October 31, 2016

Indian basketball player Palpreet Singh (22) drafted to the NBA D-League by the Long Island Nets

During the NBA D-League's All Star Game - the 'D' stands for 'Development' - there used to be an event showcased as the 'Dream Factory', which includes a series of basketball skills competitions. 'Dream Factory' is a catchy, positive name for the event, but it also represents the larger aspirations of the D-League: it serves as an important rung in the ladder for basketball players to realise their higher goals, the NBA, the ultimate dream.

On Sunday, October 30th, over 180 aspirants entered the D-League's draft to climb up to that important rung in fulfilling their dream. The Erie BayHawks picked first, selecting Anthony Brown as the first new entrant into the Dream Factory. And for the next few hours, over a course of six rounds, a total of 22 teams drafted the rights to many more players.

But this year's D-League draft was extra special, because first for the first time, it had Indian representation. Three international Indian talents, all bigs in their early 20s from Punjab - Amjyot Singh, Amritpal Singh, and Palpreet Singh - had signed eligibility contracts for the draft. By the end of the night, Palpreet Singh, the youngest of the trio with the most exposure to D-League squads over recent months, was the only one drafted.

Palpreet Singh Brar, a 6-foot-9 power forward born in a village in south western Punjab, was picked 11th in the sixth round of the NBA D-League draft (80th overall) by the Long Island Nets, an affiliate of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets. Palpreet thus became the first Indian to ever be drafted into the NBA D-League. The selection paid off six months of concentrated efforts by NBA India and Palpreet to get in shape for the draft, succeed in the D-League open tryouts, and work with teams in individual workouts. Now that he has been drafted, Palpreet will be part of the Long Island Nets training squad from which 10 players will be picked for the final squad.

The D-League already features another Indian, Satnam Singh, who last summer made history by becoming the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA (Dallas Mavericks) and has since been stashed into the D-League's Texas Legends.

"I am happy with the efforts I have put in and I will continue to work hard with Long Island Nets as this is just the beginning," Palpreet said, quoted earlier today by the Indian Express.

Born in the village of Doda in Sri Muktsar Sahib district, Palpreet was introduced to the game by his father when he was 16. His raw talent and potential carried him over to Ludhiana, the city, which has become Punjab and India’s model basketball nursery, where he was briefly roommates with Satnam. Palpreet’s big international breakthrough came with India’s junior squad at the 2012 FIBA U18 Asia Championship in Mongolia. Over the next three years, he played for India’s senior team and secured a backup spot behind our current superstar Punjabi frontcourt of Amjyot Singh and Amrit Pal Singh. He was part of the Indian squad that defeated China at the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup.

The biggest break of his young career when he won the first-ever ACG-NBA Jump Programme. The programme was a first-of-its-kind talent search programme to find the best young basketball player in India. After scouring through multiple cities over several months, ACG-NBA Jump held a final with 32 of the best players in Greater Noida, from whom Palpreet shined brightest and emerged as national champ. With his victory, he won an opportunity to be trained by NBA level coaches and participate in the 2016 NBA Development League tryouts. After being picked, Brar underwent a 45-day rigorous camp in Kerala to build up his fitness, agility and strength to NBA standards, before heading to the USA to continue his workouts and impress at the D-League tryouts.

Palpreet comes from a humble, farming background. His father, Phirjinder Singh Brar, shared his joy with The Tribune earlier. "I got a phone call around 2 am on Monday that Palpreet was picked by the Long Islands Net in the NBA D-League. This is the best Diwali gift to us and a proud moment for the family of farmers." He is currently posted as a travelling ticket examiner (TTE) with the Railways in Ludhiana.

The Long Island Nets acquired the draft rights of five players, including Palpreet, on Sunday.

While it was a great day for Palpreet, his fellow Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA) alums Amjyot Singh (24) and Amritpal Singh (25) didn't share his luck. Neither of the two big men - two of India's finest players - were picked on Sunday afternoon, despite being superstars on the Asian stage and playing at a high level last year in Japan's D-League. Unlike Palpreet, who was given the resources to prepare for the draft and gained recognition with the D-League teams over the last few months, Amjyot and Amritpal were busy with the Indian national team and were relatively unknown to the D-League. Despite having a bigger impact back home, their older age and the mystery behind their games may have forced several teams to pass them over.

Still, it's not all gloom and doom for the duo. Amjyot and Amritpal will surely have gained a lot from this exposure at the D-League draft as now, at least, their names are being mentioned as potential free agents. For now, they will be hoping to work out with some teams and possibly earn free agent contracts. For the future, they can take heed from Palpreet's success and realize that a few months of concentrated hard work could prepare them for the D-League stage, too.

Meanwhile, Palpreet will hope to fight for his place at the Nets' training camp and hopefully gain a roster spot before the new D-League season begins. If he makes it, he will join Satnam Singh as the second Indian in the league. We are hoping that both of them can continue to impress so that, soon, the 'Dream Factory' turns their NBA fantasies into a reality!

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