September 30, 2013

NBA Jam India's 3x3 Basketball National Finals conclude in Mumbai

India's largest-ever 3x3 basketball tournament, the 2013 NBA Jam, came to an end in Mumbai after traversing and collecting basketball talent from across the country on Sunday, September 29th, with the National Finals. The one-month long extravaganza of hoops and music was held in its city stages in four Indian cities before the Finals in Mumbai. NBA India, which organized the event, also welcomed former NBA players (and champions) Horace Grant, Ron Harper, and Peja Stojakovic to Mumbai to attend and participate in the festivities.

The NBA JAM National Finals were held at the Mehboob Studios in Mumbai, and the teams from Bangalore shone brightest under the flashing lights, winning three of the four national titles in the Men's, Women's, and Boys' divisions. A squad from Pune won the trophy in the Girls' division.

Starting in Hyderabad on September 5th, NBA Jam was held over every weekend of the month in a different city, and the champions of each region were then selected for the National Finals. The travelling basketball circus made stopovers at Bangalore and New Delhi before arriving to Mumbai for the final leg of the city competition, and then remaining in the same city for the National Finals. Over 500 teams and 1900 players took part in the action throughout the different stops in India in the four divisions: 16-18 years boys' and girls' and 19-23 years men and women.

Results of the National Finals - via SportsKeeda

  • Girls: Pune Tigers beat Bangalore All-Stars 09-05
  • Boys: Surana College, Bangalore beat Aligarh Muslim University 13-11
  • Women: Mounts Club, Bangalore beat Loyala Academy, Hyderabad, 15-5
  • Men: Jain University, Bangalore beat Bharti University, Delhi 21-19
Sony SIX, who are in broadcast partnership with NBA India, are televising the Finals in India.

Winners of the four cities had an opportunity to team up with Grant, Harper, and Stojakovic to play in the NBA Legends Game. Besides the three former players, the NBA also sent a mix of entertainers from the league, which included the Sacramento Kings cheerleaders, the New York Knicks Acrobatic Tumblers, and the Miami Heat mascot Burnie.

Several Indian celebrities also attended the Finals, including Nikhil Chinappa, VJ Bani, Raanvijay, Sushma Reddy, Carol Gracias, and Neetu Chandra. Throughout the course of the NBA Jam events around India, some of the biggest Indian bands and DJs performed and entertained the crowds.

Earlier, the three NBA legends were given a chance to tour the city of Mumbai and interact with NBA Jam participants through drills, shooting competitions, signing autographs, and more. Horace Grant was also present for NBA Jam's Delhi edition a week earlier, where he conducted drills and felicitated Delhi Boys' squads which won the Junior and Youth National Basketball Championships this year.

September 28, 2013

BFI announces national training camps for U16 Girls & U18 Boys

The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has announced that they will be hosting training camps over the next month for both India's U16 girls' and U16 boys' national squads starting from Monday, September 30th. In addition, the BFI has also released the list of probables who will be attending both these camps.

U16 Girls

The U16 Girls' camp is scheduled to be held from September 30 - November 3, 2013, at the SAI Training Center in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. 16 probables have been called up for this camp, out of which 12 will be chosen for India's U16 team that will take part in the 3rd FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from November 18-25. Upon completion of their training camp in Gujarat, the squad will be traveling to Dongguan, China on 6th November to participate for an exposure trip to compete against various Chinese Club teams.

Here are the probables called up for India's U16 Girls' camp, chosen based on their performances at the 30th Youth National Basketball Championship in Kolkata in May:

  • Vandana Arya (Chhattisgarh)
  • Vimmy Varkey (Kerala)
  • Riya Verma (Chhattisgarh)
  • Bhandavya HM (Karnataka)
  • Lopamudra TK (Karnataka)
  • Anreeta PV (Kerala)
  • Sandhya CR (Karnataka)
  • Gagandeep Kaur (Punjab)
  • Sakshi Pandey (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Sakshi Arora (Maharashtra)
  • Mayukha KT (Kerala)
  • Mughda Amraotkar (Maharashtra)
  • V Srividhya (Tamil Nadu)
  • R Selvamithra (Tamil Nadu)
  • MG Shinu (Tamil Nadu)
  • Pallavi Kumar (West Bengal)
    Head Coach: TD Biju
    Coach: Abhay Chawan
    Foreign Coach: Francisco Garcia
U18 Boys

The U18 Boys' national camp is scheduled to be held at the SAI Training Center in Aurangabad (Maharashtra) from September 30 - October 19. 25 probables have been called up for this camp, which is being held in preparation to build India's U18 boys roster that will take part in SABA Qualifiers in 2014 to attempt to qualify for the 23rd FIBA Asia U18 Championship next year.

Here are the probables called up for India's U18 boys' camp, chosen based on their performances at the 64th Junior National Basketball Championship earlier this month in Cuttack:
  • G Sai Sri Harsha Reddy (Andhra Pradesh)
  • Kanipi Shiv Kumar (Chhattisgarh)
  • Tarendra Kumar Yadav (Chhattisgarh)
  • Rajesh (Chhattisgarh)
  • Gaurav Ohlan (Delhi)
  • Narender (Delhi)
  • Nilesh Chaudhary (Delhi)
  • Pradeep Chauhan (Haryana)
  • Sourav Kumar Sinha (Jharkhand)
  • Sowkin Shetty (Karnataka)
  • Akhil AR (Kerala)
  • Sugeeth Nath A (Kerala)
  • Bhrigendra Pratap Singh (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Lalit Singh (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Samon Stephen Sandhu (Maharashtra)
  • Mihir Manoj Joshi (Maharashtra)
  • Dildar Singh (Punjab)
  • Hemant Sabharwal (Punjab)
  • Anmol Singh (Punjab)
  • Gurwinder Singh Gill (Punjab)
  • Devendra Kumar Khatik (Rajasthan)
  • Nikhil Pandian (Tamil Nadu)
  • M Harish (Tamil Nadu)
  • Sagar Joshi (West Bengal)
  • Jowakim Lakra (Odisha)
  • Head Coach: Jora Singh
  • Coach: Paramdeep Singh
  • Foreign Coach: Scott Flemming

September 27, 2013

An NBA exhibition game in India next year? Vivek Ranadive & the Sacramento Kings surely hope so...

Indian-born software mogul Vivek Ranadive killed many birds with the same basketball-shaped stone earlier this year. When Ranadive's majority-owned group bought the Sacramento Kings, he succeeded in saving the Kings from Seattle to keep them in Sac-Town, he brought hope and optimism to a franchise struggling on court and with its fanbase, and, most relevant to desi fans, he became the first majority Indian-origin owner of an NBA franchise. Ever since then, the tech billionaire has brought back some positive vibes to the Kings, planning for a new arena, hiring new Head Coach Mike Malone, completely reinvigorating management and staff, drafting Ben McLemore, trading away former ROY Tyreke Evans, motivating their centerpiece DeMarcus Cousins (and giving him a contract extension), and turning 'Sac-Town' to 'Shaq-Town' by welcoming once Kings-tormentor Shaquille O'Neal into the franchise's ownership group. Excitement over the new ownership has helped the Kings surge to the number one spot in the NBA in new ticket sales.

But Ranadive isn't done yet. The Mumbai-born has spoken various times of turning the Sacramento Kings into a 'global brand', and specifically about popularizing the team back in his motherland. He wants to set up outreach programmes to connect with Indian fans and even added that he wants DeMarcus Cousins to be a household name in India (for all the right reasons, hopefully).

How is he planning to achieve all this, you ask?

By bringing the Kings - physically - to India. On, Scott-Howard Cooper wrote yesterday that the Sacramento Kings have already started talks with the NBA and with officials in India about playing an exhibition game in Ranadive's native country as early as next season.

Next season? As in by the end of 2014. As in about a year from now. Ranadive mentions that finding a place to play would indeed be a challenge - "We have to find the right facility," he says, "Right now they don’t have one. But we have a year and the NBA is very, very supportive about building the brand in India." - but he seems to be fairly optimistic at this point.

Now I have been to very many basketball stadiums around India in recent years (I use the word stadium, and not arena, purposely), from Ludhiana to New Delhi, from Raipur to Nagpur to Mumbai. There has indeed been a recent positive surge in the construction of decent public indoor stadiums around the country. Until very recently, most of the biggest basketball tournaments in India - even the biggest national-level competitions - were held outdoors on shoddy courts with shoddier rafters. That trend has been thankfully changing. Over the last few years, nationals - of all age sub-divisions - have been held in indoor courts, in Cuttack, Patna, Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore, and more. Chennai's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium even hosted the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship for Women, and it is perhaps the most advanced government basketball facility in India at this point along with the Talkatora and Thyagaraj stadiums in New Delhi.

But even our best, most advanced basketball facilities are a far cry from the high standards that the NBA expects. The NBA has been to Asia several times for pre-season games of course, mostly in Japan, China, and Taiwan, and this year, for the first time to the Philippines. China will once again host the 'NBA China Games' matchups in Beijing and Shanghai, bringing the Lakers and the Warriors to their shores this year. China has several international-quality basketball arenas around the country, all of which are a major upgrade over anything India has to offer, and many are used by the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) teams. But most of these international-level facilities would still fall below NBA requirements, and only a handful of Chinese arenas - in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou - have lived up to the NBA expectations so far.

All this adds up to reiterate that the NBA has very high expectations. The courts must be perfect to NBA-quality surface, NBA-quality backboards, rims, and nets. The balls provided must be the type that NBA players are comfortable with. The arena must be have adequate security for the players, the staff, and the fans. The arena must be clean. The fans should have comfortable seats from courtside and all the way up to the top. All the entrances and exits must be clearly marked. There needs to be check for fire hazards and escape. There needs to be the technology - the hardware and the software - to run the scoreboards, timers, and more. There must be clean, comfortable, and high quality locker rooms with good facilities for the players. And of course, dozens of clean restroom facilities for the thousands of attending fans. There needs to be a way to control big crowds arriving and leaving such an event. And so much more.

These are a lot of expectations to produce anywhere in India - even if it's just for one stadium to turn into an NBA-level arena - over one year. No stadium in India has the type of court, facilities, security measures, or technology that could sniff at NBA standards. Most of the best courts are perhaps in private schools, colleges, or clubs, but even they might not be good enough (or large enough) to handle an NBA game anytime soon.

New Delhi hosted the CommonWealth Games in 2010, and once you look past the deplorable concerns and controversies associated with these Games (there's a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to these controversies), you could conclude that, at the very least, many of the sporting facilities in Delhi were given a major face-lift. A lot of new facilities were built (many of them are going to waste now, but that's another issue for another day) and many of them resembled international-level infrastructure during the course of the Games. And yet, even facilities that satisfy the Commonwealth organizers (or the IOC, or FIBA) may not be up to NBA standards.

And even if a NBA-quality facility is built in India over the next 12 months, would the cost of it be justified? Outside of the elites, very few average Indians would be able to afford an NBA exhibition, unless the costs are slashed heavily, and in which case, the investors of the entire project would be suffering a devastatingly heavy loss.

The NBA continues to break boundaries and reach new borders, and every year, they take teams for exhibition and regular season games to more and more nations around the world. I understand the urgency for Ranadive, the Kings, and the NBA in general to set sight on India as it's next big market, after China. India has 1.2 billion people, and even one percent of that audience buying into the NBA would make the entire effort into a success. But India is a complicated place: our minds may evolve to accept and love the NBA, but just like everything else, the infrastructure might take a lot longer to catch up.

In an interview with Jared Greenberg on recently, Ranadive spoke in further detail about the potential of a future basketball revolution in India:

"Cricket will always be the national pastime in India," Ranadive said, "But if basketball can be a strong second, I think it will be an important step towards my vision of NBA 3.0, making basketball the premier sport of the 21st century. It's already become the fastest-growing sport in India. Following our purchase of the Sacramento Kings, there has been a lot of publicity, thanks to the NBA as well. It's the kind of sport that can be played in a poor country like India; it can be played by one person, by a few people, by boys, by girls, in villages, in cities, you don't need a lot of space for it like you do for cricket. So I fully expect it to be very very popular. Also, Indians love numbers, and there's a lot of numbers associated with basketball! So I think in about 10 years [the sport] will be a huge phenomena in India."

This is a man who came to USA with 50 dollars in his pocket and turned it into a billion and bought himself a basketball team, so we would be foolish to bet against him. I applaud Ranadive's outlook and his mission to make India the next big avenue for basketball, and thus, help the game itself become the 'premier sport of the 21st century'. But an exhibition game next year might be a dream too big, too soon.

September 25, 2013

Chinese and European Basketball Leagues can learn a lot from each other – Euroleague CEO Roser Queralto

This article was first published in the 116th edition (2013 - No. 19) of SLAM China magazine. Here is the original English version of the story.

Real Madrid will become the latest Turkish Airlines Euroleague team to visit China when it faces the Beijing Ducks for an exhibition game on Friday, October 11 at MasterCard Center in Beijing. Among the planned activities for Madrid’s visit will be promotional events with Chinese fans, practices open to local players and coaches and, a charity programme at a local Beijing school of course, visiting some of country's famous sites.

The CEO of the European Champions Cup – Roser Queralto – was in Beijing to officially announce the pre-season game. SLAM caught up with Queralto for a brief interview on the relationship between European and Chinese basketball and the future of the Euroleague in China.

SLAM: How is the Euroleague continuing to build their relationship with China?

Queralto: I think that Chinese and European teams play quite a similar game, and that can strengthen the relations of the two leagues. The Euroleague can learn a lot from Chinese basketball and bring a lot of things to teach here. Now we have a Chinese player – Shang Ping – who is joining the Euroleague club Pananthinaikos too. We also had a Chinese junior team take part in an international junior tournament during the Euroleague Final Four last year.

SLAM: After Shang Ping, do you think more Chinese players can get a shot at playing basketball for a European team in the future?

Queralto: I think it’s both ways. We are looking for Chinese players to come and play in European, and we also have many players who have been playing in the Euroleague that will play here in China. This year, Bobby Brown – who was the leading scorer in Euroleague last season [with Montepaschi Siena] will be playing for the Dongguan Leopards in China. So it’s not only one way. We think that European and Chinese basketball are quiet similar in the playing styles, so we feel that we can exchange more players.

SLAM: A lot of the big Euroleague games are broadcast live in China. Are there plans from the Euroleague to broadcast more games in China?

Queralto: Exactly. This is the plan: we are looking forward to more games, to more television shows and in more territories. We are happy to say that the Euroleague Final Four has been broadcast live on CCTV 5 for many years, but we also have games on other channels like Let TV. So, looking ahead, not only the Final Four will be broadcast, but throughout the season, we will show games weekly.

SLAM: Chinese basketball fans of course have a great connection with their local teams – like the Ducks in Beijing – and a lot of fans over the years have also found a an identity with NBA teams. How do you hope to build the same type of connection for Chinese fans with Real Madrid or other big European clubs?

Queralto: We know that there is much to be done and we are approaching it step by step to do it the right way. We think that one of the ways that we can do that is by bringing Chinese fans to Euroleague games, whether it’s overseas, or whether we can bring more and more teams co China. This year, we will have Real Madrid, but in the future we may have two or three teams coming every year so that the fans get to know more about them. Another thing that we are doing is that we are creating several television pieces which can be broadcast during the games in which we explain a little bit about what the teams are, when they started to play, who are their main stars, etc. So we’re trying to explain to people what each of the Euroleague teams is all about.

September 24, 2013

India's U16 boys ready to compete at the 2013 U16 FIBA Asia Championship in Tehran

India's Youth (under-16) basketball squad will be amongst 14 young teams from across Asia participating in the 3rd FIBA Asia U16 Basketball Championship for Boys, set to be held in Tehran (Iran) from September 25 - October 4. China, who have won gold in the past two editions of this biyearly tournament, will be once again defending their title. India will hope to improve on their back-to-back 10th place finishes in the past two tournaments.

India have been placed in Group C of the tournament along with Jordan and Japan.

India qualified for this championship by defeating Maldives, Nepal, and Bangladesh to win the SABA Qualifiers in Dhaka. The 3rd U16 FIBA ABC is the qualifying tournament for the FIBA U17 World Championship. After concluding their 2nd training camp at the SAI in NSWC Gandhinagar, Gujarat, the U16 Boys headed to the city of Dongguan in China for a training/preparation camp from September 15-22, 2013. They stayed at the NBA/CBA's Basketball School in Dongguan and played exhibition games against various Chinese teams.

Here is India's 12-man roster for the 3rd U16 FIBA Asia Championship, unchanged from the squad that practiced in Dongguan:
  • Mahipal Singh (Rajasthan)
  • Akhilesh Kumar (Rajasthan)
  • Yogesh Kaneriya (Rajasthan)
  • Prabhnoor Singh (Punjab)
  • Rahul Mehta (Punjab)
  • Jaipal Singh (Punjab)
  • Ashish Briggs (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Vishal Kumar Gupta (Delhi)
  • Sunil (Delhi)
  • Mithun Das (Chhattisgarh)
  • Erash Hooda (Karnataka)
  • Arjun Pandit (Delhi)
  • Head Coach: Tritesh Guha
  • Coach: Raghuvendra Singh Gaur
Holders China and hosts Iran automatically qualified for this tournament. Saudi Arabia and an additional squad from West Asia withdrew from participation. The 14 qualified teams have been divided into four groups:
  • Group A: Bahrain, China, Hong Kong, Syria.
  • Group B: Iran, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand.
  • Group B: India, Japan, Jordan.
  • Group B: Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan, Philippines.
Because there are only three teams in their group, India will play only two Preliminary Round games and will automatically qualify for the Second Round. Their points from the first round will be carried into the second round Group F, where they will play against the three squads from Group D.

India's Preliminary Round schedule (all times IST):
  • September 25 - 5 PM India vs. Jordan.
  • September 27 - 5 PM India vs. Japan.
China will once more be the favourites at the tournament, but don't count out the host team Iran, who have been riding a wave of success thanks to their senior side winning the FIBA Asia Championship last month and will have the support of a fervent home crowd behind them. Last year's silver-medalists Korea will also be a force to be reckoned with. India will have good memories of the previous U16 FIBA ABC. Two years at Nha Trang (Vietnam), India’s squad led by behemoth talent Satnam Singh Bhamara broke out into the scene and gave some of Asia's finest squads a scare. India couldn't improve on their 10th place finish, but showed much-improved performances on court. There’s no clear-cut talent like Bhamara around anymore, but hopefully, the current team can play well together as a unit to surprise Asia's finest once again.

India will hope to defeat the team from Jordan in their first game. Their second opponents are 2011 bronze-medalists Japan, and India will be heavy underdogs in this matchup. If they are able to get a win in the Preliminary Round and get spring a surprise against an opponent in the Second (most likely: Kazakhstan), they could be within sight of a first-ever Quarter-Final spot.

September 23, 2013

Made in India: On a global basketball journey, Eban Hyams wants to be a role model for Indian players

Eban Hyams uses his body as a canvas, as a blank slate completely open to modification, improvement, and to serve as a platform for artistic expression. For a man who is so many things from so many places, each piece of art etched on to his skin serve as a memento of his identity. He's a basketball player and a true multicultural child of the rapidly globalizing world.

And, as the most poignant tattoo on his skin represents, he is - very proudly - an Indian.

Hyams sports a map of India on his left forearm, a reminder of the nation that he proclaims gave him his DNA, and stayed with him through his upbringing and life through Australia, Israel, Singapore, back in India, and now, in the USA. A star of David - signifying his Jewish heritage - has been etched slightly south-west of middle of the tattoo, right at the spot where the city of Pune would be on the Indian geography. 'Made in India', says the label on the tattoo, and the 32-year-old explosive guard proclaims that his truest desire is to help make basketball bigger in the nation that made him.

"When my family migrated to Australia, we had to give up our Indian citizenship," Hyams says, "However it don't change you and where you come from as that's a part of you, your heritage and your DNA. I am very proud to say I am Indian when anyone ask's me and my up bringing in India has made me the person I am today."

If you had been following the story, you would've seen Hyams in practices with the Indian national basketball squad, striving to fit in and help the team succeed, while at the same time, fighting to regain his Indian citizenship and the right to wear the name 'India' on the jersey across his chest. You would've found him touring the country alongside NBA India's Troy Justice, spreading the gospel of hoops to every nook and cranny from Mumbai to Mussooorie, entertaining onlookers with his athleticism and educating young players with his knowledge of the game. And most recently, you would've heard of him getting a run amongst other talented players at the NBDL national invitational tryouts in New York, attempting to make a strong push to become the first Indian to get a shot at an NBA Development League team - with dreams of the NBA itself of course not too far away.

But Hyams story goes deeper and further beyond all that. It's the story of identity, opportunity, some ill-fortune, and some strong comebacks. There are a lot of non-resident Indian basketball players practicing their trade across the globe, wishing for a chance to represent their motherland but never making the necessary sacrifices to fulfill that wish. Hyams was one that came closest to that sacrifice, and now hopes to carry the hopes of a hoops nation even further.

Hyams was born in Pune, Maharashtra to Jewish-Indian parents. Growing up in India, his athletic interests lay elsewhere, in Cricket (like practically every Indian kid) or in Football. But when his mother moved to Sydney, Australia when Hyams was 14, he belatedly found Basketball. "[Basketball] was a sport that most of the multicultural kids played at my school so that was group I fitted in with," Hyams said, "However, I never got picked up on a team as I was not very good at all. I used to spend my time on the sidelines watching. The closest I used to get to the game was collecting basketball cards - I still have my collection in storage!"

But Hyams remained determined to succeed, and began to spend a lot of time at local courts in Sydney improving his game and working on moves that he watched on 'NBA Action'. The hard work paid off and he was picked for his school's second division team. He also took part in a local competition with some friends, and a 45 point-7 assist performance to help his squad win the medal helped him win the attention of a regional team.

"At this time I was very committed to basketball," said Hyams, "For my 17th Birthday I got tickets to a professional basketball game in the NBL (Australian professional league) to watch the Sydney Kings. I remember like it was yesterday. I had goosebumps watching the game and I remember telling myself: I'm going to become a professional basketball player one day."

Hyams starred for the Australian second-division team Penrith Panthers in Sydney of the Australian Basketball Association (ABA) from 1999-2002, but decided that the next step in the journey would be to head West - or East from Australia - and find a college in the USA to play for. After one and a half unsuccessful years of watching and waiting, he finally heard back from Coastal Georgia Community College, who offered him a basketball scholarship. After two years of junior college and playing NJCAA in the states, he returned to Australia, and finally got his big break. Hyams was invited to take part in the 'And 1 Mixtape' tour in Australia against some of the best streetball players in the world. It was here that Eban Hyams uncovered his alter-ego - "Do It All".

After dominating the And 1 circuit, Hyams also returned to the ABA to play for the Hornsby Spider, Sydney Comets, and Bankstown Bruins, and even spent a season in Singapore playing with the Singapore Slingers of the Singaporean NBL. His last season with the Bruins won the attention of Israeli powerhouse club Galil Elyon Goba. A year later, he remained in Israel to play with Binyamenia.

But in 2008, Hyams career took an unwelcome halt. He broke his hand, and due to a misdiagnosis, remained out of the game for eight months. While he returned briefly to play in the ABA in Australia and even represent the Australian contingent at the Goodwill Games in Philippines, he turned his attention back East. Back to his motherland.

Hyams wished to play for India, and was welcomed into the national camps by the then national coach Kenny Natt. Unfortunately, his citizenship status meant that he would have to give in his Australian passport before he became eligible for Indian nationality. A bureaucratic slow drama - of the famously slow pace and frustration that only Indians best understand - was set out in motion.

"As a professional athlete, there is no better honour than to put on a jersey with your country's name and your name on the back," he said, "The pride factor really comes to play when you get the opportunity to do this and you put everything on the line when you are represent your country and your people. I was welcomed with open arms by the coaches and players of the National team and I really felt their hospitality."

A point guard with the ability to score and create for his teammates, Hyams could've been the definite missing piece to India's basketball structure, which has never found a floor general to orchestrate them offensively. He is also a strong defensive player and has the athleticism that could set him miles apart from most Asian challengers. While he was new to the Indian system at first, he showed his potential at practices with the team and gave a hint of what the future could hold if he was able to play alongside the likes of Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Yadwinder Singh, Amrit Pal Singh, Satnam Singh Bhamara, and the rest.

Unfortunately, ill-fortune struck him again, this time in the form of a pesky, infected mosquito. Three weeks before the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, Hyams contracted the Dengue Fever in India which hospitalized him and kept him out of action for several months. He left Kenny Natt's camp with his mission uncompleted but with positive memories.

"Kenny Natt is one of the best coaches I have ever played and worked with and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to learn from him in the time I spent with the team," he said, "Every player on the team was very talented and gifted. We were brothers off the court and warriors while competing on the court each day working to get better. My time training with the team is definitely something I will never forget."

Luckily, his efforts weren't completely unrecognized. The NBA had been in India for several years, touring around the nation spreading the good gospel of basketball. The man in the middle of his mission - the untiring Troy Justice - inspired young hoops enthusiasts everywhere he went, and it was the same man who recruited Hyams who assist in the mission alongside him. Hyams was hired by the NBA to manage their basketball operations in India to support and promote the game.

"Working with the NBA was an unforgettable experience," Hyams said, "It never felt like a job as I was doing what I loved and enjoyed, and it was similar to playing basketball professionally. Also getting the chance to work with Troy Justice on a daily bases was a blessing and it was great to be under his mentorship. We had the opportunity to travel around India education coaches, kids and parents about the life benefits from the game of basketball."

Hyams stepped away from administrative and training work for the NBA in India to try out his fortunes as an athlete again. This is the chapter in his life where he now finds himself. He impressed in the NBDL national tryouts in New York, and is now working on his game and his fitness in Los Angeles. He awaits the start of the NBA season, after which the roster spots for the D-League will be determined, and Hyams hopes to find himself in the thick of the action.

"I want to still be playing basketball, whether it is professionally or socially," he says, "I hope to be an ambassador for basketball in India and be able to make an impact in the lives of aspiring young Indian players. Basketball changed my life and opened doors for me so I would like to do the same for young Indian kids who were just like me one day."

"Considering there is no professional league in India yet to inspire kids to play, and there is a shortage in quality infrastructure in the country, the game has still progressed quite well," continues Hyams, "The passion in the players, coaches and fans involved in the game of basketball is amazing. There is so much untapped talent and once the government and other private entities starts to invest more in the game and the athletics we are gonna see a dramatic change in the level of basketball played in the country. We Indians have the DNA to be amazing athletes and great sportsmen. We have so many talented boys and girls who are hungry to get better and have the ability to do it. It's very exciting to see where the sport in the country is going and I'm glad to be a part of it."

Hyams says that he has hopes of getting a chance to play in the USA, or continuing his career in Israel or even China. But his long-term desire - like the desires of so many other basketball fanatics in India - lies in the creation of India's first professional basketball league. The whispers of the league have been getting louder in recent years, but with each two steps that we take towards it, the reality of the league seems to be pushing a further two steps away.

"100 percent - the Indian pro league would be the ideal situation," says Hyams, "It would be fabolous to be a part of it. The future for Basketball in India is very bright and there are going to be so many young talented stars coming from our country.We have to build together and work hard if we want to achieve greatness on the basketball court."

As Hyams' hoops journey continues, we hope that he will get a chance one day to finally hold on to that dream by representing India and bringing his pro dreams - from Australia and Israel via Singapore and the USA - back to India. After all, he already has the country scripted on his skin and the love for basketball built along with the Indianness in his DNA.

September 22, 2013

Foolad Mahan (Iran) win 2013 FIBA Asia Champions Cup; India's ONGC end 8th

It was an all Middle Eastern finale between a club from Iran and a club from Qatar, hosted by the city of Amman in Jordan. And in the end, the 24th FIBA Asia Champions Cup title was lifted by Iran's Foolad Mahan, who made a strong fourth-quarter run to break a close tie and defeat Qatar's Al Rayyan 84-74. The FIBA Asia Champions Cup pitted together nine of the leading club sides from nine different Asian countries. Uttarakhand'd ONGC - who represented India - had a tournament to forget, losing all six of their games to end at 8th place.

On the final on Saturday in Amman, Foolad Mahan was led by the trustworthy duo of Mahdi Kamrani (21 points) and Hamed Haddadi (20 points, 14 rebounds), who was coming off an MVP performance at the FIBA Asia Championship. Haddadi kept up his dominant play and the dominance of Iran in Asian tournaments as Foolad Mahan came back from trailing by five points at the end of the third period to posting a 10 point victory. Slovenian Sani Becirovic added 19 for the winning side.

Al Rayyan, who seemed to be in charge of things after a strong third period, couldn't match Mahan's intensity in the decisive final period. Naturalized American Boney Watson had 27 points in a losing effort while Yasseen Musa added 18.

On the same day as the finals, local Jordanian side ASU blew past Al Hala of Bahrain en route to a 107-76 victory to secure the bronze medal. The high-scoring effort by ASU was led by Ahmad Alhamarsheh (29), Wesam Al Sous (20), and Ayman Idais (19). Import player Rasheim Wright had 26 points to lead Al Hala.

On Friday, eventual winners Foolad Mahan had their way against Al Hala, dominating them with a 121-73 victory. Joshua Asselin had 21 points to lead Foolad while Kamrani added 20, who sped past in the second half of the game after a close first. In the second semi-final, hosts ASU fell to Al Rayyan in a close contest, 71-67. Boney Watson was unstoppable for Rayyan, leading all scorers with 27 points.

The 24th installment of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup featured teams mostly from the Middle Eastern region, and the only outsiders were ONGC - representing South Asia - and Kazakhstan's BC Capchagay, from the Central Asian region. ONGC and Capchagay were grouped together in Group B, along with Al Rayyan and Iraq's Duhok. The group was were missing a side from Philippines, and with only four members in the group, all teams were guaranteed a spot in the Quarter-Final and a top eight finish.

ONGC sent a 12-member squad - led by coach Durgesh Bhatia - and featuring Indian internationals Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amrit Pal Singh, and Yadwinder Singh, along with savvy veterans like Mohit Bhandari, Trideep Rai, Sridhar Shanmugum, and Murali Krishna.

ONGC's first game at the contest was against Capchagay. After a close first quarter, Capchagay pulled away with a strong performance in the second period and ONGC were left to play catch-up soon after. Despite balanced scoring performances by Amrit Pal (20), Bhriguvanshi (19), and Rai (18), ONGC's comeback attempt failed as they lost the contest 79-72. Vsevolod Fadeikin of Capchagay led all scorers with 22.

ONGC started strong once again in their second game against Duhok, but once more, couldn't maintain the momentum. They only trailed by six at halftime, but dominating performances by Duhok's imports Ronald Traylor Jr. (28) and Ricardo Marsh (19) led the Iraqi side to an eventually comfortable 99-70 win. Bhriguvanshi led ONGC with a valiant 26 point performance.

ONGC didn't stand a chance in their final group game versus eventual semi-finalists Al Rayyan. Al Rayyan played strong defense and were led by Alvin Mofunanya's 16 points in the offensive end to defeat ONGC 85-58, a performance that included holding down the Indian side to just seven points in the opening quarter. Amrit Pal had finished with 16 points for the losing side.

Finishing bottom of their group, ONGC were drawn in the Quarter-Final against the top finishers of Group A, Foolad Mahan. The tournament-winners had no troubled blowing past ONGC to a 104-56 win. Kamrani (20), Asselin (20), and Becirovic (16) helped Foolad's multi-pronged attack as the Iranians dominated each quarter on both ends of the floor. Bhriguvanshi (20) and Amrit Pal (17) were again ONGC's leading scorers.

The Indian side were now relegated to contest for the 5-8th place playoffs. They fought in a rematch against Duhok first, but once again, the Iraqi side's imports were too much for ONGC to handle. Marsh (29) and Taylor (26) were unstoppable, but ONGC stayed close throughout the contest, and took the lead at halftime. ONGC stretched their advantage to five at the end of the third quarter, but a strong defensive finish by Duhok held ONGC to just 12 points in the final period. Duhok won 85-82, overcoming impressive outings by Amrit Pal (26) and Rai (22) in the process.

ONGC's final game was another rematch, this time against Kazakh side BC Capchagay. Capchagay started strong to take an eight point advantage in the first period and then never looked back. Bhriguvanshi had a tournament-best 32 points of all Indian players, but it wasn't enough as ONGC fell to a 101-74 defeat. Amrit Pal added 17 for ONGC. Capchagay were led by MR Adamu (21), Daniil Seleznyov (16), Vsevolod Fadeikin (16).

Going 0-6 in the championship, ONGC finished the tournament at 8th place. It was certainly not pretty and a lot more weaknesses were exposed of the Indian players against stronger mostly Middle-Eastern teams. Additionally, ONGC were amongst the only sides in the tournament without foreign imports or naturalized players, and couldn't keep up with their higher quality opponents.

Still, the experience could prove valuable, especially for young Center Amrit Pal Singh, who continued his improvement and continued to take strides in becoming India's best big man. Amrit Pal scored 17.7 points per game, good enough for second best in his team, and was one of the tournament's top rebounders, grabbing 10.2 boards per contest. Bhriguvanshi led ONGC in the scoring department with 19.3 ppg.

September 19, 2013

Indian Basketball Players on Twitter

Let me first state the obvious, that most basketball players in India don't use Twitter very well, or at all. The majority of them dominate on Facebook like it's a SABA Qualifier but take a step back on Twitter as if it's a top level team in a FIBA Championship. I have been looking to encourage many of our stars to improve their Twitter communication and thus find a different way to reach their audience and their fans. Still, there are some who are fairly frequent twitterers and help keep us entertained and involved with the activities and opinions online.

So here is a (very short ) list of all the known profiles - active or barely active - of past and present Indian national-level players on Twitter. Please share the list, help our cagers get more followers, and thus help increase their dialogue with fans of the game in the country. Feel free to remind me of anyone I've missed or any new players on Twitter, so I can keep updating this list.


September 15, 2013

Sideline Stories: How the media experience makes the NBA much more than just basketball

This feature was first published in the 113th edition (2013 - No. 16) of SLAM China magazine. Here is the original English version of the story.

It was the glossiest credential I had ever seen.

Cleanly laminated, with bright colours, a silver star, and a hologram. Even the string to band it around my neck was fancy. On the back was a list of terms and credentials longer than most legal agreement forms. A shiny NBA logo to mark its legitimacy. And most importantly, my name written in clear, large blocks right next to little headshot of my face to make it one of a kind, unique souvenir of a life-changing experience.

I had just been handed my entry credential to the 2011 NBA All Star Weekend in Los Angeles. It was a simple little piece of plastic, but capable of great power. It was my entry to all the media interaction events for the course of the weekend, from All Star interviews to practice sessions to pre and post-game locker room availability. It was the entry to the NBA’s Jam Session. And most importantly, it was a free entry to all official events at the NBA’s marquee weekend, from the Rookie Game to the Slam Dunk Competition and of course, the headliner, the All Star Game featuring only the finest basketball players in the world.

Examining that credential, I briefly forgot all the other faces around me. Faces of media and journalists from all around the world being handed the same powerful entry pass that I had. Each a similar-looking credential in size and shape and logo, font, and silver star; and yet, each one unique in the name of the media-person, their own photograph, the name of the media they represented. It was a collection of writers, editors, cameraman, and photographers from all across the planet, from China, Spain, Argentina, India, Japan, England, Kenya, the Dominican Republic, France and dozens of other countries, from every home city representing a team in the NBA and dozens more, from TV channels, magazines, newspapers, radio stations, websites, blogs, from those who wrote about sports, about fashion, about lifestyle, about the economy, and those who brought all the headlines together. Some had been here many times before and were veterans in the NBA Media universe; others – like me – were relative rookies just soaking in the experience for the first time in their life.

There were a hundred others, going through the same personal, unique experience at holding on their unique, glossy credential; a hundred of media personalities from around the world that lumped together to form a whole, to form the media circus which becomes as important a part of the NBA world as the basketball that carries the NBA forward.


Basketball is growing, quickly, globally. And you just have to find the statistics for the 2013 NBA Finals to believe it. The largest contingent of international media ever – over 300 journalists and media personalities from outside the United States – would have traversed between Miami and San Antonio closely following and reporting on the clash between the Spurs and Heat. These aren’t just the newspaper columnists or radio jockeys of yesteryears; the media is now interacting and reporting in more ways than ever before. They are capturing the Finals experience through their words, through photographs, through Television news reports, and combining the social media with all their content more than ever before. The Finals aren’t just being broadcast live on Television; they are live on Twitter and Weibo, they are being shared through Facebook and Weixin, they are being talked about on VLogs, shared via Instagram, Vine, through mobile applications, through blogs, and of course, through the trustworthy old magazine that you now hold in your hands. An NBA fan can enjoy the Finals content in any way he so chooses and at any time he wants. And there’s a host of people at work tirelessly part of the NBA’s global media circus making sure that the fan gets their update just how they like it.

It helps that these Finals feature more international players than ever before: 10 players on the two Finals’ teams come from outside the USA, with nine of them representing the Spurs. Fans from France (Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Nando de Colo), Argentina (Manu Ginobili), Brazil (Tiago Splitter), Canada (Cory Joseph, Joel Anthony), Australia (Patty Mills, Aron Baynes) have extra reason to tune in. And of course, it is easy to forget that even the great Tim Duncan hails from the Virgin Islands. The Spurs can also count one of the most famous players of the past decade on their roster – Tracy McGrady – who may not be getting too much playing time on the court but whose name still makes heads turn across the world.

The Spurs might have a global village in their roster, but the Heat are arguably even more popular worldwide. Having LeBron James – the best player in the world and the poster-boy of the NBA – certainly helps. His co-pilot, Dwyane Wade, wears shoes manufactured by a popular Chinese company. And the popularity of other players Chris Bosh and even Ray Allen make Miami one of the most closely-followed teams in the world.

This explosion of international players and internationally popular players on the world’s biggest stage has resulted in these Finals being broadcast live in 215 countries and territories around the world and the play-by-play action being translated in 47 different languages. The entire planet is tuning in to join basketball’s end-of-season party.


The NBA’s relationship with the media is so strong that, even on a random regular season game, sometime in mid-November, between two teams that may not even be playoff threats, you can still catch the frenzy of attention that NBA stars receive from the media.

November 10, 2010, Golden State Warriors @ New York Knicks. That was the first NBA game I ever attended, and so I remember the date and the final score (122-117 to the Warriors) vividly. I remember the Madison Square Garden, the taste of real New York popcorn and pizza, stepping on court of the world’s most famous arena, and the sight of some of the world’s finest athletes competing just a few feet away from me.

These were the pre-Carmelo Anthony days in New York, even the pre-Jeremy Lin days, and despite the presence of Amar’e Stoudemire, David Lee, Stephen Curry, and Monta Ellis, there was little or no hype for this game on this random Wednesday night. Lin was there too, as an unheralded and barely-known member of the Warriors’ bench. The game wasn’t nationally televised and few outside of New York or Oakland paid attention to David Lee’s first game back to his old hunting grounds.

And yet, the show never stopped. Post-game, hordes of media-persons surrounded Stoudemire in the Knicks locker room. Italian media spoke to Gallinari and Russian journalists chased Timofey Mozgov. Even in the pre-Linsanity days, a small number of die-hard Chinese and Taiwanese fans closely followed Jeremy Lin, and the three minutes of action he saw that evening wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by the Asian media outlets. From the live broadcast on the MSG Network to world-acclaimed writers of the New York Times, even that random Wednesday night in November had a memorable life of its own.


The media frenzy that follows the NBA Finals make the off-court show as intriguing as the one on it. While we keep our eyes peeled for the highlight-reel dunks or the momentum-shifting blocks in the flow of the game, we also can’t avoid the stories on the sideline – the reporters, the broadcasters, the photographers, the bloggers – the people who bring the game closer home than ever before.

I’ve still kept my 2011 All Star Weekend Credential with me to remind me of the moment when I became just one unique individual, with his own unique story, but covering a shared experience of the larger NBA universe together with hundreds of other colleagues. I haven’t yet had an opportunity to experience the NBA Finals first-hand, but through the shared voices of the hundreds who are there every year, any place in the world can resonate to sound like NBA arenas in Miami or San Antonio.

September 14, 2013

India's U16 boys basketball squad heads to Dongguan, China for prep camp

India's Youth (U16) Boys' basketball team will head to the city of Dongguan in China for a training/preparation camp from September 15-22, 2013. The team will stay at the NBA/CBA's Basketball School in Dongguan where they will play exhibition games against various Chinese teams. The U16s are scheduled to participate in the upcoming 3rd U16 FIBA Asia Championship in Tehran (Iran) from 25th September to 4th October.

India qualified for the U16 FIBA ABC a few months ago after winning the SABA Qualifiers in Dhaka against Maldives, Nepal, and Bangladesh. They have recently concluded their 2nd training camp at the SAI in NSWC Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

Head Coach Tritesh Guha along with Coach Raghavendra Singh Gour will be leading the Indian contingent to China under the guidance of Senior National Men's Team Head Coach Scott Flemming.

Here is India U16's 12-man roster that heads to Dongguan for the training camp - via the Basketball Federation of India (BFI):

  • Mahipal Singh (Rajasthan)
  • Akhilesh Kumar (Rajasthan)
  • Yogesh Kaneriya (Rajasthan)
  • Prabhnoor Singh (Punjab)
  • Rahul Mehta (Punjab)
  • Jaipal Singh (Punjab)
  • Ashish Briggs (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Vishal Kumar Gupta (Delhi)
  • Sunil (Delhi)
  • Mithun Das (Chhattisgarh)
  • Erash Hooda (Karnataka)
  • Arjun Pandit (Delhi)

September 12, 2013

India's ONGC to take part in 2013 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Jordan

Pitting together the top clubs from various Asian countries, FIBA Asia's official international club tournament - the 24th FIBA Asia Champions Cup - is set to be held in Amman, Jordan from September 13-21, 2013. The tournament will feature nine top club men's basketball teams from nine different Asian countries. India's Men's champions from the 2013 Federation Cup in Bangalore - Uttarakhand's ONGC - will be the sole representative from South Asia at Amman.

The annual Champions Cup returns in interesting circumstances, as last year's final in Lebanon - between local side Al Riyadi Beirut and Mahram of Iran - was put off due to security concerns in the region.

India's ONGC are currently riding a wave of great success domestically, particularly after they signed Indian international stalwarts Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Yadwinder Singh into their star-studded veteran mix. They qualified as India's top side after the blowing past Chennai's IOB at the BFI's Federation Cup Championship in February this year.

ONGC have been placed in Group B of the Champions Cup's Preliminary Round, along with Al Rayyan, Duhok, and BC Capchagay. A team from Philippines to represent South East Asia - the San Miguel Beerman - pulled out from the tournament due to unavailability of players. Since there are only four teams in the group, they are guaranteed to qualify for the knockout stage, but they will shoot for as high as finish as possible to get a favourable draw in the Quarter-Finals.

24th FIBA Asia Champions Cup Groupings

Group A: Al Hala (Bahrain), ASU (Jordan), Foolad Mahan (Iran), Khas Bronchos (Mongolia), Al Jaish (Syria).
Group B: Al Rayyan (Qatar), Duhok (Iraq), ONGC (India), BC Capchagay (Kazakhstan).

ONGC's roster for FIBA Asia Champions Cup
  • Dinesh Kumar
  • Vishesh Bhriguvanshi
  • Amrit Pal Singh
  • Sridhar Shanmugum
  • Anoop Mukkanniyil
  • Des Raj
  • Yadwinder Singh
  • Mohit Bhandari
  • Trideep Rai
  • Riyazuddin
  • Murali Krishna Ravindran
  • Sabeer Ahmed
  • Head Coach: Durgesh Bhatia
Aside from Vishesh and Yadwinder, ONGC feature up-and-coming India international big man Amrit Pal Singh as well as savvy veterans like Bhandari, Trideep, Sridhar, and Murali Krishna.

Preliminary Round Schedule for ONGC - All Times IST
  • September 14 - 6:30 PM: BC Capchagay vs. ONGC.
  • September 15 - 8:30 PM: ONGC vs. Duhok.
  • September 16 - 8:30 PM: Al Rayyan vs. ONGC.

The Quarter Finals will begin after the Preliminary Round, and the Final is scheduled for September 21st.

September 9, 2013

Chhattisgarh (Girls) and Delhi (Boys) win Junior National Basketball Championship in Cuttack

Chhattisgarh's Women's basketball continued their golden age of dominance over hoops in India, defending their gold medal by winning the final on Sunday at the 64th National Basketball Championship for Junior Men & Women, India's premier basketball competition for under-18 talents from across the nation. Chhattisgarh defeated a spirited Kerala squad in the Final at Cuttack, in Odisha. The Men's title was capture by Delhi, who defeated Punjab in another clash of the titans.

The Junior Nationals, organized by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Odisha Basketball Association, featured a total of 46 squads in the boys' and girls' divisions and was held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium from September 1-8 in Cuttack.

The tournament featured surprises, breakout performances, and some dominant play by India's best junior stars, many of whom are sure to be the faces of the nation's basketball charge in the future.

Led by the dominant 6'7" Poonam Chaturvedi, India's tallest active female basketball player, Chhattisgarh arrived in the Final for a fitting clash against rivals Kerala. Chaturvedi, who averaged a scintillating 46 points per contest through the course of the tournament, added 43 points and 19 rebounds in the Final to cap a wildly successful route to the title. Sangeeta Kaur added 21 in the final for the winning side. Chhattisgarh took an early lead and maintained it till the end to outlast Kerala 79-69. Kerala's Poojamol KS, another star talent for the Indian junior side, scored 33 points in the final, but no other teammate was able to add to her efforts in the final.

The boys title pitted the deep and experienced Delhi side against the experienced and big squad from Punjab. Punjab's star-studded roster also featured India's 7-foot-1 phenom Satnam Singh Bhamara. Bhamara continued his bright performances at the championship with 24 points in the Final. Punjab led by one at the end of the first quarter, but Delhi made a comeback in the second and the dominant third period to take the lead and hold on for a 89-82 win. A mixed group of stars led by Pradeep Kumar (26), Gaurav Ohlan (23) and Pankaj Rathi (17) led the way for Delhi.

The bronze medal games were also held at the venue on Sunday. Tamil Nadu Boys rode on the coattails of S. Karthickeyan, who had a game-high 38 points to help vanquish Kerala 96-57. Akhil added 20 for the losing side. In the girls' game, Maharashtra broke a close tie against Tamil Nadu in the second quarter and maintained their advantage for a 78-66 victory. Ishwari Pingle (21), Shireen Limaye (19) and Krittika (16) were the leading scorers for Maharashtra.

Delhi's Gaurav Ohlan (Boys) and Chhattisgarh's Kavita Akula (Girls) were named the MVPs of the tournament.

The winning teams were awarded Rs 1,00,000 each, the silver-medalists Rs 75,000, and the bronze-medalists Rs 50,000. The two MVP’s in the boys and girls section, Delhi’s Gaurav Ohlan and Chhattisgarh’s Kavita Akula won Rs 15,000 each. During halftime of both the finals, the silver medal winning girls and boys teams from the 1st U18 FIBA Asia 3X3 Championship in Bangkok were awarded cash prizes of Rs 50,000 each.

On Saturday, history was made the tournament's semi-finals. Chhattisgarh's Poonam Chaturvedi, who had dropped 63 on Tamil Nadu Girls earlier in the competition, broke out once again against TN in the Semi-Final clash, scoring 67 points in one of the greatest individual performances of All Time at the Junior Nationals. Kavita Akula added 16 for Chhattisgarh who stormed by TN for a 110-79 win. R. Selvamithra led TN with 17. In the earlier girls' semi, Poojamol KS (30), Grima (22), Elizabeth (19) helped Kerala overcome a six point half-time deficit to Maharashtra to come back and post a 88-84 win. Sruthi (24) and Shireen Limaye (23) led the way for Maharashtra in the neck-to-neck challenge.

It was a close game in the boys' semi-final between Delhi and Tamil Nadu too, until the fourth quarter when mistakes and foul trouble by TN helped Delhi gain momentum and sneak by to a 92-75 victory. AS Sohal had a game-high 37 for Delhi, while Pradeep Kumar and Narendra Rathi added 17 each. S. Karthickeyan (23) and P. Vijay (17) were leading scorers for TN. In another close game between Punjab and Kerala, Satnam Singh Bhamara scored with 26 points while Rajveer Singh (20) and Khushmeet Singh (16) aided his efforts to help Punjab stamp their place in the Final with a 80-75 win. It was a close game till the very end, with both teams exchanging leads until Punjab finally created some separation in the game's dying minutes. Sreerag had 22 for Kerala.

Final Scores
  • Boys:Delhi (Pradeep Kumar 26, Ohlan Gourav 23, Pankaj Rathi 17, Narender Rathi 15) bt Punjab (Satnam Singh 24, Loveneet Singh 14) 89-82 (19-20, 24-26, 20-11, 26-25).
  • Girls: Chhattishgarh (Poonam Chaturvedi 43, Sangeeta 21, Akula Kavita 13) bt Kerala (Poojamol KS 33) 79-68 (21-15, 18-15, 19-21, 21-17).
Third/Fourth Place Matchups
  • Boys: Tamil Nadu (S.Karthickeyan 38, Nikal Pandian 13, M. Harissh 13) bt Kerala (Akhil 20) 96-57 (27-18, 24-11, 30-12, 15-16).
  • Girls: Maharashtra (Ishwari Pingle 21, Shireen Limaye 19, Krittika 16, Sruthi 13) bt Tamil Nadu (Keerthi 13) 78-66 (21-21, 19-13, 18-18, 20-14).
Final Standings


1. Delhi
2. Punjab
3. Tamil Nadu
4. Kerala
5. Madhya Pradesh


1. Chhattisgarh
2. Kerala
3. Maharashtra
3. Tamil Nadu
5. Uttar Pradesh

September 2, 2013

46 under-18 basketball teams descend in Cuttack for India's Junior National Championship

A total of 23 boys' teams and 23 girls' teams have descended in the city of Cuttack, Odisha, to take part in India's premier under-18 tournament, the 64th Junior National Basketball Championship for boys and girls. The tournament tipped off on Sunday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Cuttack, and is slated to be held until September 8th.

Chhattisgarh's boys' and girls' squads both won the previous edition of the Junior Nationals in Puducherry, and will be defending their titles against the best young talent in the country this year. The championship is being organized by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) is association with the Odisha Basketball Association.

The participating teams are:


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


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

On Sunday evening, the championship was inaugurated by Dr. S. C. Jamir, the Governor of Odisha.

Chhattisgarh girls started the tournament in Cuttack on a positive note on day one, following the lead of India's tallest female basketball players Poonam Chaturvedi to a 92-65 win over Uttar Pradesh. Chaturvedi scored 44 points as Chhattisgarh led from the opening tip to a statement win. Experienced youngster Sangeeta Kaur added 31 for Chhattisgarh. UP were led by Preeti Kumari's 20 points.

In other top girls' game, Kerala and Punjab fought it out in a defensive encounter, which Kerala won 62-50. Young Kerala superstar Poojamol KS had 21 points for the winning side and Garima Merlin added 20. Nirmal Kaur had 29 points for Punjab in a losing effort.

In the boys' division, Delhi broke the triple-digit mark in a high-scoring affair, running past Rajasthan to a 114-86 victory. Pradeep (29), Narendar (26), A. Singh Sohal (25) and Pankaj (16) led the way to the win. Devendra had 22 for Rajasthan.

Tamil Nadu came back from a first quarter deficit to beat Madhya Pradesh 75-64 earlier on the first day. S. Karthickeyan was on fire, scoring 28 points, while Vijay added 17 in the victory.

You can follow all the results from the tournament via the BFI here.


  • Tamil Nadu (S. Karthickayan 28, P.Vijay 17, G.Bethal 13) bt Madhya Pradesh (BP Singh 15, B Akash 14) 75-64 (21-23, 22-16, 20-8, 12-17).
  • Delhi (Pradeep 29, Narendar 26, A Singh Sohal 25, Pankaj 16) bt Rajasthan (Devendra 22, Navjot 14, Atul Singh 14, Abhimanyu 13, Tushar 13) 114-86 (22-17, 39-13, 24-30, 29-16).
  • Karnataka (Issac Thomas 20, Sowkin Shetty 13) bt Andhra Pradesh 80-52 (24-24, 21-7, 19-11, 16-10).
  • Chhattishgarh (Poonam Chaturvedi 44, Sangeeta Kaur 31) bt Uttar Pradesh (Preeti Kumari 20, Barkha Sonkar 14) 92-65 (24-15, 23-15, 19-19, 26-16).
  • Kerala (Poojamol KS 21, Garima Merlin 20) bt Punjab (Nirmal Kaur 29) 62-50 (12-9, 18-14, 13-16, 19-11).
  • Karnataka (Supriya MS 16) bt Gujarat 67-13 (28-6, 14-2, 13-0, 12-5).

September 1, 2013

"We had different players step up in every game," India's Coach Scott Flemming looks back at the FIBA Asia Championship

Nearly a month ago, India's Men's national basketball squad headed to Manila in the Philippines to take part in the 27th FIBA Asia Basketball Championship. Scott Flemming, who had formerly been a coach with the NBDL side Texas Legends, was named India's coach a year ago, and the FIBA ABC was his biggest international challenge yet.

After India finished a disappointing 14th at the FIBA ABC in Wuhan, Flemming was able to lead them to some improved performances in Manila. India lost their first game in an overtime heart-breaker to Bahrain even after holding a comfortable lead in the game's last minute. They bounced back with an impressive win over Bahrain, before losing to Kazakhstan in their final Preliminary Round Game. India were able to qualify for the second round where they played some of the best team's in the tournament, losing in all three games to Iran, China, or Korea. They weren't able to qualify for the Quarter-Finals, so next India played Japan in the 9-12th place game and lost despite holding a big first half lead. India were able to earn some revenge to Bahrain in the tournament's final game by defeating them in the 11-12the place matchup.

You can read my full India-centric review of the tournament here, where Iran won by defeating hosts Philippines in the Final, while India finished 11th with a 2-6 record.

To look back at the team's performances, I was able to get to get in touch with Coach Scott Flemming for a short interview. Coach Flemming spoke about India's evolving performances against tougher Asian competition, the individual performances of several Indian players, and on the improvements the team needs to make looking ahead to the future.

Hoopistani: What goals did you set out for the Indian squad before the tournament? Did you feel that the team was able to achieve those goals?

Flemming: Because of our past performances and the fact I had never participated in the ABC’s before it was a challenge to set specific goals on what place we were aiming for. We broke our goals into stages. Our first goal was win in the first round and move to the second round. The next goal, seeing the strength of the teams in the second round was play at our highest level to give us a chance at an upset. Our main goal was to reach our full potential. Of course we always play to win every game even when the odds are against us.

Hoopistani: What aspects in particular did you see improvements in the squad through the course of the tournament?

Flemming: I felt like the flow of our half court offense improved in the later games of the tournament. We also did a better job on the defensive boards. The third area we improved in was attacking the basket and not settling for jump shots.

Hoopistani: We had a great opportunity to win two games (versus Bahrain in the Preliminary Round and against Japan) which we gave away in the game's last minutes. In many cases, the team's shooting suffered as the opposition made comebacks and turnovers increased. What do you feel were the reasons for the team's nervy finishes?

Flemming: In the first Bahrain game everything that could go wrong did in that last minute of play. Some things we controlled and some things we didn't. We made several mental mistakes and missed some free throws. They also made a couple of tough shots and there were a few calls that could have gone our way. We were in a similar position in the second game [against Thailand] and sealed the victory easily. As painful as that first loss was we did learn some lessons. In the Japan game we outplayed a superior team for most of the game. It really was a shame we couldn’t finish them off. Foul trouble really hurt us at the end and I will give them credit for making some big shots when they needed to. We have to continue to learn to be better finishers.

Hoopistani: Which players surprised you most with their performance in the Philippines?

Flemming: I think we had different players step up in all of the games. Obviously there were up and down performances of most of our players but I believe all of them made a positive impact at different points of the tournament.

Hoopistani: In which game do you think the squad played it's best game - or was there a stretch when you felt that all your work with the team perfectly came together?

Flemming: Overall I think we played our best game against a very good Japan team. Again, it is a shame we were not able to finish strong. We led for 37 minutes. Unfortunately it is 40 minute game. We need to continue to have a goal of sustaining our play for 40 minutes or longer.

Hoopistani: How would you rate Vishesh Bhriguvanshi's performance as one of the team's most experienced players and captain of India?

Flemming: Vishesh is a very good player and a strong leader. He had some real bright spots in the tournament. Unfortunately, we had to play him out of position at times at the point guard spot. He is more comfortable as a wing. He is always a key player for our success.

Hoopistani: Narender Grewal started of the tournament on a hot shooting streak but slowed down as the championship progressed. Do you think he can continue to a reliable scoring threat for the team in the future?

Flemming: Narender had several outstanding games earlier in the tournament. We had some other players step up later in the tournament that took away some of his minutes. He has a scorers mentality and he will continue to fill that role for our team.

Hoopistani: How did you feel about the performance of the big players - particularly Amjyot Singh who dominated the boards?

Flemming: Amjyot continues to improve. He has such a high upside. I don’t think he knows how good he can be. He was the best player on the floor at times during the tournament. I thought Rikin [Pethani] was one of most consistent players during the ABC’s. He played very well going head to head against some outstanding big men. Amrit Pal [Singh] has some good flashes but he struggled with being in foul trouble. I have no doubt that he will learn from this a come back strong.

Hoopistani: Satnam Singh Bhamara didn't seem to have enough time to find his comfort zone in Manila. Were his limited minutes based on the improved performances of other bigs or were you intentionally looking to regulate his role with the team?

Flemming: Satnam joined us late in our training but I believe he had some real positive minutes throughout the tournament. He is still a young player that is developing. I think his future is very bright.

Hoopistani: We improved from 14th place in 2011 to 11th place this year. How happy were you about the squad's overall performances in Manila?

Flemming: I would say that all of us our encouraged by our improvement but we are not satisfied with our finish. That is a good thing. We need to continue to work hard to take that next step.

Hoopistani: Looking ahead: what gaps do we need to fill to continue improving for the future?

Flemming: In looking at our competition there are a couple of gaps that we need to fill. We are really playing without a true point guard. Joginder [Singh] and Vishesh are very good players but they are both more suited to be shooting guards. Sambhaji [Kadam] is really the only true point guard we have and as you know he got injured in the second game. We also need to improve our perimeter shooting. Many of the teams had 4 or 5 players that were consistent 3 point shooting threats. Although we will continue to drill our senior players these are areas that we need to focus on in developing our younger players. We need to increase our overall team quickness on both ends as well.

Hoopistani: You have spent a lot of time around India already in camps with young Indian talent. Are there any players who you feel could soon be ready to make the breakthrough to the senior squad?

Flemming: There are a few younger players that could make that jump but I need to see how they develop over the next year.

Hoopistani: After almost a year here, how are you feeling about the future of Indian basketball?

Flemming: There are some things we can control and other things that are out of our hands. At the ABC’s I was educated to how most of the Asian countries supplement there teams to reach a high level of competitiveness. All but two of the teams have a “naturalized” player that is usually a big man or point guard from the U.S. In addition to that, some of the teams have players from the U.S. that are of the same decent of their respective country they are playing for even though they are not citizens. In most cases these are their best players. At the present time, our regulations do not allow us to take advantage of either of these opportunities. The things we can control is to continue to develop our players from our U14’s (and even younger) to our seniors. This includes more time for player development training and strength and conditioning. We also need to train consistently at high quality facilities and we need to play more exhibition games against strong teams prior to the FIBA events. While I am here I will do my very best to raise the standard of our play. I appreciate all the hard work the players and the other coaches have put in. It will take a team effort to keep moving in the right direction.