The U16 level is the youngest official stage of international basketball competition. For teenage basketball stars in India that hope to become future leaders of the game, it's their first chance to wear the team's national jersey, to travel for a major event abroad, to give a preview of their potential.
Unfortunately, for many of India's next generation their dream FIBA champsionship debut was delayed. FIBA's official event for the continent's youth boys' squads - the 2017 FIBA U16 Asian Championship - was postponed from its original scheduled dates in Fall 2017.
India will be hoping to overturn the disappointments of the 2015 U16 FIBA Asia tournament in Jakarta, where the squad finished with a 3-5 record and dropped to 13th place among the 15 participating teams.
This year's squad will be led by a couple of young players who have already started to make a name for themselves in Indian hoop circles, including the captain Harshwardhan Tomar and big man Prince Pal Singh. Both these players played a prominent role in helping India win the 2017 U16 South Asia Basketball Championship in Nepal. Prince Pal, who plays for the NBA Academy India, was named the MVP of that tournament and has also been part of the NBA/FIBA's Global Basketball Without Borders camp during this year's NBA All Star Weekend. Tomar was notably a young prospect at the Stellazzurra Academy for basketball in Italy. Another player to watch in Indian colours is Priyanshu, who showed some great potential at the championship in Nepal last year.
The squad will be led once again by head coach Vibhor Bhriguvanshi, who helped deliver the dominant 2017 South Asia Championship triumph.
2017 FIBA U16 Championship Groupings
- Group A: China, New Zealand, Hong Kong.
- Group B: Australia, Philippines, Malaysia.
- Group A: Iran, Chinese Taipei, Macau.
- Group A: Korea, Japan, Lebanon, India.
- Prashant Tomar
- Jerome Prince
- Rajveer Singh Bhati
- Nitish Beniwal
- Vigneshwar Upadhyay
- Manikanta Manuri
- Divyaraj Singh Rathore
- Harshwardhan Tomar - Captain
- Prince Pal Singh
- Head Coach: Vibhor Bhriguvanshi
- Assistant Coach: Babu Davis
- Manager: Ajeet Singh Rathore
India's preliminary round schedule - all timings IST
- April 2 - India vs. Korea - 5:30 PM
- April 3 - Japan vs. India - 3:30 PM
- April 4 - India vs. Lebanon - 12:30 PM
FIBA will stream all the games in this championship LIVE across their social media channels.
"We are proud of your achievements so far and expect a lot more from you in the coming days," said K. Govindraj, the president of the Basketball Federation of India, to the young players. "It as an incredible achievement to represent the country at such a young age but we hope that all of you keep on learning and improving so that in future we can see you representing the Senior team as well. I wish you all the best and hope that you make the country proud."
India are in a difficult group, the only group of four, and will surely struggle in their first two matchups against the faster and more athletic Korea and Japan. India's best opportunity for a victory might be against Lebanon, and if they can pull it off, they will move on to the playoffs stage. Regardless of result, this tournament will provide a good chance for India's young players to show their standings against others of their age group in Asia, and hopefully can some experience and confidence for future events.