Palpreet Singh Brar - a six-foot-eight Punjabi power forward with a penchant to dominate the post - has had a stranger basketball journey than most young players in the country. Through his teenage years, Brar went relatively unnoticed by the national basketball scene, all until he enjoyed a terrific breakthrough for India's junior squad at the U18 FIBA Asia Championship in Mongolia in 2012. Scoring over 21 ppg, Brar became the tournament's third-leading scorer and caught the eyes of Asian scouts as India's next breakout star.
discovered a little too late to make the most of their potential. Although he became a member of India's national squad, he was relegated to play behind star big men Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh (both now playing professionally in Japan's D-League) and, over the next crucial three and a half years, his progress was marred with inconsistencies.
But the pendulum seems to have swung in Brar's favour once again. A few months ago, male Indian basketball players between the ages of 18-22 were blessed with a new dream to hatch: the NBA joined hands with ACG Worldwide to launch the ACG-NBA Jump, a first-of-its-kind talent search programme to find the best young basketball player in India. After scourging through multiple cities over several months, national finals of the ACG NBA Jump were held in Greader Noida this week and Palpreet Singh Brar - 21-years-old - emerged as the national champ. With his victory, Brar has won an opportunity to be trained by NBA level coaches and participate in NBA D-League tryouts later this year.
"I am thankful to ACG NBA Jump for this," Brar said, "I will focus on becoming a stronger player now that I am going to compete with some of the best in the world."
Three-time former NBA champion and former coach Brian Shaw was also among the talent scouts and judges at Greater Noida for the National Finals and felt that Brar stood out highest from the competition.
"His feel for the game and understanding, I could tell he grasps it," Shaw said, "Palpreet Singh, we all thought, was the guy who had the best chance to succeed."
"ACG-NBA Jump has given basketball playing youth in India a pathway to professional ranks," said Yannick Colaco, NBA India's Managing Director, "We are committed to growing the program in the years to come. While Palpreet Singh has been selected for a national tryout in the NBA D-League, the entire pool [the final 32] will be a part of Elite Talent Club and NBA will monitor their progress on a regular basis."
Now, Brar will continue to undergo training with NBA certified coaches in India up until the NBA D-League tryout in June 2016 in the USA. The 2015 D-League tryouts were held in New York on June 14, 2015. Brar will be hoping to become the second Indian citizen in the D-League after his countrymen (and former roommate!) Satnam Singh. Satnam became the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA (by the Dallas Mavericks) last summer and currently plays for the D-League's Texas Legends. Satnam was present in India last October to launch the ACG-NBA Jump in Ludhiana.
His story will be watched and observed by basketball fans and players in India, and stories like his and Satnam's - and Amjyot and Amrit Pal's - will continue to inspire young players to aim higher. If the ACG-NBA Jump can produce a successful Indian player (if not for the D-League, then at least an improved player for the Indian national team), it will set the wheels in motion for more players appearing from India's unexplored talent pools.