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!

October 26, 2016

India's star Amjyot Singh to headline his squad at FIBA 3x3 World Tour Finals in UAE

In a few days, one of the most talented Indian basketball players - Amjyot Singh Gill - will wait for the biggest step in his life at the NBA's D-League draft. But before he heads to the US, Amjyot is making a stopover in the UAE for another basketball extravanganza to add to the growing feathers in his cap.

Amjyot Singh is the marquee name in Team Hamamatsu, the champions from Tokyo who are one of the 12 finalists at the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Finals in Abu Dhabi (UAE), set to be held on October 27-28. Hamamatsu are a team rich with Indian-origin talent, and are even unofficially 'Team Gill' at the tournament, also featuring Inderbir Singh Gill (USA), Bikramjit Gill (Canada), along with Japan's Chihiro Ikeda. The three Indian-origin players completed training at the world-class Jaypee Greens facility in Greater Noida and flew out to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, October 26.

The FIBA 3×3 World Tour Finals is a very prestigious event that is the equivalent of a World Cup for 3×3 basketball for professional players.

"Playing 5 on 5 (in Japan) was a very good experience as it was my first professional league," said Amjyot, "Playing in 3 on 3 was a whole new game for me but because of Inderbir and Bikram bhai they modified my game and helped me a lot to do what I’m doing now. We are prepared for the World Tour and we think we will do good. We are hopeful of reaching at least the semis and after that whichever team sets up its plays better will win."

Chandigarh's Amjyot (24), a six-foot-nine forward, has signed a contract with the NBA D-League and he will now be eligible for the D-League's draft on October 30th. OVer the last few years, Amjyot has truly made a mark on basketball in India and further around the Asian continent. With his performances for the national team, he has emerged as the best All-Round talent and one of the top superstars of the Indian national team. Abroad, he has excelled for the Tokyo Excellence in the Japanese D-League and made waves in the FIBA 3x3 tour in Tokyo. Most recently, he helped India to their best international basketball performance in 27 years with a 7th place finish at the FIBA Asia Challenge in Iran. In an interview a few weeks ago, Amjyot told me that he aims to be "the first Indian to play in the NBA."

October 23, 2016

Hosts Vijaya Bank win 3rd Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty All India Basketball Tournament in Bengaluru

A tantalizing finale between two 'bankmen' settled the 3rd Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty All India Basketball Tournament, a prestigious, invitational club basketball meet, in Bengaluru on Sunday, October 23rd. The host team Vijaya Bank (Bengaluru), a young squad that grew up leaps and bounds as the tournament progressed, defeated Indian Bank (Chennai) 86-82 in a tightly-contested finale. The victory gave the hosts their first every victory in the third edition of this tournament.

Held at the Kanteerava Indoor Stadium in Bengaluru from October 19-23, 2016, the tournament marks the memory of the Late Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty, a longstanding former Chairman of Vijaya Bank, who was instrumental in the growth of the bank through the 60s and 70s. There were 7 teams in the fray in this tournament, divided into two Groups. The top two teams from each Group progressed to the semifinals followed by the finals. Several top Indian international players took part, both from the senior and junior teams.

Two of those rising young international talents made their mark in a memorable back-and-forth competition in the final, Vijaya Bank's Arvind Arumugam and Indian Bank's Hariram Ragupathy. Indian Bank held a slight advantage earlier in the game, as his team led 45-43 at halftime. But a crucial third-quarter run turned proceedings in Vijaya Bank's favour, who outscored their opponents 23-14 in the period to take a lead. Ragupathy (34) and A. Surya (20) led a comeback for Indian Bank, but they fell short as Vijaya Bank won the final 86-82. Arumugam finished the final with a cherry on top of his fantastic performances all tournament with a game-high 38.

Earlier in the day, during the third/fourth place clash, Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) from Chennai relied on 28 points by Justin to defeat Kochi's Customs and Central Excise, who were led by international talent Basil Philip (18).

For his dominant performances, the winning squad's star Arvind Arumugam was named the tournament's MVP. Guruprasad Nayak of President's 11 (Karnataka) was named the Most Promising Player of the tournament. Vijaya Bank’s MD and CEO Kishore Kumar Sansi was the chief guest for the finale and he distributed the team and individual trophies and cash prizes.

Final Standings
  • 1. Vijaya Bank
  • 2. Indian Bank
  • 3. Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu

October 22, 2016

Let Her Play

In light of recent men’s team success, India needs to beware not to let women’s basketball trail behind.

This article was first published in my column for Ekalavyas.com on October 11, 2016. Click here to read my original version.

Photo credit: Ekalavyas.com

In the course of one historic week, India’s Men’s basketball team defeated the Philippines, China, and Chinese Taipei at the 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge, the first time that they upset three higher-ranked teams in the same tournament. For good measure, they added a victory over Kazakhstan, too, and when the dust settled, India had completed their finest international basketball performance in twenty-seven years with a seventh-place finish.

The squad received well-deserved adulation and praise back home, and the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) decided the reward the team for its achievement with a Rs. 5 lakh bonus. The result was the latest bit of positive news from the Indian basketball circuit, a miracle achieved despite some of the backroom troubles that plagued the BFI’s executive committee last year.

In recent years, India’s Men’s teams have performed wonders, beating China at the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, making it to the Quarter-Finals of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship for the first time in twelve years, seeing one star drafted into the NBA (Satnam Singh), another win a D-League contract (Palpreet Singh), and two more play professionally in Japan (Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh). Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Rikin Pethani took their pro talents to the Maldives, and back home, the UBA Basketball League provided opportunities to several athletes to play in short pro leagues.

Youth prospects are getting their chance to develop their game abroad, too, including Harshwardhan Tomar, who has signed a contract in Italy, and Prince Pal Singh, who got a scholarship to study and play in Ohio, USA. Last week, the NBA announced global academies to develop youth talent around the world, including in India. And of course, our national team returned with laurels and success from the FIBA Asia Challenge.

All of these achievements and interest towards Indians in basketball have been a positive consequence of improving grassroots development, coaching, and investment towards basketball in India. Alas, all of these achievements also only involve men.

While India’s Women may still rank much higher on the FIBA rankings (40) than the Men (53), the numbers don’t tell the full story. At the domestic level, India’s women have always lagged behind the men in terms of job placement opportunities at units around the country. Now, suffering from a lack of attention at the grassroots and fewer opportunities to play against top teams abroad, the international performances have suffered, too.

Back in 2013, the picture was much different, and women’s basketball proudly stood toe to toe with the men in India. India’s Women’s team had completed history, under the tutelage of Coach Francisco Garcia, who helped them finish at their best-ever 5th place finish at the FIBA Asia Championship in Bangkok and win their first-ever game in Level 1, against Kazakhstan. Around the same time, the duo of Geethu Anna Jose and Anitha Paul Durai had gotten an opportunity to play professionally in Thailand. At the international 3x3 stage, India’s women truly made their mark, winning gold medals at the Asian Beach Games, the 3x3 FIBA Asia Championship, and performing well in several other tournaments.

But a couple of years after the historic FIBA ABC in Thailand, Jose – an Indian basketball legend and Arjuna Award winner – stepped away from the game, leaving a huge void in the center position with no clear successor. Meanwhile, the BFI tensions led to the end of Garcia’s tenure in 2015, and even though he returned for one more FIBA ABC at the end of last year, the team had lost their positive momentum.

By the 2015 FIBA ABC, India had lost their magic touch. The squad went winless at the tournament in China and were relegated down to Level 2. The pain of defeat stung a little extra when Garcia left the team for good right after.

And ever since then, for over a year, India’s Senior Women’s team has not played in a single competitive match. Even in a year without the FIBA ABC, the Men’s squad still got a chance to play in the South Asia Qualifiers for the FIBA Asia Challenge, the William Jones Cup, and then the FIBA Asia Challenge itself. There was no equivalent tournament to the FIBA Asia Challenge for Women and, surprisingly, India didn’t send a Women’s team to Chinese Taipei for the Jones Cup.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment, however, were the South Asian Games in February this year. The event was organised by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) who have been in conflict with the current committee of the BFI. The IOA selected teams to represent India for the basketball tournament at the South Asian Games without the BFI’s approval; FIBA – the international basketball federation who have recognised this executive committee of the BFI – reacted by cancelling the basketball tournament at the Games altogether. The victims of all this drama were India’s international players. After spending time in camp in preparation for the Games and then flown to Guwahati to take part, India’s teams had to settle for friendly exhibition matches that weren’t officially recognised by FIBA.

While young male players from the country are starting to garner hype domestically and abroad, there has been little attention to develop individual women’s talent in the same way. During her career, Geethu Anna Jose got to play professionally in Australia, Thailand, and work out with three WNBA teams. But now, with the exception of High Schoolers Pallavi Sharma and Anmolpreet Kaur getting a run in Japan, there has been little other positive news for the top players getting a chance abroad.

For the NBA, it makes commercial sense to promote Satnam Singh, who became the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA, and Palpreet Singh, who won the (men’s only) ACG-NBA Jump programme and has signed on to a NBA D-League contract. But with lesser opportunity and financial backing, Indian women haven’t received the same attention.

Back home, the UBA League, which has completed its third season this year, is still only a men’s competition. Indian women have no other professional option and have to settle for the few jobs – like Railways – available in the basketball quota.

Pratima Singh, one of the star players for Delhi’s state team and the Indian national squad, rued the opportunities missed for India at the international level, including the most recent failed trip to Guwahati for the South Asian Games.

“Indian Women need more exposure to play basketball abroad, and more practice, to rise up to the level of our competitors,” Pratima said, “A great example is Geethu, who became even better when she returned from her pro stint in Australia, her game and fitness improved considerably. We have seen the same improvement in male players like Amjyot Singh and Amrit Pal Singh who have played in Japan. More players need this experience. It is not an impossible task, and with some initiative, we can get there.”

Where the women have a potential advantage over the men is in the relative parity of competition. For years, India’s women’s team has ranked higher in the continent, particularly because of the lack of competition from Middle Eastern teams that India’s men face in Asian tournaments. Furthermore, in larger, global 3x3 meets, India’s women have shown that they can compete with and upset some of the top teams in the world.

Pratima’s older sister Prashanti Singh, a former captain of the national team and one of the most decorated athletes in the country, believes that domestic growth will eventually positively influence international results.

“If the same effort is put in the Women’s game in India as the men, there will be much more success for us, because the competition is lesser worldwide,” said Prashanti, “In India, there are about twenty employers for men’s basketball and just two for women. If we add more domestic teams, we can definitely get a podium finish at FIBA ABCs. If there is a domestic league and more tournaments for women, then there will be more participation, and more quality will come forth.”

In 2017, India’s Women will finally get a chance for competitive action again, most notably in the FIBA Asia Championship. The team needs to prepare in advance for this upcoming challenge to ensure that they overturn the disappointments improve on their rankings again.

In the past, the BFI has always maintained the importance of gender neutrality in basketball, providing the same level of foreign coaching, infrastructural access, and competitive experience to both men and women. India’s rise in the men’s version of the game has been a pleasant surprise. But in the light of their recent success, India needs to beware not to tell women’s basketball trail behind.

October 21, 2016

SLAM Top 50: Karl-Anthony Towns, No. 20

The reigning ROY is the prototype NBA big man.

This article first published as part of SLAM Magazine's #SLAMTop50 on SLAMOnline.com on October 10, 2016. Here is the original version of the piece.

Kinesiology, as per Wikipedia, is “a scientific study of human or non-human body movement. Kinesiology addresses physiological, biomechanical, and psychological mechanisms of movement.” It’s an important medical science, applicable in biomechanics and orthopedics. In the sports world, it can be applied to the rehab of athletes from injury, strength and conditioning, occupational therapy, and even sport psychology.

Kinesiology was also the subject that a certain college freshman majored in a couple of years ago at the University of Kentucky. That freshman was distracted by other things—chief among them was the fact that he was the best young basketball player in the nation. The “distraction” (my word, not his) was the reason he was at Kentucky. The “distraction” had made him one of the top-recruited players of his class and eventually made him the No. 1 overall draft pick in the loaded 2015 NBA Draft. That “distraction” became his profession.

But his interest in kinesiology never wavered. The freshman maintained a 4.0 GPA in his only year at Kentucky, continued taking online classes in kinesiology, and maintained that, after a casual couple of decades of dominance in the world’s most competitive basketball league, he is hoping to start a second career as a doctor.

Meet Karl-Anthony Towns, aspiring doctor, specialist in human movement, the current face of not one but two special SLAM Magazine covers, and one of the best damn young players that the basketball world has seen in a long, long time.

If you follow SLAM, you know the story already. In his recent cover feature on Towns, Adam Figman told us about the lanky, awkward kid who went from being picked last in the playground to first in the draft. He told us about a 20-year-old (!!!) Dominican who presented an almost unreal combination of physical greatness and social congeniality. He quoted this 7-footed beast, the future of the NBA, leaving with the words: “I’ve always said that I want to leave the game on my own terms, finish as the best player that’s ever lived, and do it my own way—never a version two of someone else, but the first version of myself, and I strive every day and continue to work on my game so I can be the best player possible, so I can leave my legacy as that. I’m not gonna stop until I’ve accomplished that goal, until I have absolutely nothing to give to the game of basketball.”

The NBA changes every few years. Rules change, styles change, tactics change. Dominant big men make way for do-it-all swingman make way for all-three-point-shooting-everything. The constant imagining and reimaging of what ‘works’ in a winning system gives the league its competitive edge but also keeps talented players in a turnstile. Only a chosen few, those who adapt, can survive and thrive long-term. The rest get ushered out in a hurry.

Towns, undoubtedly a once-in-a-generation talent, will adapt, and he’ll dominant. I’m not talking later, I’m talking now. I’m talking following up on a historic rookie season where he played and started in all 82 games for the Timberwolves, averaging 18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game now. I’m talking a youngster with defensive intelligence way beyond his years now. I’m talking of the first big to win the NBA Skills Challenge now. I’m talking top 20 in the SLAM rankings at age 20 now.

Let’s stay with the “distraction” for now. The medical career can wait.

Kinesiology roots from the Greek word kinesis. Movement. The study of movement. While the rest of the league rests, or swirls around that turnstile. Towns is here to study that movement and then break through. Move on further, higher, faster. He’s here to stay. Here’s here to adapt. Here’s here to dominate.

Hoopdarshan Episode 38: A Diwali NBA Season Preview with Samir Kumar

Diwali is the greatest fireworks show in the world... Well, that, and on the basketball court! This year, the 'Festival of Light' couldn't come at a better time, as it coincides with the beginning of the 2016-17 NBA Season. To tackle all the most pressing questions and excitement of the coming year, Hoopdarshan hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok call to NBA superfan Samir Kumar for help. Check out this special NBA preview episode, where we wonder if anyone can stop a Warriors-Cavaliers rematch, discuss the players and teams who will most intrigue us this season, and allow Samir to give us an important Ray Allen tribute.

Some of the questions we debate include 1. Who'll win the wide-open MVP race? 2. Is there anyone capable of stopping LeBron in the East? Will Russell Westbrook unleash the wrath? Will Kristaps Porzingis become a god now or later? And much more! Episode 38 also features Indian basketball news, including Amjyot Singh and Palpreet Singh heading to the NBA D-League draft.

Hoopdarshan is the truest voice of Indian basketball, and since we're such hopeless fans of the game, it will become the voice of everything basketball related we love, from the NBA to international hoops, too. On every episode of Hoopdarshan, we will be inviting a special guest to interview or chat to about a variety of topics. With expert insight from some of the brightest and most-involved people in the world of Indian basketball, we hope to bring this conversation to a many more interested fans, players, and followers of the game.

Make sure to follow Hoopdarshan on Soundcloud or search for 'Hoopdarshan' on the iTunes Store! Auto-sync Hoopdarshan to your preferred podcast app NOW!

Hoopdarshan can be found on...

October 16, 2016

China Kashgar win 2016 FIBA Asia Champions Cup; India's ONGC return winless

Asia's premier international club basketball tournament - the 2016 FIBA Asia Champions Cup - concluded in Chenzhou, China, on Sunday October 16 with the host country's representative China Kashgar winning the finale. This was Kashgar's (otherwise known as the Xinjiang Flying Tigers) first victory at the FIBA Asia CC, and they defeated Lebanese champions Al Riyadi in an entertaining final at Chenzhou's Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium.

India were represented at this tournament by Dehradun's ONGC, who, despite featuring some top Indian talent, were ousted from the Preliminary Round stage without a win and finished tied for 9/10th place in the ten-team fray.

Kashgar's squad were led by naturalized Philippines player and former NBA player Andray Blatche. Blatche was the star man in the final, scoring 22 points with 8 rebounds for China, while his teammates Darius Adams and Abudushalamu Abudurexiti added 19 each in the victory. China led most of the way, and survived a furious comeback by Al Riyadi in the final quarter to notch the 96-88 win. Fadi El Khatib (23) and Dewarick Spencer (19) were the leading scorers for the Lebanese squad.

Spencer was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament.

Also on the final day, Iran's Petrochimi confirmed a third-place finish for the bronze medal by defeating the UAE's high-risers Al Ahli, 100-74. Al Ahli's Samuel Young was a one-man wrecking machine, notching 43 points and 10 rebounds, but he got little help from his teammates. Petrochimi relied on a more balanced offense, backing up on the efforts of James White (22 points, 19 rebounds), Behnam Yackchali (22), and Gerald Robinson Jr. (21) for their blowout victory.

A day earlier, China survived a mammoth clash against Petrochimi 90-86 in the semi-finals to secure their spot in the finale. The game featured numerous twists and turns, and China had to bounce back from an eight-point halftime deficit to take the advantage at the end of the tense game. Blatche was again the hero, leading with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Darius Adams added 20. Petrochimi were held at bay despite 26 point efforts by both Behnam Yackchali and James White. In the second semi-final, Al Riyadi had no problem blowing past Al Ahli, 107-79. Dewarick Spencer scored 26 for the winning side, while Fadi El Khatib (20) and Alade Aminu chipped in crucial points, too. Al Ahli's lone warrior was Samuel Young, who had 32 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

The FIBA Asia CC tipped off on October 8th with ten teams, and India's ONGC - who had qualified for the tournament with their Federation Cup victory - were placed in Preliminary Round Group A with four touch matchups. They were led by head coach Dinesh Kumar and India international talents like Amrit Pal Singh, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, and Yadwinder Singh.

From the opener against Iran's Petrochimi onwards, it became clear that ONGC were going to be fighting an uphill battle in this tournament. Petrochimi used a balanced effort to take an early double-digit lead over ONGC and played hawking defense to cruise to an easy 95-51 win.

ONGC's second match was more of the same, this time against Iraq's Al Rayyan. Another poor offensive effort had ONGC playing catchup from the get go. Preston Knowles of Al Rayyan turned out to be sublime in this game, putting up 39 points and 14 rebounds in the 95-53 win. Al Rayyan's captain Mohamed Mohamed added 17 in the win. The lone bright spark for ONGC was India's star guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, who notched 20 points and 8 rebounds in the loss.

Another tough loss followed the next day for ONGC, this time against eventual finalists Al Riyadi of Lebanon. For ONGC, the duo of Amrit Pal Singh (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (18 points, 11 rebounds) played their best, but they got little help from the rest of the squad. Al Riyadi were led by Wael Arakji (21), Karim Zeinoun (20), and Dewarick Spencer (17) in the 91-65 win.

ONGC's campaign got an early end with a fourth-straight loss in their final Preliminary Round game to Chinese Taipei's Pauian. ONGC played their best game of the tournament for about three quarters, staying within sight of the Taiwanese competition as they trailed 73-62. But it was all Pauian in the final period, who blew open the gates to cruise eventually to a 101-71 win. Chin-Pang Lin scored 19 for Pauian, overcoming strong performances by Amrit Pal Singh (19 points, 13 rebounds) and Riyazuddin (18 points) of ONGC.

ONGC finished 0-4 in the tournament. Amrit Pal Singh ended with averages of 17 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, leading ONGC in both categories. Vishesh Bhriguvanshi chipped in with 16.5 ppg in the course of the tournament, too.

This was obviously not the improvement that ONGC were looking for, as basketball club representatives of India, after a similar finish at the last FIBA Asia CC back in 2013. ONGC simply did not have the depth and firepower to match the loaded squads that they faced, many of whom featured naturalized foreign players and other foreign recruits to add to their strenghts. The club tournaments will remain a weak point for Indian basketball internationally until India can begin their own proper basketball league and bring together more talents to play for Indian clubs.

October 14, 2016

SLAM Top 50: Andrew Wiggins, No. 31

The fast-improving 21-year-old is beginning to realize the depths of his talents.

This article first published as part of SLAM Magazine's #SLAMTop50 on SLAMOnline.com on September 30, 2016. Here is the original version of the piece.

(We forgot about Andrew Wiggins)

The Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Karl-Anthony Towns number one in the draft last year. Towns went on to shatter his own high expectations and posted one of the finest rookie seasons in recent history. He was the unanimous rookie of the year, shot his way to early comparisons to Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, and even earned two solo SLAM covers.

The Timberwolves hired Tom Thibodeau as Head Coach and president of basketball operations in April, immediately setting off the promise of stability, defensive intensity, and long essays about Thibs’s “tireless work ethic”.

(We forgot about Andrew Wiggins)

The Timberwolves, usually an ignored, small market in the NBA, were the centrepiece of sports-talk in reminiscence after the retirement of Kevin Garnett, the greatest player in their franchise by a country mile. KG was the franchise leader in games played, minutes, points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, rookies barked at, opponents intimidated, Honey Nut Cheerios referenced, and, of course, the love of the Timberwolves’ faithful.

(We forgot about Andrew Wiggins)

The Timberwolves suffered tragedy this time last year when coach Flip Saunders passed away, and his death cast a shadow over the franchise he was closely connected to for the rest of the season.

Ricky Rubio got injured, came back, struggled to shoot, played well, played badly, and was in trade discussions every waking moment.

Zach LaVine won the Slam Dunk contest, and then battled Aaron Gordon in a historic battle to win it again.

Minnesota drafted Kris Dunn, who quickly earned the high honor of being named Rookie Most Likely to win the Rookie of the Year award by his peers. The rising Timberwolves already had a new potential idol.

(But we forgot about Andrew Wiggins)

Two years ago, Minnesota traded their second-greatest player, Kevin Love, to join LeBron James in return for an unproven rookie out of Kansas. Love had his ups and downs in Cleveland, didn’t fit in, got hurt, returned, then did fit in (sort of), defended Steph Curry in the final possession of Game 7, and won a title. Championships redeem everything, but Love’s uncertain place in the team hierarchy have hover over him the last two years, and may continue to hover around for as long as he remains in Cleveland. Minnesota, of course, remain happy with their returns.

(Yes, but, we forgot about Andrew Wiggins)

With all the changes, diversions, press releases, dunk contests, ankle surgeries, and the waves of optimism, it seems that somewhere, one of the most crucial members of that rising wave – Andrew Wiggins – seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Now entering his third season, the fast-improving 21-year-old is poised to have a season that you won’t forget.

Wiggins reacted to an early career snub by the Cavaliers by thriving in Minnesota and winning the rookie of the year award, playing all 82 games in his rookie season and averaging 16.9 points on 43.7 percent shooting to with 4.6 rebounds in the process. Unlike most rookies, Wiggins’ biggest strength turned out to be his motor: he played over 36 minutes per game for the young Timberwolves while doing heavy lifting on both ends of the floor. His offense earned him the highlights, he defence earned him the burn. The Timberwolves won 16 games, but even in their horrific record, they looked fun.

Then, even as Towns came to town and stole the show to his own ROY season, Wiggins, quietly, didn’t go away. In his second season, the Canadian upped his averages to 20.7 ppg while improving his shooting percentage to nearly 46 percent from the floor. The Timberwolves won 29 games, but even in their poor record, they looked tantalizing.

And here we stand now. Wiggins, before season number 3, armed with the perfect atmosphere for stability and success. He will get to play off an elite big man in Towns and thrive as the two try to emulate a modern remix of post-and-perimeter domination. He will be flanked by the ever-improving Zach LaVine by his side, and two point guards – Rubio and Dunn – who will both bring unique strengths to run the offense by his side. He will be coached by a defensive mastermind in Thibodeau, who will surely maximize his potential to greater individual and team success.

Wiggins doesn’t say much: his Twitter feed is mostly a mention of his national or sponsor obligations and his on-court demeanour could fool you into occasionally even forgetting he’s out there.

But, he has flashes of brilliance that destroy his silences with primal screams. Like the time he attempted a 720 dunk and broke the NBA internet. Like the time he owned the overtime period to hand the Warriors only their ninth loss of the regular season. Like how he feels like a future basketball Jedi, only now realizing the far reaches of his limitless powers.

(Don’t forget about Andrew Wiggins)

October 13, 2016

Australia's Basketball League NBL is being broadcast on Veqta in India

For an Indian basketball fan, there exists a common duality: focus on the game at home, and keep a curious eye on the game at its highest level, the NBA. Our fandom exists both towards Amjyot Singh and Kevin Durant, we will check on the results of the Indian national team as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers. We turn to whatever means we have - internet websites, TV, social media - to get the results and news we want and be fully updated. This duality often extends to FIBA international basketball, the Olympics, action from the Euroleague, or the growing CBA in China.

Now, for even the more passionate fans among us, there is yet another option, very easily available for Indian audiences. Veqta, a newly launched OTT platform for digital sports broadcasting, has signed a deal to broadcast Australia's National Basketball League (NBL) exclusively in India starting this season up to 2020-21. Veqta's various digital platforms could potentially help the NBL gain new fans in India who want to think beyond the NBA for foreign leagues.

The NBL is Australia's top basketball league. It was founded in 1979 and currently features eight teams - seven from Australia and one from New Zealand. The Perth Wildcats - the winningest franchise in NBL history - have started the 2016-17 season as reigning champions. Australian NBA players like Luc Longley and Patty Mills have played in the NBL in the past, as has 'Captain Jack' Stephen Jackson himself. The legendary Australian Andrew Gaze won seven NBL MVP awards.

Australia is fast-becoming a hub of international basketball talent. Their national squad 'The Boomers' - led by Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova - recently finished fourth in the Rio Olympics. A number of other intriguing talents like 76ers' number one pick Ben Simmons and Utah's Dante Exum have further shone the light on Aussie basketball. The NBL is ambitious to propel their international success to bring positive changes to the league back home as well. The new season of the NBL tipped off on October 6.

"We are delighted to have signed this partnership with VEQTA," said Jeremy Loeliger, General Manager of the NBL. "They are a young ambitious digital company that is taking an innovative approach to digital sports broadcasting. Just like Australia, India is a sports mad country and by partnering with VEQTA we have a fantastic opportunity to take the NBL to yet another one of the biggest sports markets in the world. There are currently in excess of 300 million smartphone users in India and by 2020 this figure is set to grow a staggering 260% to 800 million users. The opportunity to engage with India’s large, knowledgeable sports loving public is something the NBL is very excited about."

"Basketball is the number one school sport in tier 1 & 2 cities in India and has a very strong following in the young urban audience," said Veqta's co-foudner and director Gaurav Gill. "Indian sports fans have a growing apetite for high quality global sports content and VEQTA is committed to bringing them the best content from around the world. Through this long term digital rights agreement we believe that the viewership of NBL games will increase substantially in the country."

The Veqta mobile app focuses on a unique selection of sports for the Indian audience, including Cricket, Football, MMA, Wrestling, Basketball, Motorsports, Tennis, Badminton, Olympic Sports etc.

October 12, 2016

Amjyot Singh eligible for NBA D-League draft: "Aim is to be first Indian in the NBA."

The Singh Factor in the NBA D-League has doubled its chances of doubling this season.

Chandigarh's Amjyot Singh Gill, probably the finest basketball player from India right now, will finally get his best shot at high-level glory soon. The six-foot-nine, 24 year old forward has signed a contract with the NBA D-League and he will now be eligible for the D-League's draft on October 30th.

The D-League already features India's first NBA draftee Satnam Singh, who is signed for the Texas Legends. A few weeks ago, it was announced that the ACG-NBA Jump winner Palpreet Singh signed a D-League contract for draft eligibility. Amjyot's signing will mean that now, there will be two Indians hoping for a roster spot on Draft Day. If all goes well, there could be three giant Singhs hooping, and hopefully, dominating the NBA's Development League very soon!

OVer the last few years, Amjyot has truly made a mark on basketball in India and further around the Asian continent. With his performances for the national team, he has emerged as the best All-Round talent and one of the top superstars of the Indian national team. Abroad, he has excelled for the Tokyo Excellence in the Japanese D-League and made waves in the FIBA 3x3 tour in Tokyo. Most recently, he helped India to their best international basketball performance in 27 years with a 7th place finish at the FIBA Asia Challenge in Iran.

The six-round NBA D-League draft is set to feature more than 200 draft-eligible players, and out of these, Amjyot will be fighting to be among the top 130 odd players who usually get drafted. If Amjyot gets drafted he will have to report to the team within a day or two for an 8-10 day training camp. All players, including Amjyot will be assessed on various physical (such as strength and conditioning) and game parameters (individual and team based basketball skills such as shooting, defence, rebounding, special awareness, passing etc.). If Amjyot suitably impresses then he has a chance to become an official D-League player in any of the 22 D-League teams currently affiliated to their parent franchise in the NBA.

D-League teams often work as development schools or 'feeders' to their parent NBA franchises. Over the last three seasons around 15% of NBA D-League athletes (or an average of 39 players per season) have been called up to the NBA. In a phone interview from Chandigarh, Amjyot expressed that his goal was to keep rising all the way up.

"I'm feeling really good about this news, but I'm also a little nervous. This is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Amjyot told me. "My personal aim is to become the first Indian to play in the NBA."

Amjyot's former Punjab and India teammate Satnam Singh was drafted in the NBA and has played in the D-League for one season, but hasn't yet received an NBA call-up. Last summer, Indo-Canadian Sim Bhullar became the first player of Indian-origin to play in the NBA.

While Palpreet worked his way on to the D-League's radar by winning the ACG-NBA Jump - a talent scouting programme in India - earlier this year, Amjyot's success came from the work he has put in over the past few years in competitive games in India and abroad. Scouts from around the world have noted his talent, and he told me that the news of the D-League contract was broken to him during the FIBA Asia Challenge last month by NBA India's Carlos Barroca. His management team - Pursuit - were one of the major forces in helping him realize this dream.

"This is a big step forward for both Amjyot as well as Indian basketball," said Vishnu Ravi Shankar, Amjyot's manager and the business head of Pursuit. "He has earned the right to be in the D-League draft based purely on his performances with the Indian national team and professionally in Japan. If called up, we have no doubt he can make a splash in the D-League, which would in turn open a world of opportunity for him."

In his most recent international outing - the FIBA Asia Challenge - Amjyot helped India to a 4-4 final record, averaging 12.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He was one of the stars of the Japan's D-League last season alongside his India teammate Amrit Pal Singh. He helped the Tokyo Excellence win the D-League title on the back of 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game over 35 games, playing 21 minutes per game.

Before the draft, Amjyot will first head to Dubai for the FIBA 3x3 World Championships with the Team Hamamatsu, comprising of all Indian-origin player. After that, he will await word from the D-League about his future status.

"From my side, I'm working on improving my individual skills and strength in preparation for the D-League," Amjyot said. "I will especially focus on improving my stamina."

The NBA D-League's 16th season begins on Nov. 11 with a record 22 teams. Following the draft, teams will hold training camps beginning on Oct. 31, and will trim their rosters to 10 players on Nov. 10, before the start of the season.

October 9, 2016

India's Wheelchair Basketball team seeks crowdfunding to go for first-ever international tournament

Last month, the Paralympics were held in Rio, where USA dominated both the men's and women's wheelchair basketball tournaments to win gold medals in each competition. The tournament showcased the best of wheelchair basketball talent in the world and the growing attention to the sport. Back home in India, however, the growth of the game still lags far behind international standards.

This year, the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI) is hoping to change that, and they are seeking YOUR help!

For the first time, the WBFI, which is a member of International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, has made concrete plans to send an Indian Under-23 Wheelchair Basketball Team to the Asia Oceanic Zonal Championship in an effort to make it to world level. This championship will take place in Bangkok (Thailand) in January 2017. It is the qualifying tournament for the World Under-23 Basketball Championship for persons with disability in Canada.

Short of funds, the WBFI has turned to crowdfunding to raise money to support an U23 Men's Indian Wheelchair Basketball team to Thailand in January. To reach their financial goal of Rs.4,912,500, they first started a campaign on Milaap.org, but were only able to collect Rs. 11,000 before the campaign closed. But now, with the help of a certain legendary Indian athlete, the WBFI's hopes to garner more attention for this project has been rekindled.

With the support of Padma Shri winner Milkha Singh, one of India's greatest-ever athletes, the WBFI have now set up a new campaign page for crowdfunding on FuelADream.com. At the time of writing, they had raised Rs. 1,53,500 and were about 51 days away in their campaign. This is still only 10 percent of their financial goal, so any funding that they receive will help in getting our team to Thailand for this first-of-its-kind opportunity.

The WBFI recently released this video explaining their campaign, featuring Milkha Singh and WBFI President Madhavi Latha.

At the Paralympics, nineteen Indian athletes took part, collecting four medals in Brazil. But all the athletes took part in indvidual sports. It's high that that differently-abled athletes also have the opportunity to pursue their athletic dreams from India. The WBFI initiative is promising: instead of waiting for support from any Ministry, they are reaching out to the people in making their dreams come true. If the Indian team finishes in the Top 3 at the Asia Oceania Championship, they will make it to World Championship in Canada in June 2017. Hopefully, this can be start of a positive trend and the Indian wheelchair basketball team can make some waves internationally.

Check out the WBFI campaign and crowdfunding page here, which also features the full list of probables from India for the U23 tournament in Thailand.

October 8, 2016

Dehradun's ONGC represent India at the 2016 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Chenzhou (China)

Domestically, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) are the 'superteam' of Indian Basketball, the desi Golden State Warriors, featuring a roster heady with several of India's finest and most experienced players, entering each competition as they earn equal parts of love and envy, and - for the last few years - almost always ending up with the gold. Now, this talented squad from Dehradun will get their chance to prove that their success can translate to rivals across the border, too.

Starting this weekend, ONGC will represent India at the 2016 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Chenzhou, the city in China's Hunan province. This is the premier basketball tournament for the best Men's basketball clubs - not national teams - from across the continent. The FIBA Asia CC tipped off today, Saturday October 8th and will be held until the finale on October 16. A total of ten teams from different Asian countries will be playing games over the next week at the Chenzhou Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium in Chenzhou. This is the return of the tournament after a two-year hiatus since the 2013 edition which was held in Jordan.

The participating teams this year are divided into two groups of five each, with ONGC in Group A along with Petrochimi, Al-Riyadi, Al-Rayyan, and Pauian. All the selected teams have won their local club championships - ONGC qualified with their recent win at the 2016 Federation Cup in Goa.

2016 FIBA Asia Champions Cup Groups
  • Group A: Petrochimi (Iran), Al-Riyadi (Lebanon), Al-Rayyan (Qatar), Pauian (Chinese Taipei), ONGC (India).
  • Group B: Al Shorta (Iraq), Barsy Atyrau (Kazakhstan), Westports Malaysia Dragons (Malaysia), Ah Ahli (UAE), Xinjiang Flying Tigers (China).

ONGC are sending a roster featuring three important members of India's national squad that tore through the international FIBA Asia Challenge in Tehran (Iran) last month, winning four games, including upsets over China, Philippines, and Chinese Taipei. It was India's finest international performance in twenty-seven years. These three players - India's captain Amrit Pal Singh, star guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, and veteran forward Yadwinder Singh - will no doubt be the fulcrum for ONGC on both ends of the floor. ONGC's roster also includes veterans like Mohit Bhandari, Trideep Rai, Riyazuddin, and Arjun Singh. They will be led by head coach Amit Kumar Singh.

ONGC roster for 2016 FIBA Asia Cup
  • Amrit Pal Singh
  • Mohit Bhandari
  • Vinay Dabas
  • Anoop Mukkanniyil
  • Trideep Rai
  • Abhishek Rai
  • Vishesh Bhriguvanshi
  • Riyazuddin
  • Arjun Singh
  • Yadwinder Singh
  • Muraleekrishna Ravindran
  • Udai Bhan Singh Rawat
  • Head Coach: Amit Kumar Singh
  • Assistant Coach: Dinesh Kumar

ONGC's Preliminary Round schedule for 2016 FIBA Asia Cup - all timings IST
  • October 9 - ONGC vs. Petrochimi - 10:30 AM
  • October 10 - Al Rayyan vs. ONGC - 10:30 AM
  • October 11 - ONGC vs. Al-Riyadi - 3:30 PM
  • October 12 - Pauian vs. ONGC - 12:30 PM

While the duo of Amrit Pal Singh and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi are two of the best at their positions in Asia, ONGC are bound to struggle against all of the Preliminary Round teams because of the international inexperience of the rest of the players on ONGC's roster. Dominating against IOB or the Indian Army may be one thing, but going against experienced club teams from other countries - many of whom feature excellent foreign imports - is going to be a huge challenge to overcome. ONGC's toughest matchup will likely be against Qatar's Al Rayyan, who were the runners-up in 2013 and are looking for their third title at the FIBA Asia CC. Iran teams have won five titles at this tournament, and Petrochimi will be hoping to become the sixth. Over in Group B, China's Xinjiang - featuring former NBA player Andray Blatche and recently drafted Zhou Qi - will be one of the title favourites representing the home nation.

ONGC will hope not to repeat history from 2013, where they lost all six of the games they played in and finished at last place (eighth). But Indian basketball has managed to turn heads and make rapid improvements over the recent years: will ONGC continue to wave the tiranga high and cause some more shocks for the Asian basketball world?

Hoopdarshan Episode 37: India's historic performances at FIBA Asia Challenge with Vishesh Bhriguvanshi

Vishesh Bhriguvanshi is a busy man. Between starring for India at the historic FIBA Asia Challenge performance in Iran, winning the Maldives pro basketball league in his first season, and leading ONGC to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in China, the superstar guard found time to guest in Episode 37 of the Hoopdarshan podcast. With Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok, Bhriguvanshi recapped India's recent big wins, his stacked international basketball schedule, and revealed why's he's now the Banarasi James Harden.

Bhriguvanshi (24) is one of the biggest stars in Indian basketball. Hailing from Varanasi, the shooting guard is a former captain of the Men's national team and has led India to several notable international successes, including to multiple FIBA Asia Championships and the most recent, historic 7th place finish at the FIBA Asia Challenge.

Apart from our interview with Bhriguvanshi, we also discuss news of the NBA's global academies, a D-League contract for India's Palpreet Singh, and our early reviews of the NBA preseason in the latest episode.

Hoopdarshan is the truest voice of Indian basketball, and since we're such hopeless fans of the game, it will become the voice of everything basketball related we love, from the NBA to international hoops, too. On every episode of Hoopdarshan, we will be inviting a special guest to interview or chat to about a variety of topics. With expert insight from some of the brightest and most-involved people in the world of Indian basketball, we hope to bring this conversation to a many more interested fans, players, and followers of the game.

Make sure to follow Hoopdarshan on Soundcloud or search for 'Hoopdarshan' on the iTunes Store! Auto-sync Hoopdarshan to your preferred podcast app NOW!

Hoopdarshan can be found on...

October 7, 2016

India's Sub-Junior National trophies retained by Madhya Pradesh (Boys) and Chhattisgarh (Girls) in Hyderabad

The best continued to get better. It was a familiar conclusion at the end of the 43rd Sub-Junior National Basketball Championship for Boys and Girls on the afternoon of Friday, October 7 in Hyderabad, as the reigning champions in both the boys' and girls' divisions - Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh respectively - won their final matches to retain their trophies. For MP, there was added cause for celebration as this gave them their third consecutive title as the best of the 'mini' age group.

The Sub-Junior Nationals featured India's finest under-14 basketball talent from around the country. The week-long tournament, tipping off on October 1, was held at the Sports Authority of Telangana (SATS) Indoor Stadium in Saroornagar. A total of 47 combined teams in the two divisions representing states from all over India too part. The tournament was organised by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Telengana Basketball Association (TBA) and sponsored by Arise Steel.

The girls' final on Friday pitted the last two winners of the trophy, Kerala and Chhattisgarh, to compete for the best sub-junior team in the nation. The game lived up to its billing with both teams sticking close to each other till the final minutes. Chhattisgarh caught fire at the right time in the final quarter to eventually create some separation and head to a 57-48 victory. Kirti (20) and Urvashi Baghel (16) led the scoring charge for the winning side, while Ann Mary Zachariah led Kerala with 19. The gold was the hundredth medal in a national basketball competition for Chhattisgarh's legendary head coach Rajesh Patel.

The men's finalists featured Madhya Pradhesh - with an asterisk. This was technically the 'BFI-MP' team, an independent squad of players from MP given one-time approval by the BFI to take part in this tournament under the 'MP' banner. This technicality surely arose from the differing loyalties of the state federations after the break-up of the BFI last year. MP faced Rajasthan, one of the top teams in the tournament, in a promising final clash. It turned out to be a topsy-turvy contests of crazy runs. After holding Rajasthan down to just six points in the first quarter, MP saw their opponents explode for 37 in the second. At halftime, Rajasthan held on to a 43-31 lead. But MP bounced back in the third to take a one-point advantage, and held on in a close finale to win 69-66. Virat Dhakad scored 19 for MP in the win, while Rajasthan were led by their star player Mahaveer Banjara (29).

Earlier in the day, Tamil Nadu girls blew past Maharashtra after a close first quarter to win their bronze-medal encounter 70-50. The undeniable trio of Nitika A (19), Sathya K 19, and Varshini J (18) were the leading scorers for TN. Siya Deodhar led Maharashtra with 18 in the loss. The boys' third-place game was won by Haryana, who disappointed cheering home fans to defeat Andhra Pradesh comfortably, 73-42. Gourav led Haryana with 19 in the victory.

P Niranjan Reddy, the vice Chairman of Telangana Government Planning Commission distributed the winning boys’ medals and trophy. Aadhav Arjuna, Managing Director of Arise Steel Industries was the special guest for the second day running. Also seen distributing the trophies and medals were Chander Mukhi Sharma, Secretary-General of Basketball Federation of India, M Rajender Reddy, President, Telangana Basketball Association, R Sridhar Reddy, President, Organising Committee (and also President of the Hyderabad District Basketball Association) and other dignitaries.

The semi-finals of the tournament was held on Thursday. In the first girls' semi, Chhattisgarh took a sizable 20-6 lead in the first quarter over Maharashtra, and for the rest of the game, fought back all the comeback attempts from their opponents to hold on to an eventual 51-45 win. Khushboo Gupta wrecked havoc for Chhattisgarh with a game-high 19 points. The second girls' semi-final was a classic back-and-forth battle between two neighbouring southern states: Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Kerala fought back from an early disadvantage with a game-changing second-quarter run. The two teams fought back and forth in the second half, and Kerala held on to to win the close game, 66-62. Ann Mary Zachariah (21) and Gouri (17) led the way for Kerala, while Sathya K poured in 29 points in a losing effort for TN.

Haryana started off their boys' semi-final clash against MP in high spirits, running off to a 18-9 early lead. But led by Sachindra Sharma (23), MP charted a patient comeback, eventually taking the lead by the third quarter, and then extending their advantage to hold on to a 66-54 win by the end. Depender scored 17 for Haryana in the loss. The last game of Thursday was a blowout semi-final victory for Rajasthan over Andhra Pradesh. The game was tied at 12-all at the end of the first quarter, but it was all Rajasthan after that. The duo of Seikh Saifali (32) and Mahaveer Banjara (24) were unstoppable as Rajasthan cruised to a 95-65 win. Shaik Ahmed Alisha scored 20 for AP.

Final Scores
  • Girls: Chhattisgarh (Kirti 20, Urvashi Baghel 16) bt Kerala (Ann Mary Zachariah 19) 57-48 (18-16, 19-15, 8-11, 12-6).
  • Boys: Madhya Pradesh (Virat Dhakad 19, Aman Negi 13) bt Rajasthan (Mahaveer Banjara 29) 69-66 (14-6, 17-37, 24-11, 14-12).

Bronze Medal Games
  • Girls: Tamil Nadu (Nitika A 19, Sathya K 19, Varshini J 18) bt Maharashtra (Siya Deodhar 18, Chaitaali Bafna 14) 70-50 (16-14, 14-7, 27-16, 13-13)
  • Boys: Haryana (Gourav 19) bt Andhra Pradesh 73-42 (17-6, 25-10, 12-19, 19-7).

Final Standings

  • 1. Chhattisgarh
  • 2. Kerala
  • 3. Tamil Nadu
  • 4. Maharashtra
  • 5. Rajasthan

  • 1. Madhya Pradesh
  • 2. Rajasthan
  • 3. Haryana
  • 4. Andhra Pradesh
  • 5. Telangana