December 28, 2015

2015: The Year in Indian Basketball


Bring on the fireworks and crank up the party music. Another year has come to an end and every passing moment leads the countdown closer to 2016. But before we look ahead at the future, let's look back and celebrate the past. Indian basketball's stock has been rising exponentially for the last few years, and 2015 became one of the biggest year's for the sport in the country so far.

There have been several major individual success stories, crucial off-court developments, and national and international team triumphs over the past 12 months, news that has been good, bad, ugly, or inspiring. Let's take a quick look back at the biggest India Basketball stories in 2015.

- India's most-prestigious domestic basketball trophy - the Senior National Championship - is usually scheduled to be at stake to kick off the year, and 2015 for Indian basketball began with the conclusion of the Senior Nationals in Bhilwara (Rajasthan) on January 5. In the Women's section, Chhattisgarh repeated after 2014's surprise win to once again win the gold. In the Men's tournament, 2013 champions Uttarakhand bounced back to reclaim their place at the top. Chhattisgarh's Poonam Chaturvedi recovered from a brain tumor to win the tournament's MVP in the women's division, while Uttarkhand's Amrit Pal Singh was the Men's MVP.

- Mumbai's prestigious invitational tournament Savio Cup held its 10th edition from January 11-18th and was won by ONGC (Men) and Chhattisgarh (Women).

- The Universal Basketball Alliance (UBA) acquired the rights to hold the All India Inter University Basketball Tournament. The Men's championship was held in Chennai and won by hometown Madras University on January 19. Former NBA player Cedric Ceballos came to India as a special guest for this tournament.

- WNBA and Olympic basketball champion Tamika Catchings was in India during the last week of January, and she was present to tip off the Mumbai city championship of the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Programme at the Dominic Savio School in Andheri East on Wednesday, January 28th.

- Bollywood superstar Abhishek Bachchan - one of the most recognizable faces of Indian cinema and a known supporter of basketball/NBA in India - was chosen for the roster of the Celebrity Game at the NBA All-Star Weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York on February 13. He wasn't very good.

- The basketball tournament of the 35th National Games in Kerala came to a conclusion on February 13 with Uttarkhand (Men) and hosts Kerala (Women) winning the respective titles.

- Also in Kerala about 10 days later, IOB (Men) and KSEB (Women) won the 2015 JCI Basketball Tournament at Athirampuzha.

- Former NBA player Shandon Anderson was randomly a chief guest at a sports fest in Bengaluru on March 11.

- Income Tax (Men) and Southern Railway (Women) won 2015 All India Jeppiaar Basketball Trophy at Chennai's Jeppiaar Institute of Technology on March 14.

- India's first and freshest basketball podcast - Hoopdarshan - was launched by yours truly! Co-hosted by Kaushik Lakshman and I, Karan Madhok, Hoopdarshan has dropped 23 episodes over the past nine months, featuring guests like Satnam Singh, Scott Flemming, Amjyot Singh, Francisco Garcia, JD Walsh, Prashanti Singh, and many more!

- The Basketball Federation of India's (BFI) backroom squabbles finally spilled all over into the national news. In late March, around the tip-off of the 2015 Federation Cup in Pune, two rival groups held two different Annual General Meetings (AGMs) on two consecutive days in two different cities (Bengaluru and Pune) to form two separate executive committees to head the BFI. The Bengaluru one appointed K Govindraj as President and Chander Mukhi Sharma as Secretary-General, while in Pune, Poonam Mahajan was named as President and Roopam Sharma as Secretary-General. For the rest of the year, the battle between Team Govindraj and Team Mahajan became the ugly backdrop that created an ugly blotch on the progress of Indian hoops.

- The 2015 Federation Cup concluded in Pune on April 2. ONGC (Men) made it a three-peat of titles, while Southern Railway (Women) won gold in their division.

- Sim Bhullar became the first player of Indian-origin to play in an NBA game, featuring in the dying seconds of the Sacramento Kings' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 7.

- Satnam Singh, the 7-footed teenage basketball phenom from Punjab in India, declared for the 2015 NBA Draft in late April.

- Sim Bhullar made his first official visit to his ancestral home in India with the NBA. He visited Mumbai, Noida, Amritsar, and Chandigarh between May 2-7, interacting with fans, visiting the Golden Temple, taking part in charity events, and conducting an NBA clinic at the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Elite National Camp.

- Scott Flemming, the Coach who guided India to a historic win over China in summer 2014, left the Indian national Men's team with an unmatched legacy after not renewing his contract with the BFI.

- The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) recognized Team Govindraj to be the rightful leaders of the BFI in late May, but the fiasco didn't clear up.

- Contracts of India's foreign coaches Francisco Garcia (Women's Senior National team) and Tommy Heffelfinger (Strength and Conditioning Coach) were not extended and the two left India at the end of May.

- India's Punjabi big man duo of Amjyot Singh and Amrit Pal Singh brought pride to the nation as they were selected to play for Hyogo Impulse in the Japan's BJ Summer League in early June.

- Aiming to give a voice to Indian basketball players - current and past - the Indian Basketball Players Association (IBPA) was officially formed in New Delhi in mid-June. The IBPA expanded to several other Indian cities through the course of the year.

- After continued infighting between different factions of the BFI over the control of the federation's executive committee, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs in India put on hold the conduct of all official basketball events in India in mid-June until the office bearers of the BFI would be recognized by the government. The two sides were called for a meeting in Mid-July (and several times thereafter) by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), but reconciliation consistently failed. In October, FIBA had to urge the Sports Ministry in India to grant immediate recognition to Team Govindraj.

- On June 25, Satnam Singh made history by becoming the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA. He was selected 52nd by the Dallas Mavericks.

- India hosted the 4th South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) Championship in Bengaluru and won it in style, with a perfect 5-0 record over Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka to qualify for the upcoming FIBA Asia Basketball Championship (ABC).

- Spaniard Francisco Garcia was temporarily reinstated by Team Govindraj and returned to coach India's Women's team for the FIBA Asia Women in early July.

- The Universal Basketball Alliance - UBA India - launched the 2015 UBA Basketball League to be held in Hyderabad from July 17 to July 30. Eight teams representing different Indian cities took part. The Chennai Slam won the inaugural edition of this tournament on July 30.

- Satnam Singh played in the Summer League for the Dallas Mavericks. He stumbled, stuttered, and took baby steps forward.

- Six Indian coaches were chosen for Basketball Without Borders programme in South Africa from July 29-August 1.

- In early August, Satnam Singh returned to India for the first time after being drafted for a fortnight. He toured the Golden Temple in Amritsar, spent time in his village Ballo Ke, returned to the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, the court where he first honed his game as a pre-adolescent. He trained young players in Punjab, Rajasthan, and more.

- China won the FIBA Asia U16 Championship again (in Medan, Indonesia). India went winless and fell to Level II.

- In mid August, Indian Army (Men) and Chhattisgarh (Women) won the PSG and CRI Pumps trophies in Coimbatore.

- Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh dominated Japan's Summer League and, as a reward, were both signed by Tokyo Excellence of Japan's Basketball D-League.

- Japan won 2015 FIBA Asia Women's Championship again in Wuhan (China); winless India fell to Level 2. One of the positives for India was the performance of Jeena PS, who scored 14.3 ppg for India and was one of the top young players at the tournament. Coach Garcia left India after this tournament.

- In mid-September, the IOA created an ad-hoc committee to oversee Indian Basketball and create a new executive committee for the BFI, but Team Govindraj - who had been leading the BFI for most of the year - called the committee 'illegal'.

- Rain disrupted the 2015 Youth (U16) Nationals in Bhavnagar (Gujarat). The final on September 21 was washed out and Tamil Nadu/Delhi (Boys) and Tamil Nadu/Chhattisgarh (Girls) were declared joint winners.

- At Asia's biggest Men's basketball tournament - the FIBA Asia Championship in Changhsa, China - hosts China romped their way to a gold medal at top, but India ended the tournament with something to smile about, too. Behind Amjyot Singh's breakout dominant performances, India made the quarter-final stage for the first time in 2003 and finished at an encouraging 8th place.

- At the 2015 Junior (U18) National Championship in Ludhiana (Punjab) which concluded on October 9, Tamil Nadu won the boys' gold while Chhattisgarh made it a threepeat in the girls' division.

- Income Tax (Chennai) won 2015 Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty Basketball Tournament in Bengaluru on October 11.

- The NBA in India partnered with ACG Worldwide Group to launch the 'ACG-NBA Jump' from October 26 in New Delhi. The programme is set to provide basketball players between the ages of 18-22 from around the country the opportunity to develop their skills and one top player from the programme would also receive the opportunity to attend the NBA Development League (NBA D-League) National Tryout in the United States Over three phases in the course of several months, the programme will choose the best players from six Indian cities, and then, sieve out the best from among the best to train him for the D-League tryout.

- India's largest interactive youth basketball festival - NBA Jam - tipped off its third season on October 28th in Jalandhar (Punjab). Satnam Singh and former NBA player Jason Richardson were among the guests to help promote the event around the country. This year's NBA Jam aimed at a record 24 Indian cities and more than a million young players.

- The 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Men was held in Jakarta (Indonesia) in early Novemnber. Korea won the tournament, ending China's monopoly in this championship. India's U16 team ended the tournament with a 2-3 record and dropped to 13th place.

- Satnam Singh was named to the roster of Dallas Mavericks' D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. He made his D-League debut on Legends' opening night.

- Calicut University of Malappuram (Kerala) won the 2015 All India Inter University Basketball Tournament for Women on November 19 in New Delhi.

- NBA India launched the 2015-16 season of the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme in Mumbai on December 9 with the promise to engage over 1.5 million young players in a record 14 cities. The programme will run till March 2016.

- WNBA star Briann January arrived in India on December 12 for ACG-NBA Jump camp in Mumbai.

- Member of India's U16 national team Harshwardhan Tomar - a 14-year-old center/forward from Madhya Pradesh - joined the Stellazzurra Basketball Academy in Rome (Italy). If he performs will, he could land a full scholarship to study and play basketball in Italy on a long term basis.

It was indeed a year to remember for India's individual potential, as the big Punjabi Singhs - Satnam, Amjyot, Amrit Pal - took big strides to further their careers as professional players. Meanwhile, the NBA continued to expand its presence in India, while the UBA introduced themselves as new players in the puzzle. India's international FIBA performances were a mixed bag, but even the positives abroad were overshadowed by drama at home, where the fighting factions of the BFI placed politics ahead of basketball.

Overall, the outlook for the future looks better than the past, and hopefully the smog of political drama can clear up so that Indian basketball can continue soaring higher in 2016. Happy New Year everyone!


2 comments:

  1. Sir,
    What is the height and wingspan of Tamil Nadu basketball player Jeevanantham Pandi?
    Regards

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, I'm sorry but I don't have this information about Jeevanantham.

      Delete