In less than three days, a referee on center-court will lob up a basketball, one of the two giant men contesting for it will win the lob and tab it back to his teammate, and the biggest basketball tournament in Asia will officially tip off. The continent's best teams, from 16 nations, will descend to the city of Changsha in China's Hunan province in hopes of being crowned Asia's best and qualifying for the basketball tournament at the Rio Olympics next year.
Two years ago, at the 2013 FIBA ABC in Manila, Iran declared their supremacy over the continent by winning the gold medal, defeating the hosts Philippines in the final clash. Iran and the Philippines will once again be two of the favourites vying for the title in Changsha this year, while the big boys from China and the rising threats from Jordan or Chinese Taipei could give a few contenders the run for their money, too. India finished 11th at Manila under the tutelage of the then newly-appointment coach Scott Flemming. Two years later, facing domestic turmoil that has hampered their preparation, India is sending several new faces to the FIBA ABC - including a new coach - with hopes of bettering their standing in the continent.
The current India team is led by head coach Sat Prakash, a former player and former coach of India's Women's national squad. Veteran guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi will return to the squad after missing out on the qualifiers as captain. Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh, India's imposing front court who have been playing professionally in Japan's D-League, will form the primary fulcrum of India's attack and defense in the middle. The rest of the squad will feature a mix of veteran players (Yadwinder Singh) and young prospects (Gurvinder Singh Gill), and it will be coach Prakash's job to find the perfect blend for success. India will be missing a seven-foot-two hole in the middle in the form of 19-year-old Satnam Singh Bhamara, who earlier this year became the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA but has chosen to focus on developing his career in the NBDL and the NBA instead of playing in India for now.
- Vinay Kaushik
- Rajesh Uppar
- Siddhant Shinde
- Vishesh Bhriguvanshi
- Amrit Pal Singh
- Vikas Kumar
- Yadwinder Singh
- Arvind Arumugam
- Amjyot Singh
- Akilan Pari
- Akashdeep Hazra
- Gurvinder Singh Gill
- Head Coach: Sat Prakash
- Assistant Coach: Sebastian PJ
- Manager: Goutam Ganguly
- Group A: Iran, Japan, Malaysia, India.
- Group B: Philippines, Palestine, Kuwait, Hong Kong.
- Group C: Korea, Jordan, Singapore, China.
- Group D: Chinese Taipei, Lebanon, Qatar, Kazakhstan.
- September 23 - 5 PM - Malaysia vs. India.
- September 24 - 9:15 AM - Iran vs. India.
- September 25 - 12 noon - Japan vs. India
India haven't finished in the tournament's top 10 since 2003. It will take a herculean effort to break the spell and challenge for a Quarter-Final spot, but Prakash's squad should head into the championship with a positive attitude to perform well in the Preliminary Round and hope to spring an upset or two in the Second Round as well. "Most of our core team is intact, so we hope to perform very well," said India's captain Bhriguvanshi, "Our primary goal is to win our first game against Malaysia, and give tough fights to Iran and Japan. If we can manage that, we will progress to the second round."
Last year, Indian basketball was at a high; the team had defeated China at the FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan for the first time in history and given a tough fight to two more of Asia's best - Iran and the Philippines - during the course of the tournament. Unfortunately, external turmoil halted India's progress and their ability to build on the potential shown in Wuhan. Infighting between two competing executive committees has left the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) in a disarray, and Coach Scott Flemming - the architect behind the miracles in Wuhan - left for another job back in the United States a few months ago.
In the midst of this friction and instability at the top, can India's Men's basketball team deliver some good news to fans of the sport back in the country?