They are on the cusp of greatness, one more level away from entering the biggest stage. These are the India's best Junior (under-18) basketball players, and for a week-long festival of hoops at the famous grounds of the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, Punjab, they will feature among their competitors from around the nation in the 69th Junior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women.
The Men's team for hosts Punjab will probably start the tournament as favourites, featuring a number of exciting young players, a passionate home fan-base offering them support, and the experience of being reigning champs after winning the same tournament in Greater Noida last year. Last year's medallists Kerala and Rajasthan will hope to do one better and challenge the hosts for the title. In the Women's division, 2017 winners Tamil Nadu will hope to continue their positive run, facing contenders like the improving Uttar Pradesh side and the always dangerous squad from Kerala.
The Junior Nationals began under a dark cloud, however. On his way to the tournament with his Chhattisgarh state team, India's most-decorated basketball coach Rajesh Patel died of a cardiac arrest. Patel has had a dominant record with Chhattisgarh's Women's team in the Junior Nationals and his presence will be missed on the sidelines.
- Group A: Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh
- Group B: Kerala, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh
- Group C: Telangana, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry, Tripura
- Group D: Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Uttarakhand
- Group E: Gujarat, Assam, Jharkhand, Nagaland
- Group F: West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Mizoram
- Group A: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat
- Group B: Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab, Maharashtra, Rajasthan
- Group C: Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh
- Group D: Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand
- Group E: Chandigarh, Assam, Puducherry, West Bengal
- Group F: Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttarakhand
Punjab dominated the first day of action. The men's squad defeated Uttar Pradesh in a 107-49 washout led by rising young star Princepal Singh (32). The women defeated Rajasthan 74-56 despite 27 points by Ishika of the Rajasthani squad. Tamil Nadu Wome got their title defence to a good start with a 71-46 win over Gujarat. Kerala's Men's squad won a high-scoring matchup against Madhya Pradesh 103-86 led by Shanazil (25) and Chacko (22), overcoming MP's Udayveer who had a game-high 34 in the loss.