March 16, 2016

Two Indian basketball starlets get scholarships to play in Japan

Last summer, the basketball relationship between India and Japan strengthened when two of the Indian national squad's finest players - Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh - received offers to play in Japan's BJ Summer League. Amrit Pal and Amjyot's performances were so dominant that they left Japanese scouts impressed and, by the time the Summer League ended, both tall Punjabis found themselves receiving contracts to play for Tokyo Excellence of the Japanese D-League. Starring over in the land of the rising sun, the two big men raised awareness of the potentially deep pool of basketball talent back in India.

Pallavi Sharma
Earlier this month, the seeds that Amrit Pal and Amjyot planted have started to bear fruit. But as a pleasant surprise, instead of chasing top level professional talents from India, some Japanese basketball minds have decided to start younger - and start with women.

Two young Indian starlets - Delhi's Pallavi Sharma and Punjab's Anmolpreet Kaur Pannu - have received scholarship offers to head to Japan as student-athletes this year. This is a wonderful opportunity for both young women as they hope to stay on track with their education while furthering their hoop dreams under a better structure in one of Asia's basketball powerhouses. Basketball is the third rank Women's basketball team in Asia and rank second in the continent in the youth division. Learning the game alongside a higher talent pool should help both Sharma and Pannu realise their full potential.

The 6-foot-8 Sharma, 17, is currently an 11th grade student at the Modern School (Barakhamba) in New Delhi. She has won a five-year all-paid scholarship from Hakuoh School and University in Japan. She helped Modern School win the National School Games title and was also part of the Delhi women’s team. She has trained under Coach Shiba Maggon (former Indian captain) at the SM Cagers Academy in Delhi. "I saw great potential in Pallavi three years ago in an under-16 national training camp in Gandhinagar," Maggon told The Hindu. After an accident that resulted in three major surgeries, Sharma was able to recover, restart her basketball training, and eventually secure this scholarship.

Anmolpreet Kaur Pannu
6-foot-1 Pannu, 16, is in in the 11th grade at the Malwa Khalsa Senior Secondary Girls School in Ludhiana, Punjab. She has been selected for a three-year scholarship at the Toagaukuen High School in Tokyo, which is an elite basketball academy. Pannu improved her basketball skills when she joined the legendary Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA) two years ago under the training of Teja Singh Dhaliwal. Dhaliwal ensured to get her to the trial for the three-year basketball scholarship in Noida back in September, which she cleared. She hails from Rountan village in Shahpur Nakodar, Jalandhar. In an interview with The Times of India, Pannu declared that this scholarship was a "dream come true".

Congratulations to both these young women, and hopefully they will be able to hone their skills in the new environment to become better players. Any improvement will help them in their own future professional careers and hopefully aid the rise of India's basketball teams whenever they return home.

And in the case of homesickness, at least they'll have each other in the same time-zone. Plus, a couple of superstar big brothers - Amrit Pal and Amjyot - will be around too, proudly waving the Indian national flag at basketball games in Japan!

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