October 23, 2017

India's Amjyot Singh and Indian-American Gokul Natesan both selected late in 2017 NBA G-League Draft


The NBA G-League draft is a marathon, including four rounds and over a 100 picks from a selected pool of players who all have the opportunity to taking a small step to their hoop dream through the NBA's minor league. One of the players waiting in this pool was Indian basketball superstar Amjyot Singh, who had tried and failed at last year's G-League draft, and returned to the United States again last month with renewed zest to prove his worth to coaches and scouts.

But on draft day on Saturday, October 21, as time passed, one pick turned to the next, and the final round of selections came close to its conclusion, it seemed that Amjyot was going to be let-down once again

In true clutch fashion, however, Amjyot got a game-winning play just before time expired. With the 103rd pick of the afternoon (the 25th pick of the fourth and final round), the Oklahoma City Blue - an affiliate of the NBA's OKC Thunder - selected Amjyot Singh! With this pick, Amjyot became the second Indian player to be picked by the G-League (after Palpreet Singh last year) and the third Indian to be selected into the NBA universe (after Satnam Singh was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 2015).

If Amjyot passes his physical, he will have the opportunity to join the Blue in their training camp roster. The selection doesn't guarantee that Amjyot will actually play for the team. G-League squads can release their draft picks at any time - last year, Palpreet only lasted with the Long Island Nets for a week before he was released.

Amjyot is one of India's most talented basketball players, one of the national team's "Big Three" along with Amritpal Singh and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi. For the past five years, he has been India's most consistent scorer on the international stage and helped India to many high-profile victories. Amjyot played professionally in Japan's Summer League and Development League a few years ago and is an accomplished international 3x3 basketball star.

Originally from Chandigarh, the 6-foot-8, 25-year-old forward was India's captain and leading scorer at the recently-completed FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon. Amjyot was trained at the Ludhiana Basketball Academy in Punjab and played domestically for IOB (Chennai), Punjab Police, and the Delhi Capitals of the UBA League.

The top pick of the 2017 draft on Saturday was Eric Stuteville, who was picked by the Northern Arizona Suns.

The Indian diaspora have another important reason to celebrate the 2017 G-League draft. Just a few picks before Amjyot, the Canton Charge (affiliated with the Cleveland Cavaliers) selected Indian-American Gokul Natesan with the 97th pick (Round 4, Pick 19), a swingman who had starred for the Colorado School of Mines last season in NCAA Division II. Natesan is from California, and his parents originally immigrated to the United States from Tamil Nadu. He finished 2016-17 season in the All RMAC (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) First Team and as the RMAC Academic Player of the Year. He led his team in minutes, scoring (18.5 ppg), and assists (4.1 apg) while leading the Mines to the NCAA D2 Elite 8 stage for the first time.

The journey forward is still going to be long and arduous for these two players, but their selection shows the continuing improvement and visibility of Indian basketball players from home and abroad. Hopefully, they can carve a path for many more to follow in their footsteps.

October 22, 2017

Hoopdarshan Episode 54: FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship Preview with Zoran Visic


This week, India will host the FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship in Bengaluru. To preview the tournament for the home team, Hoopdarshan invited India's head coach, Zoran Visic for Episode 54, for an illuminating conversation. Visic spoke about India's preparation, our biggest challengers, lessons from coaching India's Senior Women's team, and coping without Serbian food in India.

Hoopdarshan hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok also discussed the beginning of the NBA season, the G-League drafting of Indian basketball star Amjyot Singh, and the conclusion of the Sub-Junior Nationals in this 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 19, 2017

India U16 Women's team ready to host FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship in Bengaluru - Roster, Schedule, and Preview


Three months ago, Bengaluru proved its place as a worthy basketball host city, as the city's iconic Sri Kantaveera Stadium hosted the FIBA Asia Women's Cup. This was the first major FIBA basketball event to be held in India in eight years, and in front of the home fans, Team India finished the tournament in style by winning promotion to Division A.

Now, India's youth squad will be hoping that the same arena, in the same city, can provide them the boost that the country's leading ladies received, too. From October 22-28, India will host the FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship in Bengaluru, featuring the top youth teams from around Asia and Oceania in the youngest FIBA international tournament. India's U16 team, which fell to Division B at the previous iteration of this tournament, will hope to return to the higher stage by the end of next week.

Fifteen teams, divided into two levels of two groups each, will take part in this tournament. In 2015 in Medan (Indonesia), China completed a three-peat at this championship with a win over Japan in the final. India finished the group stage losing all five preliminary round games, and then losing their playoff match against Hong Kong to fall to Division B.

Participating Teams
  • Division A - Group A: Australia, Korea, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand.
  • Division A - Group B: China, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong.
  • Division B - Group A: India, Sri Lanka, Iran Nepal.
  • Division B - Group B: Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Maldives.

Team India will be led by Zoran Visic, the experienced basketball coach from Serbia who also led India's Senior Women's team at the FIBA Asia Women's Cup earlier this year. Visic's assistant coach will be his captain from the senior team - the basketball star Anitha Paul Durai - for whom this will be the first foray into international coaching. The squad is completely changed from the one that played in Medan two years ago. Some of the top players that made a mark in recent Youth and Sub Junior nationals will be featured in this roster, including Vaishnavi Yadav, Ann Mary Zacharaiah, and Elijabet Ekka.

Team India Roster
  • Vaishnavi Yadav
  • Riya Baliyan
  • Ann Mary Zachariah
  • Neha Karwa
  • Khushi Sanjay Dongre
  • Elijabet Ekka
  • Monica Jayakumar
  • Pushpa Senthil Kumar
  • Grishma Niranjan
  • Sreekala Rani
  • Asmat Taunque
  • Sanjana Ramesh
  • Head Coach: Zoran Visic
  • Assistant Coach: Anitha Paul Durai

India will top to top their group in the preliminary round, and then defeat the top squad from Group B of their Division in a playoff, to secure Division A promotion.

India's Preliminary Round Schedule - All timings IST
  • October 22 - India vs. Nepal - 8 PM
  • October 23 - Iran vs. India - 8 PM
  • October 24 - India vs. Sri Lanka - 8 PM

India is the highest ranked team in this group and their entire division. They should be able to cruise past Nepal, although Iran, whose women's teams haven't played in international tournaments for many years, will be the wildcards. Sri Lanka will pose somewhat of a threat, but hopefully, India can propel past them, too. Group B feature two legitimate challenges to India's promotion ambitions: Malaysia and Kazakhstan. The Senior Women's team had to slay the Kazakhs in dramatic fashion in their final game in July; there's a good chance that one of these teams could be testing India to the limit at the FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship, too.

Meanwhile, the Division A matches should add for some intrigue as now Oceania's powerhouse Australia will challenging China and Japan's place at the top of this fray. Korea and Chinese Taipei are two other teams that could make some noise in this tournament. India's demotion to Division B is a pity, but it could give the home fans the opportunity to see India notch up more victories and end up with a good record - even if it only comes against worse teams.

October 16, 2017

Sony plans to broadcast 100 NBA games with Hindi commentary in India this season


After a short, eventful off-season where (thankfully) it felt like the NBA never really went away, the new season is almost here, tipping off on October 17 - or the morning of October 18 if you are watching from India. There are going to be a number of players in new jerseys this season, and many teams literally wearing new jersey designs, and the potential of new legends to be made.

In India, there is also going to be a lot more NBA in Hindi.

With a mission to penetrate the popularity of the game deeper into the Indian market, the NBA and its Indian broadcast partner Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) have decided to air almost a 100 regular season games with Hindi commentary this season. The games will also, of course, continue to be simulcast in English as usual in Sony's other sports channels live.

According to the Economic Times, the move comes on the back of a trial period last season, when fourteen playoff games were broadcast with Hindi commentary on the Ten 1 channel. As per data provided by NBA India, the games with Hindi commentary were viewed on TV by 8.9 million people in India.

Sony SIX and Sony SIX HD, for the last few seasons, have broadcast two live games almost every morning during the NBA season in India in English. Now, two games per week - during the weekends - will be broadcast on Sony Ten 3 and Sony Ten 3 HD in Hindi, along with the Live wraparound show ‘Around the Hoop’

More via The Economic Times:

“India is one of the top 2 priority markets for us,” said NBA India managing director Yannick Colaco. “We want to popularise the game of basketball and NBA in India. That means we should make it more accessible for the audiences. With this move, we will be able to engage with not just existing, but also potential fans.”
Talking about statistics from last season’s trial run, Colaco said in the Hindi-speaking markets (HSM), the viewership of the telecast with Hindi commentary was double of that with English commentary.

A panel of expert commentators has been engaged to deliver analysis in Hindi for each game, said Rajesh Kaul, president of sports and distribution business at SPN.
The commentators have undergone training to fine tune their abilities in presenting NBA games, which included personalised training by long-time Indiana Pacers’ play-by-play announcer Chris Denari.

चलो बहुत अच्छी बात है. अब पहले से और ज़्यादा प्रशानशक NBA बॅस्केटबॉल का आनंद ले सकेंगे. With the Warriors sure to make another deep playoff run, I'm waiting to see who will be the first commentator to call Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson the छिड़कना-वाले भाईलोग #Splash Brothers.

Rajasthan (Boys) and Tamil Nadu (Girls) win 2017 Sub Junior Nationals in Didwana, Rajasthan


The annual gathering of India's finest, youngest national-level basketball players - the 44th Sub Junior National Basketball Championship for Boys and Girls - came to a conclusion in Didwana, Rajasthan, on Saturday, October 14 with some celebrations for the home side. Rajasthan boys got sweet vengeance in the final over Madhya Pradesh, who had defeated them in last year's final. Tamil Nadu girls also upset Chattisgarh's hopes of retaining their 2016 title with a final win earlier in the day.

The Sub-Junior Nationals - also known as the "minis" - featured 30 boys' teams and 24 girls' teams in the U14 age group from various Indian States and Union territories competing from October 8-14 this year at Didwana's Bangour College Stadium. The Championship was organised by the Rajasthan Basketball Association under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

Madhya Pradesh boys, the winners from last year, came into the finals with hopes of adding another jewel in their crown. But backed by an enthusiastic home crowd, Rajasthan came out fired up, taking a 28-17 lead in the first quarter and extending the game to a blowout by the end of the third. Prashant (28) and Lokendra (21) led Rajasthan to an impressive 87-59 win and a gold medal. MP were led by Rishikesh's 16 points.

The girls' final was a close, fast-paced game, where Tamil Nadu's rising star Sathya stole the show, dropping 43 points for her squad. Chattisgarh, looking to repeat their 2017 win, were leading 37-29 at halftime, but a 39-22 third quarter run by TN turned the scores around, and TN held on the final period to win 88-81. Kirti (24) and Ruksar (18) led the way for Chhattisgarh in the loss.

Earlier in the day, Chhattisgarh's boys defeated Uttar Pradesh to secure the bronze medal. The girls' 3rd-place game was won by Maharashtra, who defeated the host team Rajasthan.

Final Scores
  • Boys: Rajasthan (Prashant 28, Lokendra 21) bt Madhya Pradesh (Rishikesh 16, Bhagat 14) 87-59 [28-17, 7-10, 31-18, 21-14].
  • Girls: Tamil Nadu (Sathya 43) bt Chhattisgarh (Kirti 24, Ruksar 18) 88-81 [18-18, 11-19, 39-22, 20-22].

Final Standings

Boys
  • 1. Rajasthan
  • 2. Madhya Pradesh
  • 3. Chhattisgarh
  • 4. Uttar Pradesh
  • 5. Punjab

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

October 14, 2017

2017 SLAM Top 50: Paul George, No. 9


In a new role on a new team, Paul George is in position to reach his lofty goals.

This article was first published in my #SLAMTop50 contribution for SLAMOnline.com on October 4, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

Four summers ago, I interviewed a 23-year-old Paul George at an NBA carnival in China. It was the ‘NBA Nation’ in Wuhan, a fan-event in the most populous city in central China featuring basketball clinics, Pop-a-Shot games, and the Phoenix Suns Dance Team. The main event, however, was George. Then a rising star for the Indiana Pacers, PG was coming off a breakout 2012-13 season where he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, became an All Star for the first time, and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. But just months before, his magical season had ended in heart-breaking fashion as the Pacers went down to the Heat in a memorable seven-game Eastern Conference Finals.

In going up against the best in the League, George had gotten his first whiff of success, and he sounded confident when he told me that his rise to superstardom was just getting started. “I’m nowhere close to getting what I want to achieve,” he said, reflecting on his NBA journey so far. “But I think I’m taking the right steps and going in the right direction. I can see myself being an MVP in the League. I think, if I’m not in contention for an MVP award, or leading my team to the Championship, then I think I’d be selling myself short as a player. In the near future, I wanna have the MVP award, be on the Olympic team, be a perennial All-Star, hopefully First-Team All-NBA as well.”

But sometimes, even the best laid plans of a super-athletic swingmen can go awry. A year later, George suffered a horrific compound fracture on both bones of his lower right leg during a 2014 FIBA World Cup scrimmage in Las Vegas. The setback virtually cost him an entire season of progress and raised questions if he could ever soar towards greatness again.

It put his ‘Wuhan Checklist’ on hold. MVP award? Nope. Championship? Not close. First Team All NBA? Nah.

But by 2015-16, George bounced back with a bang, playing 81 games and averaging career highs in scoring and assists. Last summer, he fulfilled his wish of playing in the Olympics and helped bring back a Gold medal from Rio. In 2016-17, he continued his rampage and boosted his scoring output to a career-high 23.7 points per game. The ‘perennial All Star’ wish had also been fulfilled. George put up an unstoppable performance in last season’s playoffs with 28 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists over nearly 43 minutes per game. Just like in the old days however, it was that old foe—LeBron James—that proved to be the thorn in PG’s side, and the Cavaliers swept the Pacers in the First Round.

Despite the loss, George’s comeback from the career-threatening leg injury was complete. Even if he doesn’t have quite the athletic hops he did in his younger days, PG has matured into a better scorer and smarter defender.

But with a drastic change of scenery, he will now find himself evolving into an exciting new role: George was traded over the offseason to Oklahoma City to join reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, not long before OKC pulled off another heist and presented Carmelo Anthony to the explosive Thunder mix, too.

He may no longer be the first option, or on many nights, even the second option on offense. But as the ideal two-way player who can be an elite perimeter defender, an offensive threat, and effect the game without the ball in his hands, George could have the Thunder soaring this season. None of that confidence I saw in Wuhan has wavered. George is still gunning for that MVP trophy. With Westbrook and ‘Melo by his side, he has said that the Thunder have the feel “of a championships team.”

Playing in a different NBA jersey for the first time in his career, this isn’t going to be the 2013 “Rising Star” PG, or the 2015 “Hobbled with Injury” PG, or even the 2016-17 “Bounce Back To Scoring Stardom” PG. The OKC version of Paul George will be something we’ve never seen before. Still only 27, we are going to see PG enter his prime years, a superstar in a new role. A man on a mission to complete his checklist.

October 9, 2017

Lt. Col. Makkolath Rajan, legendary former Indian basketball coach, passes away at 83


One of the most successful and distinguished basketball coaches in India, Lt. Col. Makkolath Rajan passed away at age 83 in Kozhikode (Kerala) on Sunday, October 9. Rajan, who made his mark for India on both the national and international stage and coached India's only Olympic basketball team, had been hospitalised with pneumonia symptoms in Kozhikode a few weeks ago.

Rajan was the head coach of Team India's men's national team for the country's most famous international basketball outing: the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. The team lost all seven games they played in Russia but their place in Indian hoops history was secured with this historic accomplishment. Rajan also coached India at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi, plus the FIBA Asia Basketball Championships in 1973 (Manila), 1985 (Kuala Lumpur) and 1989 (Beijing).

Rajan is the winningest coach in India's national basketball championships, with many gold medals collected in the 70s and 80s with Services. He coached Madhya Pradesh and served as Associate Secretary of the Kerala Basketball Association (KBA) from 1976-85. He held several posts with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) over the years.

Rajan was a distinguished medal winner for his role in Indo-Chinese war.

Rajan's wife passed on a message via Rajan's former player in the 1980 Olympics team, Amarnath N Nagarajan. "He was someone we all looked up to and will continue to do so. He is an inspiration to all of us. He always wanted us to be healthy and fit. Let's all remember and follow that in our busy lives. Sports was a way of life for him. He was a celebrated sportsman and brought laurels to the country. His discipline and dedication towards sports and the Army will always be remembered."

October 8, 2017

Hoopdarshan Episode 53: Shooting our shots - 2017-18 NBA Preview with Vince Granata


With the new season on the brink, Hoopdarshan is back with a lengthy discussion on All Things NBA. In Episode 53, co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok are joined by Vince Granata to give thoughts, predictions, and flaming hot takes on the Warriors' chance of a repeat, the future of new-look Cavs and Celtics in the East, player movement around the league, too much Jeff Green, and a Laker family of Balls.

Listen to Episode 53 now! Also included: Our Championship and MVP predictions and some recent news out of Indian basketball like the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, Amrit Pal Singh with the Sydney Kings, and Amjyot Singh's G-League ambitions.



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, 2017

2017 Sub Junior National Basketball Championship to tip off in Didwana, Rajasthan


Deep in the heart of the Thar Desert is Didwana, a city known more for it's mandirs and mathhs than its sports. For the next week, however, this Rajasthani town will be the place to get a first glimpse at the future of Indian basketball.

From October 8-14, the 44th Sub Junior National Championship for Boys and Girls - the Sub-Junior Nationals - will be held at Didwana's Bangour College Stadium. The championship will feature 30 boys' teams and 24 girls' teams in the U14 age group from various Indian States and Union territories, and will be played in a league/knockout format. The Championship is being organized by the Rajasthan Basketball Association under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

Madhya Pradesh Boys and Chhattisgarh Girls are the defending champions from the previous edition held in Hyderabad last year, retaining their trophies from previous years.

The opening ceremony will be held on Sunday, 8th October with Yoonus Khan (PWD and Transportation Minister of Rajasthan) as the Chief Guest.

Participating Teams

Boys
  • Group A: Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Maharashtra.
  • Group B: Rajasthan, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha.
  • Group C: Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat, Nagaland, Puducherry.
  • Group D: Kerala, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura.
  • Group E: Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand.
  • Group F: Delhi, Assam, Jharkhand, Manipur, West Bengal.

Girls
  • Group A: Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi.
  • Group B: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab.
  • Group C: Haryana, Chandigarh, Goa.
  • Group D: Telangana, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Group E: Gujarat, Assam, Jharkhand, West Bengal.
  • Group F: Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand.

The reigning champs MP and Chhattisgarh will hope to stamp their place as dynasties in this format, as MP look for their fourth consecutive title and Chhattisgarh for a three-peat. Last year, Rajasthan's boys squad lost in the finals and the girls finished fifth, and the hosts will have the support of the home crowd to push them forward. Haryana boys will be another contending squad to watch out for. In the girls' bracket, Chhattisgarh are likely to be challenged by the strongest teams from the South: Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

September 30, 2017

Al Riyadi win 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in China; India's ONGC return winless


For Lebanon's Al Riyadi, the final of the 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup presented a familiar challenge. It was the same competition, the same time of the year, the same arena, the same city, and the same opponent: China Kashgar. But after losing in a close battle in last year's final, the Lebanese squad bounced back in style to get their revenge. On Saturday, September 30, at the 2017 final of Asia's premier club basketball tournament, Al Riyadi blew out China Kashgar in their homeland to clinch the gold medal at the Chenzhou Sports Center in Chenzhou, China.

Ten of the top club teams from different countries in Asia took part in this championship, held from September 22-30. India's representative at the FIBA Asia CC was once again Dehradun's squad ONGC - champions of the Federation Cup. But missing a couple of their key players to injury or other professional duties, ONGC lost all of their preliminary round games to return winless from Chenzhou - just like last year.

In the rematch of the 2016 final, Al Riyadi and China Kashgar set up a battle of the titans. But from the tip-off, Al Riyadi were immediately the hungrier of the two squads. Al Riyadi jumped up to an easy lead in the first quarter and extended their advantage to a 20-point lead, 46-26 by halftime. Kashgar had no answers for Al Riyadi's imports Robert Daniels (21) and Quincy Douby (17) who led the way to an easy 88-59 victory. This is Al Riyadi’s second overall Champions Cup title after first winning the plum in 2011. They also gave Lebanon their fifth Champions Cup crown overall, tying Iran for the most titles in the tournament’s history.

Earlier in the day, Kazakhstan's BC Astana edged Iran's Petrochimi 81-78 in an entertaining, back-and-forth battle to secure 3rd place at the competition. Anthony Clemmons (22) and Justin Carter (19) led the way for Astana, while Behnam Yakhchali paced Petrochimi with 18 in the loss.

China Kashgar's guard Darius Adams was named MVP of the tournament.

Once again, India's representative at this tournament were ONGC from Dehradun. But while the club side is dominant in domestic tournaments, they had a difficult time keeping pace with most of the talented squads at the FIBA Asia CC. ONGC were led by former India captain Trideep Rai in his first major stint as coach, and relied on the likes Anoop Mukkanniyil, Yadwinder Singh, and Riyazuddin to marshal them forward. But the squad had to survive without the services of two of their (and India's) best talents: captain Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi, who was on the team list but couldn't play due to injury, and Amritpal Singh, who has recently signed a contract with the NBL's Sydney Kings in Australia. ONGC were placed in Group B of the preliminary round stage along with Shabab Al Ahli (Dubai), Al Riyadi (Lebanon), Dacin Tigers (Chinese Taipei), and China Kashgar (China).

From the very first game against Dacin Tigers, ONGC were given a rude wake-up call. Featuring Indian-American former NBA player Sim Bhullar, Dacin raced to a 28-9 lead in the first quarter and didn't let their foot off the accelerator until they were leading comfortably in the final quarter. Led by Chia-Jung Chang (22) and Tzu-Kang Wang (17) Dacin won the game 94-62.

ONGC's tournament didn't get any easier, as, two days later, their next challengers were hosts and reigning champs China Kashgar. ONGC had no answers for Darius Adams, who led a balanced Kashgar attack with 25 to help his side to a 92-47 victory. ONGC struggled offensively except for a decent scoring night by guard Arjun Singh (17).

ONGC's worst performance came the next day against the eventual winners, Al Riyadi. The Lebanese side showed no mercy from the tip-off, taking advantage of ONGC's careless errors (31 turnovers) and soft defense to drop over 30 points in the first three quarters of the game. Al Riyadi's offensive explosion led them to a 127-51 victory, led by Quincy Douby (22), Amir Saoud (21), Jean Abd El Nour (18) and Wael Arakji (17).

ONGC still had an opportunity to make it out of the group stage against their closest opponents in the group, Dubai's Shabab Al Ahli, in their last preliminary stage game. ONGC stayed neck-to-neck with Shabab throughout, trailing only 39-36 in halftime. But a scoring drought in the third quarter cost ONGC some momentum, and despite an exciting late charge, they couldn't stop Shabab from surviving with a 72-71 victory. Qais Omar Alshabebi led all scorers with 26 for Shabab while Khalifa Salem added 16. Veteran ONGC guard exploded for 20 points while Arjun Singh pitched in with 17 and 10 rebounds in the loss.

The loss left ONGC at the bottom of Group B with a 0-4 record and knocked them out of qualification for the knockout stage.

Without Bhriguvanshi and Amritpal, there were no individual superstars to rescue ONGC in crucial stretches, but the team featured a balance of players who all averaged around 10 points per game, including Mukkanniyil, Riyazuddin, Arjun Singh, and Yadwinder Singh. Mukkanniyil and Yadwinder each averaged 9 rebounds per game, too. Much of the responsibility for carrying this squad came on the shoulders of veteran (over 30) players, and despite their best efforts, they simply didn't have enough in the gas to eke out a victory.

Final Standings
  • 1. Al Riyadi (Lebanon)
  • 2. China Kashgar (China)
  • 3. BC Astana (Kazakhstan)
  • 4. Petrochimi (Iran)
  • 5. Chooks-To-Go (Philippines)

All Tournament Team
  • Darius Adams (China Kashgar) - MVP
  • Robert Daniels (Al Riyadi)
  • Quincy Douby (Al Riyadi)
  • Arsalan Kazemi (Petrochimi)
  • Justin Carter (BC Astana)

September 27, 2017

Indian multi-sport (including basketball) youth championship 'Sports For All' to be held in Hyderabad and Mumbai


Think of it as India's own domestic youth Olympics, a version of our National Games for the youth, but with more bombast and interaction than ever before. This is the mission with which that 'Sports For All' (SFA), India's first professional multi-sporting championship for the youth, will return with championship series in dozens of sports - including basketball! - in Hyderabad and Mumbai this year.

In Hyderabad, the SFA Championship will be held for the first time from November 4-17 at the Gachibowli Stadium and LB Stadium for school level athletes. In Mumbai, where the SFA Championship is returning for the third year, it will be held from December 6-17 at the city's DY Patil Sports Stadium.

2017 SFA Championship Sports
  • Hyderabad: Basketball, Handball, Volleyball, Throwball, Hockey, Kabaddi, Football, Water Polo, Kho Kho, Badminton, Table Tennis, Tennis, Athletics, Shooting, Archery, Carrom, Swimming, Chess, Judo, Takewondo, Boxing, Fencing, and Karate.

  • Mumbai: Basketball, Football, Handball, Hockey, Kabaddi, Kho Kho, Throwball, Volleyball, Water Polo, Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Carrom, Chess, Shooting, Squash, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Boxing, Fencing, Judo, Karate, Sport MMA, Taekwondo and Wrestling.

  • Through these events, the SFA claims that athletes will get benefits like digital profile recording of their statistics, HD video recording of their performances, facilities on-par with international tournaments, and governance from nationally and internationally certified officials.



    Interested athletes and schools can learn more about SFA by logging on to their website www.sfanow.in, where you can find links to register for Hyderabad school, Mumbai schools, and Mumbai colleges.

    September 25, 2017

    Australian basketball team Ringwood Hawks to tour Kerala for International Hoopathon in November


    Ringwood Hawks, the women's basketball team who play in the BigV league in Australia, will visit India in early November to take part in five matches against Kerala's All Star Women's team in five cities around the state for the International Hoopathon Series 2017. A number of local schools and colleges in each city of this tour will be invited to take part in skills and entertainment competitions.

    The tour is being organised by Kerala's Team Rebound, the auspices of the Kerala Basketball Association and approval of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). This is the first time that Kerala is hosting an international women's basketball event.

    "It is our endeavor to organise this International Hoopathon Series as the beginning of the Roadmap for Team India to improve its standing at the Asian level" said Mohammed Iqbal, the president of Team Rebound.

    The Hawks already have a close relationship with India - and Kerala in particular. Ten years ago, India and Kerala basketball legend Geethu Anna Rahul played for Ringwood in Australia, becoming the first Indian women to play professionally abroad, and won MVP of the BigV division.

    Ringwood Hawks schedule in Kerala - November 5-12, 2017
    • November 5: Regional Sports Centre - Kochi
    • November 7: VKK Menon Indoor Stadium - Trichur
    • November 9: Indoor Stadium - Kottayam
    • November 11: Jimmy George Indoor Stadium - Thiruvanathapuram
    • November 12: VKN Menon Indoor Stadium - Calicut

    PJ Sunny, President of the Kerala Basketball Association said "Such international matches will help the women's basketball to grow further in Kerala and KBA is extremely happy to be joining hands with Team Rebound."

    During the 125th birthday of World Basketball last year, Team Rebound & KBA joined hands to organise the Kerala Hoopathon, where basketball was introduced to 12,500 kids between the ages of 10-12 across 125 schools in all districts of the state.

    September 24, 2017

    Indian basketball role models Satnam Singh and TJ Sahi told the youth there is no hope in the country. Were they wrong?


    This article was first published in my blog for The Times of India Sports on September 14, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

    Talwinderjit Singh “TJ” Sahi and Satnam Singh both started on the bench for the Indian national team in summer, as the squad played—and failed—at the prestigious FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon. India lost all three of their preliminary round games and returned home disappointed. An injury to one of India’s most important players—Vishesh Bhriguvanshi—forced Sahi to play a slightly larger role than expected; Satnam, however, played less than ten minutes per game and his contributions were almost insignificant.

    Sahi (33) and Satnam (21), two of India’s most-popular basketball players, are on opposing stages of their respective careers. Sahi, an uber-athletic 6-foot-1 point guard from Punjab, has been in and out of India’s national system for a decade. Over a colourful career, he has had serious clashes with basketball and government authority in his state and the country, found himself embroiled in multiple controversies, and faced expulsion from the national squad because of those controversial stands. Nevertheless, his offensive talent and India’s shortage of star perimeter players ensured his return to national colours over the past few years.

    Satnam, meanwhile, is Indian basketball’s golden boy. At 9, he was a farmer’s son in a small Punjabi village. By 14, he was recruited into the world-class IMG Academy in the United States to hone his basketball skills. By 19, he made history by becoming the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA. This summer, after spending the last two years playing for the NBA G-League squad Texas Legends, Satnam returned to the Indian national team for the first time since 2013.

    And despite these differences in career trajectories, both players came together earlier this week to create new controversy. Speaking to a national daily in Ludhiana, Sahi and Satnam told the youth that there was no hope for basketball in the country and that aspiring players should head abroad to create a name for themselves in the sport.

    “After I was selected for the NBA league, I was given an amount of Rs 11,000 by former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal,” said Satnam. “The central government did not give me anything.”

    Sahi said: “I have been playing since the age of 10. I have given more than 20 years of my life to basketball. But I have got nothing in return. In the past eight years, I have met Badal at least 20 times at his residence to request him for a job but to no avail.”

    On motivating the youth, Sahi added: “How can we motivate young players towards a game, which we know has no future in India? So I tell students to study hard, go abroad and fulfil their dreams.”

    Based on the early reactions to their comments, a number of young Indian players have begun to share this sentiment. Basketball in India, frankly, has been a mess for decades and even big moments of success and development have come as patronising consolation prizes for a country that has potential for so much more. India has the world’s largest youth population with a theoretically sound structure in sports, from the Ministry of Youth and Sport Affairs, the Sport Authority of India, the Indian Olympic Association, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), and the smaller federations in each state to oversee the game’s growth. But these systems rarely perform their function like they are supposed to, and the mismanagement of the authorities often leave players facing an uphill struggle.

    There is no full-time professional basketball league in India and most of the top players have to rely on jobs in various service units like ONGC or Punjab Police and play the game as semi-pros. Veterans, like Sahi, are right to complain that work opportunities begin to dry up for some retired or close-to-retirement players.

    Younger players face a different problem: cases like Satnam—where a player is given scholarship to learn the game abroad—are rare. There are many other younger players in the country whose potential is being wasted because of lack of youth coaching and scouting facilities.

    Over the past few years alone, Indian basketball faced a major crisis as the BFI broke up into two competing factions. Each faction pressured state federations to support them and keep the player’s availability exclusive to their respective sides. Players were punished for reporting for national tournaments or international camps and briefly barred in taking part in the short UBA Basketball League. Last year, basketball was de-recognised entirely from the South Asian Games and the players in the men’s and women’s national teams couldn’t earn credit for their participation. In all these cases, it has been the players who have almost always been the victims of the political tug-of-war.

    The BFI crisis seems to have resolved somewhat this year, but its sour aftertaste remains, and in individual cases like Sahi and Satnam, a reminder that there are many more battles to be win. From Jayasankar Menon to Sozhasingarayer Robinson, there are dozens of precursors to Sahi to have clashed with authority and seen their career stumble. Last month, Prashanti Singh joined the rare club of basketball players to win an Arjuna Award, yet her nomination wasn’t filed through the federation and the BFI has yet to acknowledge her remarkable feat.

    In Indian basketball, most of the success has come due to individual breakout talents rather than the system, and like Sahi suggested, has often happened abroad. This year, Punjab’s Amritpal Singh and Varanasi’s Vishesh Bhriguvanshi took a major leap by signing contracts in Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL). Amjyot and Amritpal both played professionally in Japan in the past. Palpreet Singh Brar won the ACG-NBA Jump programme and was drafted by the NBA G-League last year. And of course, there’s Satnam, whose IMG Academy training led him to the NBA Draft.

    But, despite there being some truth to their statements, Sahi and Satnam weren’t completely accurate in their assessment. Only the smallest percentage of players will have the fortune of winning a once-in-a-lifetime scholarship like the IMG Academy, or get recruited into the NBA’s own elite basketball academy (launched in Greater Noida earlier this year). For the rest, climbing the rungs of the Indian basketball ladder is often the best option.

    Take India’s best three players—Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh—for example. If it wasn’t for their performances at the Indian national team, neither would have been considered by scouts abroad. Bhriguvanshi, Amjyot, and Amritpal have faced struggles because of the system’s ineptitude too, but they worked hard nevertheless, became star players for the country, and their reward is the opportunities they are now getting abroad.

    The ‘system’ should be blamed for its inadequacies when appropriate, but it can’t be the scapegoat for every failure. In the interview, Sahi and Satnam blamed the federation selectors and inexperienced younger players for India’s poor performances in Lebanon. “The young players lacked experience,” they said, while Sahi later added India’s loss to Jordan was partially the fault of “selection of team by the Federation.”

    But in the run-up to the tournament, team selection was the least of India’s problems. Featuring the best available players and a necessary mix of veterans and youth, many believed the Asia Cup squad to be one of the strongest Indian rosters ever assembled. Plus, team selection doesn’t answer for Sahi and Satnam’s limited roles. Many younger players were in better shape at camp and more eager to be a better fit for the national side. A share of the blame lies with the two players themselves.

    If there are any real excuses for India’s poor performance, it came from the head coach Phil Weber, whom I interviewed for Scroll last month: health and lack-of-preparation. Several of our top players (including Satnam) were unavailable in the early few weeks of the camp, and many others (like Sahi) were still hampered by injury. The most damaging of these injuries was the one to Bhriguvanshi, without whom India had no organiser in the backcourt when the going got tough.

    The problems that Sahi and Satnam have shed light on will continue to persist, however, until a full-time basketball league allows players to become exclusively basketball professionals and continue to have employment opportunities in the game once they retire. On the other end of the spectrum, better coaching and infrastructure is needed at the grassroots level to properly nurture and support young players.

    As for the current debate between staying in India or going abroad, it all boils down to the priority of the individual player—whether it is focusing on one’s own career or hoping to improve the larger system—and there is no wrong answer. Players with ambition have every right to make the most of outside opportunities—if they are lucky enough to have such opportunities available—to make a name for themselves. But if they really want to bring change and “hope” into Indian basketball, they can make the most of their expertise and influence to aid the development of youth basketball back home.

    September 21, 2017

    2017 SLAM Top 50: Al Horford, No. 41


    Al Horford is poised to play a pivotal role for the new-look Celtics.

    This article was first published in my #SLAMTop50 contribution for SLAMOnline.com on September 11, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

    This time last year, Al Horford was the new face in an established franchise, the big-name All-Star recruit to a young squad, where the rest of the pieces had already begun to fit. His role in Boston, after years of success in Atlanta, was to provide veteran savvy and star power to help the Celtics mature into true contenders.

    A year later, as the Celtics made dramatic changes this past summer, Horford has quickly become one of the only enduring major pieces of the recent past, ready to adopt—and thrive in—yet another new role.

    When Boston begins the new season against the Cavaliers in mid-October, Horford is likely to be the only regular starter from last year still in this season’s starting five. Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Amir Johnson—all of whom formed the framework of the Celtics’ starting unit last season—are gone. In come Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, and the rookie Jayson Tatum, who join second-year swingman Jaylen Brown.

    And then there’s Horford, Boston’s highest-paid player last season. Despite his credentials in Atlanta that included deep playoff runs and four All-Star appearances, Horford took a backseat while Thomas became the heartbeat and engine of the franchise. The duo—aided by a deep rotation of talented role-players—helped the Celtics to the best regular-season record in the conference.

    Now, with the new arrivals to boost up the backcourt, Horford is likely to become the third option on offense for the Celtics. For a player who has been a multiple-time All-Star despite career scoring averages of “just” 14.3 points per game, the new role will suit him just fine. In Irving and Hayward, the Celtics have brought in two dynamic scorers that could become one of the League’s most dangerous offensive duos and score upwards of 50 points together per contest. With more tick, expect Brown to take a major leap this season, and rookie Tatum is already being compared to Boston’s last great swingman scorer, Paul Pierce. Under Brad Stevens’ leadership, the Celtics had a top ten offensive rating in the League last season. It might take a few months for Irving and Hayward to find their fit, but rest assured, scoring is not going to be their problem.

    This is where Horford fits in. At 31, he is already the second-oldest Celtic, just behind the high-flying Gerald Green, and his experience will carry Boston while the youth come of age. Even though he has the potential to be get buckets for himself (he was the team’s third-leading scorer last season), Horford’s best basketball talents are more altruistic in nature. On the court, he is likely to be the Celtics’ most consistent performer even without taking a shot: grabbing boards, setting screens, finding the open man, and continuing to defend at a high level in the post. The best Horford teams—like the 2014-15 Hawks—operate with quick pacing, spacing, and ball-movement, with Horford serving as the big fulcrum that keeps the offense moving.

    Indeed, Horford’s “fall” from 27 to 41 in the SLAM rankings is a serious demotion, and so is his role in the Celtics’ hierarchy for 2017-18. But if a player with his sense of leadership, poise, and multi-skilled talents is your squad’s third-best player, your squad is in good shape.

    September 20, 2017

    The Subramanian School of Punjabi Basketball Excellence: An Update


    Amritpal Singh’s latest achievement adds to the long list of successes of the Ludhiana Basketball Academy

    This article was first published in my column for Ekalavyas.com on September 10, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

    Photo collage courtesy: Ekalavyas.com

    In the early 2000s, a diminutive basketball coach from Tamil Nadu worked his way up north the country, thousands of kilometres away, and found career nirvana in Punjab. It was here that the legendary coach Dr Sankaran Subramanian began to lead the Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA), recruiting talented but raw young athletes from big cities and tiny villages in Punjab. By the time he passed away in 2013, Subramanian had had an imprint in the rise of some of India’s most successful young basketball players.

    And the feathers in the cap of the LBA’s alumni, just like the swishes in the basket of a sharp-shooter, continue to add up even a decade and a half since Subramanian’s first foray into Punjabi basketball.

    This week, Punjabi seven-footer Amritpal Singh, one of the linchpins of India’s national basketball team, made history by becoming the first Indian-born player to join the roster of an Australian National Basketball League (NBL) squad. After years of success in Indian basketball and playing professionally in Japan, Amritpal got the biggest boost of his career when he was signed by the Sydney Kings, with whom he is guaranteed to play the 2017-18 NBL season.

    It’s hard to imagine what the state of Indian basketball would be without the influence of its LBA alumni. The Academy has produced important international stars, NBA and NBA G-League draftees, professional players at home and abroad, and cult heroes. Here is a list of some of the biggest names to hone their craft at the famed indoor Guru Nanak Court of the Ludhiana Academy.

    Amritpal Singh

    Why not start with the man of the moment himself? Amritpal was born in the village of Fattuwal in Punjab, the son of a farmer, and used most of his athletic gifts ploughing the field or playing Kabaddi. At 19, he was finally introduced recruited to the LBA to be trained under Subramanian. Once he took to the game, Amritpal improved rapidly, graduated to the Indian national team, and has been a centrepiece of the national squad for the past six years, a stretch that has included India's historic wins over China at the FIBA Asia Challenge and the most recent appearance at the FIBA Asia Cup. 

    The 26-year-old has played professionally in Japan in the BJ Summer League and for the Tokyo Excellence in the Japanese D-League in the past. After impressing the Sydney Kings in the NBL Draft Combine and with their invitational squad at the Atlas Cup in China, Amritpal was signed to the team to become the first Indian to be in the top-level NBL roster in Australia.

    Satnam Singh

    No doubt the most-popular name in Indian basketball internationally, Satnam’s well-documented “One in a Billion” story saw him rise from the unknown farming village of Ballo Ke in Punjab to become the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA. Satnam discovered basketball at age 10 and became a star for Punjab at the junior level soon after joining the LBA as an adolescent. The Academy gave him his early lessons in the game, and at 14, the teenage giant was recruited to play for the IMG Basketball Academy in Florida, USA.

    After five years at IMG, Satnam, a 7-foot-2 center, declared for the NBA Draft in 2015 and was picked 52nd by the Dallas Mavericks. Since then, he has played bit minutes for the Mavericks’ G-League squad Texas Legends and for the Mavericks’ Summer League teams. The 21-year-old returned to the Indian national team for the first time since 2013 for the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon this year.

    Yadwinder Singh

    “Yadu”, the son of a farmer from the small Punjabi village called Rasulpur Khurd, started his athletic career as a serious Discus thrower in school, before joining the LBA at age 16 as one of its first batch of recruits. Within a few years, he improved dramatically and found a place for himself in the Indian national side in the early 2000. The 6-foot-6 forward became an important role player for India with his famous bursts of energy and effort on court.

    Yadwinder now plays for ONGC in Uttarakhand and for the Haryana Gold squad in the UBA league. He was one of the four Indian players to take part in the NBL Draft Combine earlier this year. Although a back injury kept him out of India’s most recent international outing, he is the team’s most consistent veteran presence.

    Jagdeep Singh Bains

    Jagdeep was the other athletic forward to form the first batch of recruits with Yadwinder. Originally born in Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan, “Jaggu” was first a part of the Rajasthani junior state team before Subramanian recruited him to the LBA in 2002. An unstoppable scorer, Jagdeep played in many international tournaments for India and domestically for Punjab Police, before suffering a career-threatening injury in 2012. Fortunately, he made a glorious comeback to the game with the UBA League’s Mumbai Challengers in 2016.

    Amjyot Singh

    Chandigarh born Amjyot Singh’s first athletic obsession was cricket, but a High-School injury kept him out of the game for three months. During this time, his interest in basketball grew, and when he returned to fitness, he tried out for the school team. By 2008, Amjyot’s exceptional gifts in the game were clear: he was soon promoted to the national U16 team and recruited to the LBA. Now, he is India’s best offensive player and has been the team’s leading scorer in most of the international competitions over the last few years.

    The 6-foot-8 25-year-old forward was besides Amritpal in their experiences in the Japanese Summer League, D-League, and at the NBL camps in Australia. Furthermore, Amjyot developed into one of the top-ranked Asian 3x3 basketball players in the world with his success for the Japanese Team Hamamatsu. Last year, Amjyot declared for the NBA’s G-League draft and will hope for another opportunity at the stage in the near future. At the domestic stage, he has represented IOB (Chennai) and the UBA’s Delhi Capitals.

    Talwinderjit Singh “TJ” Sahi

    Known affectionately to fans as “Air India”, TJ Sahi is one of the most athletic players that Indian basketball has ever produced. The 31-year-old point guard from Ludhiana comes from a family of athletes: his father is a Decathlon national record holder and his mother played hockey. Sahi, however, chose basketball, and in his journey of learning the game home and abroad, his paths crossed with the LBA, too.

    Sahi has been in an out of the Indian national line-up for a dozen years, and is as popular for his dominant international scoring spurts as he is for his YouTube-breaking dunks. Currently, he plays for the Bengaluru Beast squad in the UBA League and was India’s lead guard (because of injury to Vishesh Bhriguvanshi) in last month’s FIBA Asia Cup.

    Palpreet Singh Brar

    Palpreet, a menacing, 6-foot-9 power forward from the village Doda in Punjab’s Sri Mukhtar Sahib district, studied under Subramanian in the LBA and secured his place behind Amjyot and Amritpal as yet another Punjabi post presence. 2016 was a big year for Palpreet, as he won the ACG-NBA Jump challenge to receive the opportunity to prepare and fly to the United States for the NBA G-League tryouts. He impressed several teams in the process, and became the first Indian to be drafted into the G-League when the Long Island Nets picked him 80th overall last October.

    Palpreet was eventually cut from the team before training camp, but he is continuing his international basketball hustle, finding success in the international FIBA 3x3 state with Team Hamamatsu of Japan.

    Kiranjit Kaur

    Originally from Ludhiana, Kiranjit Kaur, is one of the most successful women players to have honed her skills at the LBA. Kiranjit, 29, played for India at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and various FIBA Asia Championships before switching sports to become an international netball player for the country.

    Harjeet Kaur

    Another success story from the LBA’s women’s coaching programme has been Patiala’s Harjeet Kaur. The 6-foot-2, 29-year-old forward represented India in various international competitions including the FIBA Asia Championship for Women in 2009 and currently works with the Punjab Police.

    Loveneet Singh Atwal

    Despite usually being one of the smallest players on court, 5’11” guard Loveneet Singh used his speed and energy to become a regular feature for India’s junior teams and make his senior debut, too.  The 21-year-old from Ludhiana was one of the finalists of the ACG-NBA Jump last year and credited the LBA for helping him develop his game despite not being gifted with size like some of the other top players out of Punjab.

    Prince Pal Singh       

    For a hint of the future talent coming out of the LBA basketball nursery, look no further than Prince Pal Singh. The 6-foot-8 teenager, the son of an electrician from Gurdaspur in Punjab, was discovered by the LBA at age 14. A year later, he excelled at an open trial event in Chhattisgarh to secure a $75,000 USD scholarship to the Spire Institute in Ohio, USA.


    Now 16, Prince Pal continues to make rapid improvements in his game. He has joined the NBA Academy India, was recently selected for an elite camp in China, and was Punjab’s top starring player in their triumph at the Youth Nationals earlier this year.

    September 19, 2017

    ONGC to represent India at 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in China: Roster, Schedule, and Preview


    Asia's premier club basketball tournament - the FIBA Asia Champions Cup - will return this year for to be held in Chenzhou, China, from September 22-30, 2017. This is the second consecutive year that Chenzhou will host this tournament. Ten of the top club teams from different countries in Asia will take part in this championship. All matches will be held in the city's Chenzhou Sports Center.

    China's CBA squad Kashgar - otherwise known as the Xinjiang Flying Tigers - will return to the tournament to defend their title from last year. Once again, India will be represented by Dehradun's squad ONGC, who won their fifth-straight title at the Federation Cup earlier this year. Despite featuring some top Indian talent, ONGC were ousted from the Preliminary Round stage without a win last year and finished tied for 9/10th place in the ten-team fray. ONGC have been drawn in the tournament's Group B.

    FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2017 Groups
    • Group A: BC Astana (Kazakhstan), Mono Vampire Basketball Club (Thailand), Petrochimi (Iran), Sareyyet Ramallah (Palestine), Chooks-To-Go (Philippines).
    • Group B: Shabab Al Ahli (Dubai), ONGC (India), Al Riyadi (Lebanon), Dacin Tigers (Chinese Taipei), China Kashgar (China).

    ONGC have finalised their roster, coached by their former star and former India captain Trideep Rai. The team is set to have serious cause for concern this year: their marquee talent Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, recovering from a serious knee injury from the BRICS Games earlier this year, hurt himself again at the '3x3 Road to Mexico' basketball event in Gurugram a few days ago. Big man Yadwinder Singh is back in action after an injury, while guard Arjun Singh will be another important player to watch. The squad's superstar big man - Amritpal Singh - has left the team to join the Sydney Kings of Australia's NBL.

    ONGC roster for FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2017
    • Abhishek Rai
    • Mohit Bhandari
    • Vinay Dabas
    • Anoop Mukkanniyil
    • Riyazuddin
    • Arjun Singh
    • Vishesh Bhriguvanshi
    • Muralikrishna Ravindran
    • Udai Bhan Singh Rawat
    • Yadwinder Singh
    • Head Coach: Trideep Rai
    • Assistant Coach: Dinesh Kumar

    The tournament will be held in league-cum-knockout format, with the top four teams of each group of five qualifying for the quarter-final stage after the preliminary round of round-robin games.

    ONGC's Preliminary Round schedule - all timings IST
    • September 22 - Dacin Tigers vs. ONGC - 12 PM
    • September 24 - ONGC vs. China Kashgar - 5 PM
    • September 25 - Al Riyadi vs. ONGC - 7:15 PM
    • September 26 - ONGC vs. Shabab Al Ahli - 12 PM

    Without Amritpal and with a Bhriguvanshi not at full strength, ONGC will find it difficult to compete against the more stacked squads from Chinese Taipei, China, and Lebanon. Their best chance at a victory, and a potential quarter-final spot, could be in their final game against Dubai's Shabab Al Ahli.

    China Kashgar will once again be favourites to win gold this year, while Lebanon's Al Riyadi and Iran's Petrochimi could both pose serious threats to their crown.

    September 18, 2017

    Hamamtsu win inaugural '3x3 Road to Mexico' basketball event in Gurugram


    Over the past few years, as 3x3 basketball has risen in stature, Team Hamamatsu have strongly established themselves as the most dangerous Asian squad in this shorter format of the game, and as one of the top teams around the world, too. Although they officially represent the Japanese city of Hamamatsu, the team is a collection of top desi talents of Indian, American, and Canadian origins. So, when India hosted their own major showcase of high-level 3x3 basketball, it was no surprise that the star-studded Hamamatsu squad once again rose to the top.

    Last month, the first-ever international professional 3x3 basketball league was announced in India by YKBK Enterprise Pvt Ltd, a company who have won the exclusive rights from FIBA to hold the event in the Indian subcontinent. Although the league itself won't be held till next year, a special two-day 3x3 showcase event called the ‘3x3 Road to Mexico’ was conducted on September 16-17 at the Ambience Mall, Gurugram. Featuring 12 top teams from India, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Maldives, this fast-paced tournament featured marquee national basketball stars like Amjyot Singh, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Satnam Singh, TJ Sahi, Palpreet Singh Brar, and more.

    In the tournament's final game, Hamamatsu won in an exciting back-and-forth battle against another Japanese squad, Yokohama, 20-19 on the back of strong efforts by Palpreet Singh Brar, Kiran Shastri, and Bikramjit Gill. As winners, they were awarded a cash prize of INR 4,00,000/- and an all-expenses-paid trip to participate in the FIBA 3×3 World Tour in Mexico City from September 30 to October 1, 2017.

    The final round of the dunk contest was also held on Sunday, which was won by Ukraine's Dmitry ‘Smoove’ Krivenko.

    Earlier in the semi-finals, Hamamatsu defeated Japan's Tsukuba 21-16 while Yokohama bested the Indian Ludhiana Basketball Academy 21-14 to enter the tournament's finale.