebb (France)
  • SF: Juan Carlos Navarro (Spain) - MVP
  • PF: Andrei Kirilenko (Russia)
  • C: Pau Gasol (Spain)
  • September 19, 2011

    Why Basketball? 7 young ballers reveal what drew them to love playing hoops

    In its immense length, breadth, and variety, there are few if any countries as unique as India. In the basketball realm, this uniqueness is reinforced during the national championships, where state teams from nearly every single corner of the country come together for a week or 10 days to take part in a colourful basketball festival. Within a matter of hours, the same basketball court could witness players who speak Hindi, English, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Mizo, and a host of other languages.

    The city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh is currently hosting the Sub-Jr (U-14) National Championship: and what makes this level of basketball nationals even more special is that fact that the sub-juniors (or the ‘mini’ as it used to be known) features the youngest members of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) family. For most of the young kids in this tournament, this championship is their first taste of the growing nationwide basketball society in India: those that grew up playing basketball in Kerala will realise that Gujarati players follow a similar regime to their known; those who were trained in Assam see that players from Andhra Pradesh shoot the same way.

    Their backgrounds, languages, social standings, religions, and schooling may be different: but these kids share two things in common – their age level, and their love for the game of basketball.

    This presented a wonderful opportunity to find out what brought them all together to this game. Why choose basketball? From an inspiring older sibling, to a motivating coach, to an unexplainable, inbred affection for the game, here are seven 13-year-olds from around India who discuss what drew them to love playing hoops. See if you share any of the same stories:

    Asmita Nain from Kaithal, Haryana

    “When I was young, I used to watch my seniors play in school, and I felt that this could be my game. When I got into basketball, it was just like getting into any other hobby, but during the course of my learning, I came across an important quote that made me realise that this was really the game for me. On a notice-board in school, I saw the words: ‘Basketball is 90 percent mental, and ten percent physical’, and this is something I agreed with.”

    Sambed Prasad from Bangalore, Karnataka

    “I’m quite tall for my age, and so naturally, I was encouraged to try out this game. One of my father’s friends was a former distinguished player and he suggested to us that, with my height, I could have good potential. I immediately began to like the game myself because it is so fast-paced!”

    Samita Lama from Maligaon, Guwahati, Assam

    “I have an older cousin sister back in Assam who used to play very well. She played in several Nationals and told interesting stories about them. I was very encouraged by her. Then, my father also wanted me to get into this game and wanted me to become a good player. He introduced me to a good coach in the local stadium in my town, and from then onwards, my game started to improve!”

    Rahul Hitesh Purohit from Vadodara, Gujarat

    “Basketball is a fast-paced and enjoyable game. I picked the game up only as a hobby at first to stay fit, but soon it became my passion, and now I’m at the Nationals!”

    Nikhil Narayan from Chennai, Tamil Nadu

    “My family has been playing basketball for several generations. I started playing it when I was just in UKG, when I was just four or five years old! I had a great coach back home who taught me the game I grew older and helped me develop. I was also inspired by NBA players that I watched on TV and I wanted to play like them. Basketball is a good game that helps us stay healthy. But for me it’s more than that: I feel that this game is part of my nature.”

    Zaid Sheikh from Mumbai, Maharashtra

    “I can’t think of any other game besides from basketball – from the time I was eight years old, I picked up the basketball and then, never practiced any other game! I was inspired by my older brother who also played the game. I saw a certain style and energy in it when he played it and I liked it.”

    Shaffy Garg from Mansa District, Punjab

    “I used to watch older players in my school play basketball, and I was very attracted to it. I started playing, but at first, there were no girls in my school who played basketball, so I used to play with the boys! It was only later on that I began playing the game with girls! Basketball is the game that I understand the best, and that is why I stick with it.”

    Now, reader: tell me your story? What made you choose basketball?

    September 16, 2011

    Sub-Jr Nationals: Holders Chhattisgarh start strong in India’s premier U14 national basketball championship

    India’s finest under-14 level basketball players, from all four corners of the country, gathered together as the 38th Sub-Jr. National Basketball Championship for Boys & Girls got under way at the RDSO basketball courts in the city of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, on Friday. Although the first day of the championship was disrupted by heavy showers, perennial powerhouses Chhattisgarh girls started off strong again with a convincing victory over Punjab.

    24 boys’ teams and 23 girls’ teams are taking part in this championship, which features the youngest members of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) family. The nationals, organised by the BFI and the Uttar Pradesh Basketball Association (UPBA), was inaugaurated by the chief guest V. Ramchandran, the director-general of RDSO, on Thursday evening.

    Mr. Alok Sharma, the president of the UPBA was also present at the opening ceremony and encouraged the young hoop stars at present at the tournament. “You have come here to enjoy the game. At this stage, you learn the basics of basketball, you learn to win, and you learn to lose. Learning to lose is as important as learning to win.”

    The Chhattisgarh Girls side, winners of the 2010 championship in Kangra, started where they left off in Lucknow with a dominating win over Punjab. Chhattisgarh only allowed Punjab to score one point in the first three quarters, and were comfortable 43-8 winners.

    In a close Boys’ game, Andhra Pradesh edged out Haryana 36-34. After taking a comfortable eight point lead at the end of three quarters, Haryana made a furious comeback in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to stop AP from a close victory.

    Final Scores


  • Andhra Pradesh (MA Salman 11) bt. Haryana (Mohit 11) 36-34 (5-10, 10-6, 11-2, 10-16)


  • Chhattisgarh (Rhea Verma 13, P. Divya 12) bt. Punjab 43-8 (18-1, 7-0, 4-0, 14-7)
  • Delhi bt. Himachal Pradesh 25-10 (3-6, 7-0, 8-4, 7-0)
  • Haryana (Meena 16, Nikita 10) bt. Gujarat 38-14 (20-4, 4-0, 8-4, 6-0)
  • September 15, 2011

    Young stars from 24 boys’ & 23 girls’ teams clash in Sub-Jr. Nationals in Lucknow

    Featuring the young and budding basketball stars in India from all corners of the country, the 38th National Basketball Championship for Sub Junior Boys & Girls will be held at the RDSO Stadium in the city of Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) from September 16-23, 2011. This is a championship for Under-14 players and will feature 24 boys’ and 23 girls’ teams.

    The ‘Sub-Junior Nationals’ will be organised by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) in association with the Uttar Pradesh Basketball Association (UPBA). Players born on or after 01.01.1998 are eligible to participate.

    The participating teams are:

    Boys: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Orissa, Pondicherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal.

    Girls: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal.

    The reigning champions of this trophy are Rajasthan Boys & Chhattisgarh Girls, who won last year’s Sub Junior Nationals in Kangra (Himachal Pradesh).

    September 14, 2011

    India's Men's Basketball team to tip off FIBA ABC - Hope, patience, & prediction

    If you follow (or want to follow) basketball in India, there is no better time to start paying attention than now: The Indian Men's team has qualified for the 26th FIBA Asia Basketball Championship (ABC), which will be held in Wuhan, China, from September 15-25. This is the biggest basketball tournament for Indian Basketball, featuring 16 of the continent's finest basketball teams (out of 44 federations).

    The prize? The winner of the tournament automatically qualifies for the 2012 Olympic Games basketball tournament in London, while the top three teams will qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Championship, featuring the best basketball teams on the planet.

    This would be India's 22nd time taking part in this biennial tournament, and no, we haven't had too much success here in the past. Our best finish was a fourth place in Thailand in 1975. We haven't finished in the top eight since 2003. Most recently, at the 25th FIBA ABC in Tianjin, China, in 2009, we finished at 13th place.

    In the 2009 championship, Iran beat China in the final to win the gold medal.

    I don't believe in false optimism, but this year, there is at least a glimmer of hope that, no matter the result, our Young Cagers from India will be causing some of their more favoured rivals some headaches on court. The reason, mostly, is coach Kenny Natt, formerly an NBA head coach, and a man on a mission to adhere the same tactics with players on the Indian National side that he did with hall of fame basketball players whom he has worked with in the NBA. Now, be assured, Natt has no magic stick to suddenly improve India's fitness, shooting ability, athleticism, mental strength, and all the other background crap ailing sports in the country: We have to have patience as things will improve slowly. What Natt does bring is a sense of professionalism, experience, and respect to the team. It will be interesting to see how they respond to him in this tough championship.

    This, of course, isn't Natt's first date in serious international competition with India: two months ago, he led India to three easy blowout victories over neighbours Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to qualify for the FIBA ABC. Watching those games offered a sense of the shape that India had taken under him, but in Wuhan, you can be rest assured that the competition will be multiple times sterner.

    Upon his departure, Natt had said “I expect the Indian team to be competitive every night. We will concentrate on one game at a time. I know that we will be a well prepared squad and I aim that, through our performances, we can earn the respect of our opponents.”

    India’s 12-player squad includes 15 year old basketball prodigy, Satnam Singh Bhamara, India’s youngest team member. Satnam, an IMG Reliance Scholar, trains at the IMG Basketball Academy in Florida, USA and made his debut with India’s senior team in the Middle Asia Zone Qualifying Round in July.

    India's full squad at this tournament will be: Amrit Pal Singh, Amjyot Singh, Dishant Shah, Hareesh Koroth, Jagdeep Singh Bains, Narender Grewal, Prakash Mishra, Satnam Singh Bhamara, Talwinderjit Singh "TJ" Sahi, Trideep Rai, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, and Yadwinder Singh.

    This squad is slightly different from the one that played in the qualifiers in July: most importantly, India is missing on major veteran presence in starting point guard Sambhaji Kadam and bench swingman Riyazuddin, both who are away because of injury. Kadam will particularly be missed, as he was the best 'pass-first' point guard for the team - but his absence has opened the door for a chance at redemption for Mr. Air India himself, aka TJ Sahi. In a past shaded by that explosive crossover dribble, dunk competition victories, a solid performance against Yi Jianlian of China, and unfortunately, a series of on/off court behaviour issues, Sahi has been one of the most paradoxical stars of the Indian game. Luckily, under Natt's eye, he has become a lot more disciplined, and it seems that he will be leading the squad from the front as the team's starting point guard.

    So the starting line-up seems to be of Sahi at PG, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi at SG (young, experienced, do-it-all swingman, and my personal favourite player on the Indian side), Trideep Rai (our designated sharp-shooter) as SF, and the Punjabi big men combo of Yadwinder Singh and Jagdeep Singh Bains in the frontcourt. Both Yadwinder and Jagdeep are high-energy players, but at around 6 foot 6, will be both undersized when going against Asia's other behemoths.

    This is where the bench comes in: it seems to be the golden age for young big men in India. On the bench, we have 20 year old Amrit Pal Singh (6 foot 10), 19 year old Amjyot Singh (6 foot 9), 19 year old Dishant Shah (6 foot 9), and of course, 15 year old Satnam Singh Bhamara (7 foot 1). What these players have in height, unfortunately, they lack in experience. Only Shah had played senior internationals for India before this year, and while there is a lot of potential in these four big men, none of them are yet mentally strong and physically complete to be starters.

    The squad is completed with the hard-working backcourt combo of Prakash Mishra and Hareesh Koroth, and another new-comer into the side, Narender Grewal.

    Natt has picked the best available players for this tournament, but beyond the starting five plus Prakash and Koroth, there is a definitive lack of experience which may hurt us.

    At the MAZ Qualifiers, India played with impressive aggression on defense which led to easy fast break points, and also displayed some great set offensive plays that helped us get many good open shots. In the blowouts, Natt was also able to experiment with the line-up and balance the minutes out. With tougher teams facing us this time around, I expect a lot more pressure on our starters to out up heroic performances for their country.

    Now, on to our opponents: The tournament consists of four groups of four teams each. India, ranked 50th in the FIBA World Rankings, is in Group A at the 2011 FIBA ABC, along with Lebanon (ranked 24th), Malaysia (70), and Korea (31). We will be playing these three teams in order in the Preliminary Round on our first three days of the tournament. Korea is the most historically successful side in our group, having won 2 gold and 11 silvers at the tournament, but Lebanon have had more recent success, as they finished 4th in 2009 over Korea's 7th. Malaysia is a side ranked below us, and although that makes us technically favourites to win, they have known to give us problems in the past.

    To qualify from our group and move forward into the Second Round (and thus, hope for a top 12 finish), India need to finish in the top 3 of group A, which means that we need to win at least one of our three games. This seems to be very likely: Malaysia are ranked far below us, and the positive momentum of Natt's team might help us overcome them. Beating either Lebanon or Korea and finishing in the top 2, of course, is a far more ambitious challenge.

    The Second Round will consist of two groups of six teams each, and the top three teams in one group will play against the top three teams in the other. If all goes as planned, India will likely play against Iran, Qatar, and Chinese Taipei in this round. These are all better teams than us, but if we can get a miraculous victory somewhere here, we might be able to qualify for the Quarter Finals (and a top 8 finish) - Chinese Taipei is probably the best bet for that miracle, because the two Middle Eastern teams will be too strong for us.

    The final round, which will consists of the quarters, semis, and finals, will start on Sep 23rd. If India is knocked out, we will play in Classification games to find our final rank.

    I will be hoping for (and predicting) an improvement over last time's rank for India: I think we can definitely move on to the Second Round and thus, at least, ensure a top 12 finish. Even if we don't qualify for the Quarter-Finals after this round, we will have a chance to finish between 9-12th.

    So, with hesitant optimism, I await the start of the FIBA Asia Basketball Championship - you can follow the recaps of the game on the Wuhan 2011 website or a more India-focused recap on the Basketball Federation of India's website. As much as possible, I will also be posting updates about India's progress on my Facebook and Twitter page.

    Go India!

    September 13, 2011

    Argentina beat Brazil to win FIBA Americas

    It was the perfect finale for a South American clash, in a match-up that sounds more like the final of the FIBA World Cup or the Copa America than the FIBA Americas Basketball Championship.

    But it was indeed a basketball final: Argentina vs. Brazil, the two best and most consistent teams in South American basketball, made their way to the final of the 2011 FIBA Americas, which was held in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Argentina defended their position as hosts in the perfect manner to a close finish: led by Houston Rockets' PF Luis Scola, one of Argentina's greatest ever players, and the MVP of the championship, Argentina won the final 80-75 over their eternal rivals.

    In a fast-paced game, both teams went hard against each other, and it was the presence of Scola (32 points) that proved to be the difference between the sides as Argentina led at halftime. Brazil made their own strong comeback and took a six point lead in the second half, but the close game turned in the last minutes behind clutch play by Scola and Carlos Delfino for Argentina to hand the hosts the victory.

    Delfino added 16 points for Argentina. For Brazil, the leading scorer was Marcus Vinicius Vieira Souza.

    This was only Argentina's second ever FIBA Americas championship.

    Third place in the tournament went to the Dominican Republic, who beat the other strong Americas side, Puerto Rico, in the third-fourth place playoff.

    The championship, which is also an Olympics qualifying tournament, was skipped by the Americas most successful ever team, the USA, who had already qualified for the Olympics after winning the 2010 FIBA World Championship. By reaching the finals, Argentina and Brazil also qualified for the 2012 Olympics.

    Scola was named MVP, and was a part of the All-Tournament team, which had NBA-experience sprinkled all over it. Scola led the tournament in points per game (21.4).

    All Tournament Team

  • Marcelinho Huertas (Brazil)
  • Carlos Arroyo (Puerto Rico)
  • Manu Ginobili (Argentina)
  • Luis Scola (Argentina) - MVP
  • Al Horford (Dominican Republic)
  • September 12, 2011

    Rimini 2011: New Zealand Boys, Spain Girls win; India finish in bottom half

    The biggest stage of the FIBA 3x3 Basketball format, the 1st Youth World Championship (YWC) for U18 Boys & Girls in Rimini, Italy, concluded on Sunday, September 11th, with New Zealand Boys & Spain Girls being crowned champions. Indian teams, who also took part in the competition, finished in the bottom half of the standings, with the Girls ranking 16th and Boys 29th

    In a close final, New Zealand Boys' sneaked past Bulgaria to claim the gold medal at the tournament with a 19-18 win. Bulgaria finished at second place, and hosts Italy received the Bronze medal.

    In the Girls' final, Spain were against the host team, Italy, whom they beat in a close game 16-15. Third-place for girls went to Japan.

    India's sides didn't have a tournament to remember, but were able to play against teams from all over the world, an experience that the young players are sure to remember forever. In just three days, India's boys played 12 games, against Korea, Puerto Rico, Estonia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Greece, Tunisia, South Africa, Netherlands, and Singapore. The girls played nine games, against varied nations such as USA (twice), Italy, Sweden, Guam, Sri Lanka, China, Angola, and Ukraine.

    Pitted in Group A with eight other teams, India’s boys side started their tournament in side, defeating heavily favoured South Korea 17-16. Unfortunately, their luck turned from there onwards, as India lost their next three match-ups, to Puerto Rico, Estonia, and Slovenia. Before the day ended, India found something to cheer when they defeated Sri Lanka for their second win of the group stage.

    After starting the second day with a 2-3 record, India's boys needed a few wins on Saturday to climb up into the top four of Group A to be able to qualify for the knockout round. Unfortunately, India lost all three of their group games on Saturay against Ukraine, Greece, and Tunisia, to find themselves finish at seventh place (out of nine) in their group. India had a 2-6 record in the group stage and found themselves out of contention for the qualifying round. On Saturday evening, India played in a classification game against Egypt, but lost it 19-18.

    On the final day, India played three classification games: the Boys lost their first game of the day to South Africa, but their resolve improved from then onwards. India defeated the Netherlands, and in their last game, defeated Singapore in classification games to finish at 29th place (out of 36) in the tournament.

    India’s girls, who were in Group C with five other teams, played four matches on Friday. India lost their first three games to difficult opponents – USA, hosts Italy, and Sweden – but managed to safe face before the day finished for a big, 22-8 win over Guam.

    On Saturday, the Girls won a crucial game against Sri Lanka, 15-13, to finish in the top four (out of six teams) of their group and qualify for the Knockout round of 16. In the knockout-round, India (ranked 16th) played against USA (ranked 1st) for the second time in two days. USA beat India in this game 15-7. India then played in a 9-16 classification game against China, which they also lost, 16-5.

    In the last day of the competition, the team lost both of their matches to Angola and to Ukraine, to finish at 16th place (out of 24) in the championship.

    Find all the results for India at Rimini 2011 and more recaps on the BFI's official website.

    The 3x3 festival was also marked by a number of individual competitions, such as shooting, free throw, skills, and a dunk contest. India's Loveneet Singh finished tied at third place in the shooting competition.

    Final Standings


  • 1. New Zealand
  • 2. Bulgaria
  • 3. Italy


  • 1. Spain
  • 2. Italy
  • 3. Japan

    Individual Competitions Results:

    Dunk Contest

  • 1. Dyshwan Pierre (Canada)
  • 2. Dalibor Fait (Czech Republic)
  • 3= Alex Simeonov (Bulgaria)
  • 3= Alexander Birketoft (Denmark)

    Boys Shootout

  • 1. Tencho Tenchev (Bulgaria)
  • 2. Jarred Meno (Guam)
  • 3= Rait Laane (Estonia)
  • 3= Loveneet Singh (India)

    Girls Shootout

  • 1. Vasiliki Tarla (Greece)
  • 2. Zhanna Byazrova (Russia)
  • 3= Olivia Thompson (Australia)
  • 3= Sanduni Lokuk Perera (Sri Lanka)

    Skills Challenge

  • 1. Pelinberya Bilgic (Turkey)
  • 2. Sarka Jozova (Czech Republic)
  • 3= Hong Yang Cui (China)
  • 3= Tangour Nourhaine (Tunisia)
  • September 10, 2011

    Q&A: Steve Smith – “Basketball in India is moving into a positive direction”

    If you followed NBA basketball closely in the 90s, there is little chance that you would’ve missed the great Steve Smith. Boasting a buttery-smooth jump shot, a hunger for racking up points, and a winner’s mentality, Smith enjoyed a successful pro basketball career, highlighted by an NBA championship (2003), a FIBA World Championship (1994), and an Olympic gold medal (2000).

    Currently, Smith serves as a studio analyst for NBA TV. He appears on NBA GameTime, a live studio show featuring highlights, analysis, commentary and live look-ins at games being played across the league.

    Smith has been in India for the last few days, as a special guest to help inaugurate NBA Jam, which is NBA-India’s ‘travelling basketball festival’, at the Ambiance Mall in Gurgaon on Saturday, September 10. In addition, Smith took part in a different type of interactive basketball programme earlier, as he spent Thursday and Friday morning working with India’s U16 National select teams, who are currently in camp at the Indira Gandhi stadium in New Delhi.

    I spoke to Smith on Saturday about his time in India, his experience of working with the Indian youngsters, and the future of the NBA globally:

    Hoopistani: Is this your first time in India? How has your experience been so far?

    Smith: Yes it is my first time here and I’ve been enjoying it a lot, especially the time that I spent working with the U16 teams.

    Hoopistani: Describe your experience with the U16 sides? What drills did you work on? Anything in specific that you shared with them?

    Smith: It was great: I worked with the U16 boys side on Thursday and Friday, and with the girls just on Friday. It was a good chance for me to spend time teaching them some drills. The kids are very passionate about the game of basketball.

    We did a lot of drills: I even played a game in one of the boys’ teams. For the girls, I helped coach a side for a practice game.

    The drills that we practiced included perfecting different kind of shots and jump-shots, and specifically, we worked on getting their balance right. The U16 coaches wanted my help in many other specific situations, for example, in setting up good out-of-bound plays. We touched on several other drills, such as rebounding, defense, and dribbling.

    The best part was that the kids were asking me a lot of questions and had a genuine desire to improve their game. I was very impressed by their interest in the game.

    Hoopistani: You’ve trained the future players, the under-16s of India: What do you feel about the future of basketball in the country?

    Smith: I think the future of the game is in great hands. Basketball in India is moving in a positive direction. I have met some passionate coaches who want to learn and help improve the level of play in the young players here.

    Hoopistani: How do you think that programmes like the NBA Jam will help promote the NBA here?

    Smith: The NBA Jam is going to be fantastic: I call it a basketball arcade. It will have many interactive events to engage fans of the game and get them enthusiastic about NBA and about basketball. It will be great fun, especially for the kids who attend and learn more about the NBA.

    Hoopistani: The NBA has been heavily involved in promoting the game over the past few years. What are its future plans in India?

    Smith: Well, I think the NBA is going to continue doing the things it is already doing: bringing in more players here into India, holding more events such as the Mahindra NBA Challenge. We want to see the game succeed here, and so we will keep increasing our efforts of bringing the game into this country.

    Hoopistani: The NBA has now become a global league – international players are having starring roles and the league has reached out to fans across the globe. What will be the next step in continuing to grow the league internationally?

    Smith: I think the next step will probably be in having an NBA team in another part of the world or in further promoting NBA teams to more places around the world. The NBA has indeed helped in making basketball a global game – and we will keep striving to take it into more and more countries.

    Hoopistani: And the golden question of the day: When will the NBA return again? When will the lockout end?

    Smith: If I had an answer to that then I’d be a very rich man!

    But really, it seems like things are heading in the right steps. The two sides are meeting each other often now and everyone is working on making sure that the season starts on time.