October 31, 2010

Punjab Boys and Kerala Girls lift Junior Basketball Championship title at Vashi

In what was a fitting end to an exciting championship, the Punjab Boys team stepped up their game when it counted most to edge out Tamil Nadu 75-70 and win the boys’ title at the 61st IMG-Reliance National Basketball Championship for Junior Boys and Girls at the Fr. Agnel School in Vashi (Navi Mumbai). In the girls’ final, Kerala played efficient defense to smother hosts Maharashtra and win the final game, 71-60.

The boys’ game was a see-saw, back and forth affair, as the two strongest teams in the tournament, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, faced each other. It was a match-up between Punjab’s height and Tamil Nadu’s speed. Tamil Nadu had a hard time dealing with Punjab’s control of the boards, but led by some brilliant play by GB Carmel Joseph, they kept close until the end. Tamil Nadu looked to have sealed the game in the last few minutes before Punjab’s captain Amjyot Singh (10) and Bikramjot Singh (22) made clutch baskets to give their team the victory.

“It feels really good to win this trophy, especially since this was such a difficult tournament,” said Amjyot Singh, Punjab’s captain. “The game was going down to the wire, but our coach reassured us and made sure we played with a cool mind. I’m very happy we were able to win: this is a good, balanced team, that boasted good shooters, good passers, and of course, great height.”

Kerala girls silenced the home support after they built an early double digit lead over the Maharashtra squad. Playing disciplined man-to-man defense, Kerala made it extremely difficult for Maharashtra to score and were soon sitting on a 24 point advantage early in the 3rd quarter. Maharashtra slowly began to catch up, even cutting the lead to single digits in the last few minutes. But Kerala managed to hold on, and as time expired, they emerged 71-60 winners.

Kerala were once again led by the confident young star Jeena PS (26). “I am happy to win this trophy and make Kerala proud,” said Jeena, “We were able to play good defense, and on offense, my team-mates did a good job in getting the ball to me in the post. There was a bit of pressure from the home support as Maharashtra made a comeback in the fourth quarter, but we were able to hang on.

Final Scores
Girls: Kerala 71 (Jeena PS 26, Neenu Mol PS 15) bt. Maharashtra 60 (Amruta Vashwant 15).
Boys: Punjab 75 (Bikramjot Singh 22, Kamaldeep Singh 18) bt. Tamil Nadu 70 (GB Carmel Joseph 27, KS Prasanna 17, G Sivabalan 13)

Final Standings:

1. Kerala
2. Maharashtra
3. Tamil Nadu
4. Chhattisgarh
5. Karnataka
6. Delhi
7. Uttar Pradesh
8. Punjab
9. Rajasthan
10. Orissa

1. Punjab
2. Tamil Nadu
3. Madhya Pradesh
4. Karnataka
5. Kerala
6. Chhattisgarh
7. Maharashtra
8. Rajasthan
9. Uttar Pradesh
10. Andhra Pradesh

Tamil Nadu run ’n gun into the Final!

With no shortage of attacking talent, the Tamil Nadu Junior Boys’ team are making waves over at the 61st IMG-Reliance National Basketball Championships at Vashi (Navi Mumbai). Led by the wily and skilled star G. Sivabalan, TN boast of a balanced squad that is starting to peak at the right time.

“We have a stronger team than last year,” said Sivabalan, who was one of the youngsters in last year’s squad that were knocked out in the Quarter-Final stage of the tournament, “The difference this time around is our ball-handlers, who have given us an edge.”

TN have been playing some beautiful basketball at Vashi, winning all but one game at the tournament. Their only loss came against a motivated Rajasthan side in a group game, where their opponents pulled away in the last minutes to win by four points.

Apart from that setback, TN have been in scintillating form, easily beating Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and sneaking past their toughest opponent, Punjab, 73-69 in a group game. In the semi-final against Karnataka, TN scored a tournament high 109 points in their high-speed run ’n gun style.

And at the helm of this offensive assault has been star forward Sivabalan. Armed with an unstoppable quick step and uncanny ability to finish tough lay-ups around the basket, the 6’2” player has been a nightmare for defenders all tournament. He has also shown nerves of steel, playing the best basketball in the tougher games. Sivabalan scored 24 points in the loss to Rajasthan, 28 points in a quarter-final win against Kerala, and 26 more points in the semi-final victory against Karnataka.

But he isn’t alone; aiding TN’s cause is GB Carmel Joseph, the experienced forward who has recently returned from playing for the Indian U18 team at the FIBA ASIA U18 Championship in Yemen. Players such as big man A. Aravind, S. Senthil Murugan, and KS Prasanna have been the pillars of this team.

Now, Tamil Nadu are set to face their toughest opponents, Punjab. Punjab are the tallest team in the tournament and have thus far proven difficult to beat. But TN have edged them before in the championship and will be looking to do it again.

“We have a lot of coordination amongst the players,” says Carmel Joseph, “Our offense style is freelance, and we can change our game according to the opponent.”

Sivabalan is confident that the team can go all the way. But Punjab are one of the most feared teams of the tournament, and the youngster will need to bring out his big game heroics once again if TN aim to raise the championship trophy on Sunday night.

October 28, 2010

Chhattisgarh: Indian Basketball's best kept secret

The first quarter has ended. The scoreboard reads: Chhattisgarh 25, Delhi 2. As the Chhattisgarh junior girls team walk back to the bench for a break, their coach Rajesh Patel is still fuming.

You slowed down in the end,” he says, “This is a 40 minute game, and we have only played 10. We lead by 20 now, I want us to lead by 50 by the time the game's over.”

The Girls go back at it. They maintain their lead though, and by the time the final buzzer sounds, the score reads 69-48. It wasn’t a 50-point win, but the coach is happy indeed. Another day at the office for India’s most efficient basketball system.

The blowouts continue, from quarter to quarter, game to game, tournament to tournament, year to year. Here are some heady statistics: The Chhattisgarh state was formed out of Madhya Pradesh ten years ago. Ever since, Chhattisgarh girls have won nine out of the ten Sub-Junior National Championships, give out of nine youth championships (runners up three times), and seven out of nine Junior championships. By the time the talented Chhattisgarh girls reach Senior level, most of them get snagged off to play for Indian Railways (they have already taken 28 girls over the past decade).

For those who are not involved with the game in India, Chhattisgarh is basketball's best kept secret. In a state struggling to find a positive identity ever since its inception in 2001, Chhattisgarh’s Girls’ basketball programme has given its people more than enough reason for cheer.

Two words come to my mind when I watch them play, the same two that spring back up when I read about their near-perfect tournament records: ruthless efficiency.

In Vashi, where the 61st Junior National Championship is taking place, the Chhattisgarh girls, who are the defending champions, are playing up to their reputation. It’s a nightmare for opposing defenses. Wait a second too long and they’ll run down the court for a fast-break. Jump a little too early and they’ll fake and lay it up. Give them a little too much room and they’ll hit a perfect jumpshot. Sag too closely and they’ll beat you off the dribble. Opposing teams need to have a flawless defense to beat Chhattisgarh’s flawless offense. In their first four league games at Vashi, Chhattisgarh has won by 14 points against UP, 21 points against Delhi, 15 points against Karnataka, and 25 points against Andhra Pradesh. Opposing teams don’t really plan to beat them, they plan to not be embarrassed.

To those engrossed with big city lives of better infrastructure, major tournaments, brand new Nike LeBron sneakers or flashy NBA jerseys, the success of Chhattisgarh may seem like a mystery. To the untrained eye, they are, after all, a great unknown. But their ‘secret’ is as profound as it is simple: 24-7-365, Togetherness. All year round, the team stays together, plays together, studies together, eats together, and holds each other accountable.

Let this story serve as a microscope at the Chhattisgarh phenomenon. The city of Bhilai, smack in the middle of the Chhattisgarh state is known for two things: 1) the Bhilai Steel Plant, and 2) It happens to be one of the fastest growing cities (in terms of population) in the world. The Bhilai Steel Plant is the financial powerhouse behind providing infrastructure and manpower for Chhattisgarhi basketball, including four well-maintained outdoor courts. The Bhilai Engineering Corporation sponsor the state’s ‘Basketball Hostel’. At this hostel, 20 girls and 10 boys, usually from poor families, are housed all year long, where they eat, pray, and love basketball, practicing 10 hours each day, morning, evening, repeat.

And then there is their coach, Rajesh Patel. Patel is Honorary Secretary of the Chhattisgarh Basketball Association and Deputy Manager (Sports) at Billai Steel Plant, and has invested over 30 years into the game. Patel has built a well-planned system, where his scouts bring young players (around age 10-11) from deprived conditions and offer them a chance to make a living through basketball. “These are really poor kids from all around the state of Chhattisgarh,” said Patel, “Some are from tribal families. Some can't even afford to buy a pair of slippers for thier feet. Some have father’s who drive auto-rickshaws, or sell paan. We offer them the opportunity that if they are successful in basketball, they will be able to land a government job. By the time they leave, I want them to earn for themselves and be able to stand on their own two feet.”

And they don’t just stand, they stand tall. In his several decades in coaching, around 120 players that have trained under Patel have received government jobs under the sports quota. 25 players trained under him have represented the Indian Sr. National team. Till date, he has trained around 7,500 basketball players. Recently, Patel was felicitated at the FICCI sports summit for his contributions to developing grassroots basketball in India.

That is why it should be no surprise that the Chhattisgarh teams, particularly their girls, perform so well in national competitions. It should be no surprise that Patel has collected a total of 41 golds, 11 silvers, and 13 bronze medals in the four levels (Sub-Jr, Youth, Junior, and Senior) over the past decade. It should be no surprise that the Chhattisgarh girls team is dominating proceedings at this year’s Junior Nationals in Vashi. And it should certainly not be a surprise that out of the eight young Indian players chosen for the IMG Academy scholarship programme, four were from Chhattisgarh.

“These girls are hungry for success,” Patel says, “The potential for a job placement afterwards motivates them to keep trying harder.”

The Chhattisgarh Basketball Association plans their success in advance: The youngest ones are recruited to start preparing for the championships two years before they first feature in the Sub-Junior Nationals. The Sub-Junior team practices against the Youth, the Youth against the Juniors, and the Juniors against the Seniors.

Chhattisgarh has a successful boys’ team too, but the high expectations set by the girls almost keeps the boys shadowed a little bit. “See, in Chhattisgarh, we aren’t really blessed with the tallest or the biggest people,” said Patel, “Amongst the girls, you can manage to win by skill, but in the boys’ game, the physical attributes matter a lot more.”

“Also,” Patel admits, “The boys’ division is so much more competitive than the girls', so it is harder for them to win all the time.”

Meanwhile, the girls keep on winning and keep on representing the country at the highest level. The current junior girls’ team has three players who have represented India internationally at the Youth or Junior levels: captain Ranjeeta Kaur, Pushpa Nishad, and Sangeeta Mandal. All three ooze with confidence, and have used their international experience to help their squad.

“The international experience certainly helps a lot,” said Ranjeeta, “I’ve personally learnt a lot of defensive plays when facing tougher opponents, and it shows in my game at this tournament.”

“Our offense is also much stronger than other teams,” adds Ranjeeta, “We practice it throughout the year.”

Stack up all the factors above and the haze becomes clearer; the mystery demystifies. Patel admits that whenever the Chhattisgarh team plays in other states, basketball laymen and the local media don’t take them seriously, until they blink and realise a few days later that the team has become a championship contender.

You can keep away that microscope now: It should be no shock to anyone that Chhattisgarh produce India's most dominating girls' teams.

"We want to beat each team – we want to win each game in a one-sided fashion,” says Sangeeta Mandal, one of the stars of the Chhattisgarh junior girls squad, “We won’t leave this tournament without playing in the final, and then winning it.”

The secret is out. And just as ever, Chhattigarh girls' are the top contenders for the crown at Vashi, approaching their destiny just as they always have, with ruthless efficiency.

October 27, 2010

IMG-Academies basketball coach Dan Barto visits the Junior National Basketball Championship

Dan Barto, who is a coordinator and basketball coach of the IMG Basketball Academy in Bradenton (Florida), USA, is at the Fr. Agnel School in Vashi (Navi Mumbai) to observe the Junior National Basketball Championship and train basketball coaches from around India on October 27th-29th, 2010. Barto is coaching the eight Indian student-athletes who have been sent to the IMG Academy as part of a scholarship programme by IMG-Reliance.

“Earlier, I only got a chance to work with a small number of sub-junior students,” said Barto, “I’m here now to take a look at hundreds of kids, and put my eye on what types of programmes for what age group IMG can plan for the players. Seeing the 18-year-olds at the Junior Championship, I want to note how the game of Indian youngsters develops at this age, and then see what we have to work on to make sure that the current 13-14 years olds can improve to a much higher level by the time they are 18.”

The secretary-general of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) Harish Sharma welcomed Barto to the championship, “Barto will be spending the next few days at the National Championship observing the players and helping them out wherever necessary. He will also hold a few more coaching clinics over the next few days.”

At Vashi, Barto was greeted by over 40 basketball coaches from around the country. These coaches are currently attending the 61st IMG-Reliance National Championship for Junior Boys and Girls with their teams. On Wednesday, Barto worked with the coaches and some players to demonstrate the importance of improving a player’s athletic ability through skills training, working on skills such as ball handling, finishing around the basket, ball handling and finishing combos, and corrective shooting drills.

“I am very impressed by the coaches’ strong yearning for knowledge,” Barto said.
Barto also spoke about the development of the eight Indian youngsters at the IMG Academy, noting: “For their age group, the Indian players are at par with any other basketball players we have at the Academy in terms of their coachability, discipline, and skill level. They have to work on their lower body strength now and are improving physically too.”

“At the IMG Academy, we are taking things to a higher level than 99 percent of the schools in the country. The Indian kids will can three years of physical development in six months.”

Barto is the post-graduate coordinator/coach, pro/college training coordinator, and national combine coordinator at the IMG Basketball Academy. He has trained over 100 current or former NBA players, and over 40 Division I players

IMG-Reliance is currently in partnership with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) to help develop basketball in India. The IMG scholarships for India programme is a pioneering effort to provide young Indian players the opportunity to reach their potential by being coached at one of the finest basketball academies in the world.

Here is a video prepared by the IMG Basketball Academy of IMG Reliance Scholarship Recipients from India at training.

October 26, 2010

The Season is here!!! NBA 2010-11 preview

Oh, all is well in the world again. Or should I say 'aal iz well'? Just like Amir Khan's character in Three Idiots, the brand new NBA season is going to offer teams and players around the league a chance to defy the norm, be a little brave, and "fool their hearts" into believing that all iz, indeed, quite well. But which idiots will stand as NBA champs by the time June 2011 rolls along?

With the explosive off-season moves, this is promising to be one of the most anticipated seasons ever, and I'm going to do a little fore-shadowing into the future and predict who will hold the main silvervare, and the other vares by the time the season wears out! These predictions are based of course on the understanding that there will be no more major trades (i.e., Carmelo Anthony stays in Denver) or major injuries (i.e.: D-Wade, Kobe return triumphantly).

My predicted all star teams...

I'm jumping straight to February: Who will be the All-Star starters for the All-Star Game? Remember, the starters are voted based on fan popularity, but of course, a better a player performs, the more popular they will be.

Eastern Conference All-Stars

G: Derrick Rose
G: Dwyane Wade
F: LeBron James
F: Amar'e Stoudemire
C: Dwight Howard

First off: Derrick Rose will win the popularity vote against Rajon Rondo, even though Rondo is more likely to be having a better season.
Secondly, I think Amar'e will just about edge Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett in the second forward spot. And if Bosh does make it, it would mean all the three idiots of the Miami Heat in the starting squad, which would be incredible.
Also, Amar'e played as Center in Phoenix, but is a forward in New York, which is why he and Dwight Howard both make it.

Westarn Conference All-Stars

G: Chris Paul
G: Kobe Bryant
F: Kevin Durant
F: Carmelo Anthony
C: Yao Ming

I would personally replace Yao with Gasol here, but Gasol is listed as 'forward', and no way in hell even a limited Yao Ming doesn't make this team with the entire force of the Chinese nation behind him. Still, this looks like a great squad.

And by the way, East will win, based on more balance/understanding in the squad.

Now, let's get on to the end-of-season awards... I have been conducting polls and discussions on the Hoopistani Facebook page over the last couple of weeks and have gotten great responses to many of the questions about MVP, ROY, etc. But these here are my predictions...

Most Improved Player: Darren Collison. A hard one to classify and call - who is even considered here? Good players who become great? Average players who become good? Or crappy players who touch averageness? Collison is my pick here: the youngster went from Chris Paul's backup last season to torching the league after CP3's injury. He only got 12.9 ppg and 4.4 apg, but his potential is much greater. This time around, he has been traded away to the Pacers, where he will man the point from day one. I am expecting big things from him in a squad that isn't otherwise going anywhere.

6th Man of the Year: Lamar Odom. I understand that Odom will be starting for the first couple of months of the season because of Andrew Bynum's injury, but even after the Laker forward slips back the bench, he will do what he always does: become the floor general of the Lakers talented second squad. I have been much impressed by Odom after his exploits at the FIBA World Championships, and I'm expecting him to play the best basketball of his career this season.

Coach of the Year: Erik Spoelstra. He will take a 40-something Miami Heat team from last season and make them a team challenging 70 wins and history this year. Okay, no, he won't be the reason why they win so much, but I expect Spoelstra to do what he should do in a situation where he has an embarrasment of richest with LeBron, Wade, Bosh, and others, which is to make sure they gel together, play the right system, and play good defense. He will of course get critisized for not being the reason behind their success, but at the end of the day, he would've done his job well.

Defensive Player of the Year: Kevin Garnett. KG is making all the right noises about a strong, comeback year. This will be a close battle with Dwight Howard, but I think Garnett's return to full form marked with strong overall defense by the Celtics will propel him to retain this award, which he won in 2008.

Rookie of the Year: John Wall. It will be a three-way battle between Wall, Blake Griffin, and DeMarcus Cousins, but the number one pick will live up to the hype. He's one of the most freakish athletes I have ever seen: get ready for him to bring a whole new level of excitement to the Wizards and the whole NBA.

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant. LeBron and Wade will share the credit for Heat's success. Kobe will be going slow for most of the regular season. Dwight etc just aren't good enough.
There will be no bigger individual star by the end of this season that Kevin Durant. He was the league's leading scorer last season (the youngest ever), and took over the entire planet during the FIBA World Championships, winning the tournament's MVP and being generally awesome/unstoppable. He will be the primary killer of the Thunder, and the media loves him, which always helps with the MVP voting.
The Durantula it is!

And now... on to the Team predictions.

This is what the Eastern Conference Playoff Seedings will look like:

1. Heat
2. Magic
3. Celtics
4. Bulls
5. Hawks
6. Bucks
7. Knicks
8. Bobcats

Yes, Heat will streamroll through everyone. Magic will do what they've always done efficiently. Celtics will want to win more to have home-court advantage. I say the Bulls will be the big improving team, but still not as good as the top 3. Knicks will be the team with the most improvement in the East.

And the Western Conference:

1. Lakers
2. Mavericks
3. Jazz
4. Spurs
5. Thunder
6. Nuggets
7. Hornets
8. Grizzlies.

The Western Conference was very close after the Lakers' number one spot, and will continue to be so. Thunder will make a lot of noise, and yes, Grizzlies will sneak in.

I expect the Conference Finals to be: East - Heat vs. Celtics, and West - Lakers vs. Jazz.

And the NBA Finals will be what everyone is hoping for... Heat will beat the Celtics in a match-up of blood, sweat, and tears, and in the West, Lakers will have a much-easier time against their opponents.

Lakers vs. Heat

The Finals themselves? LeBron, Wade, and Bosh will continue to do what they have done all year, but the Lakers depth of talent, their genius coach, their defensive ability, and the clutchness of Kobe will help them edge this out in six or seven games. Pau Gasol will step up. Ron Artest will do (and say) some crazy shit. Odom, Bynum, Barnes, Blake, Fisher, Brown, Vujacic, will all chip in for the franchise's 17th 'Chip.

So I predict Los Angeles Lakers as 2011 NBA Champions, making it a Three-Peat. Kobe gets Finals MVP again.

Phew. That was fun and exhausting. Now it's your turn: Gimme some predictions!

October 25, 2010

Tripura teams crosses 2,000 kilometers to head straight to the basketball court.

I had requested an interview with Md. Makara Dush Ali, the head coach of the Tripura Junior Boys Basketball team,and some of the players,right after their first match at the Junior National Championships at Vashi. Naturally, I had expected the players and the coach to be a little fatigued after the game against Pondicherry.

Considering the journey this team had been through,'fatigue' is a masterful understatement.

"We have come a long way," Ali lamented, both of Tripura's journey into a competent basketball team and the team's actual journey to travel around 2,000 kilometers across most of India's wide breath to reach down to Vashi. The team left their capital of Agartala for a 24-hour bus journey up to Guwahati, Assam. From there,they embarked on an epic 48-hour train journey to Mumbai, and it took them another two hours from Mumbai to Vashi.

The Tripura team arrived at Vashi at 6:00 AM on the morning of Sunday,October 24th. At 9:00 AM that morning,they played their first game.

"The boys were really tired,but they still played hard."

Unfortunately,the fatigued ultimately showed on the team that was already considered to have been one of the weaker squads in the tournament. Tripura was beaten thoroughly by Pondicherry,51-12. Though dejected,the team refused to be in sour spirits.

Other teams from the North-East such as Mizoram, and Meghalaya have also brought their teams across the nation to the tournament in Maharashtra. None of them were thrust into action as soon as Tripura were, but all of them have come determined to enjoy the experience. During the opening ceremony on Sunday night, each of the teams held up their flag high, and some were even represented by young schoolchildren modeling their traditional garb.

For Tripura, the journey to Vashi is just one of the few steps taken towards the long road in national basketball respectability. "In Tripura, gymnastics is the most popular game, but there are still enough people who play basketball," said coach Ali, "The problem is with the infrastructure: we don't have any indoor or synthetic courts (like the one being used at the Fr. Agnel school in Vashi) – so our players practice on concrete courts."

"Another problem is in the players' heights," Ali added, "The population in Tripura is generally shorter,so we struggle to compete with the best in basketball."

The height difference was clearly exploited by their first opponents Pondicherry, who jumped off the gates early and maintained a large lead throughout the game.

Still the team has young players who,despite their short height, will be hoping to showcase their skills at the national level. One of them is Sanjit Sutradhar,a quick,brave guard. "I have been playing basketball for six years," said Sanjit,"I used to live near a basketball court,so it was easy for me to step out and start learning the game."

Despite admittedly being extremely tired for their match on Sunday, Sanjit put up a respectable performance,scoring 10 of his team's 12 points.

Tripura is still looking for its next Ronudeb – the legendary player from the state who made the Indian Junior team in 1985. The state's players haven't been represented on the national teams since, but Coach Ali is hopeful that one day they will produce another basketball superstar from the state.

Until that day, they will keep playing and keep persisting, even if facing tough situations like Sunday,when all they got was a three-hour rest after a three-day trip. For basketball players around the country, the struggle to get to the game will never overshadow the game itself!

October 24, 2010

Junior National Championships 2010 at Vashi

43 teams from all across the country are here in Vashi (Navi Mumbai) right now for an 8-day long festival of hoops. This is the 61st edition of the IMG-Reliance National Championship for Junior Boys and Girls, and it tipped off at the Fr. Agnel Sports Complex on October 24th. 23 boys' teams and 19 girls' teams from different states and territories around the India are present. The Final of the tournament will be held on October 31st.

The championship has been organized by the Maharashtra Basketball Association under the aegis of Basketball Federation of India (BFI). Young deserving players will be selected to undergo intense training under the guidance of international coaches and facilities that are world class to help them develop their skills & game in the long run.

Rev. Alex Dais, Bishop of Andaman inaugurated the tournament.

Mr. Harish Sharma, Secretary, BFI said, “It has been our ongoing endeavor to promote basketball in India. We are certain that the Indian youth has immense potential to perform on a global stage. Championship like these help the young boy & girls showcase and develop their game. Going forward we will provided world class infrastructure & coaching facilities to all the promising players and work towards creating many such opportunities that will help us in developing basketball as a sport that is second to none.”

Commenting on the championship Mr. M. Venkatesh, Associate Secretary, Maharashtra Basketball Association said, “We are pleased to received participation in huge numbers from across the country. I believe The 61st National championship shall see fierce & exciting competition amongst teams; each and every team is ready to face on the challenge and deliver a game that will surpass the expectations of many. I am sure this championship will be a foundation stone for many young budding Basketball stars of tomorrow.

The organizers are providing the sport-court (synthetic) for the first time at the Junior National Championship. One of the coaches from the IMG-Academy, who had helped pick young Indian players for scholarship at the academy in Bradenton, Florida, will be in attendance to observe the tournament, too.

On the first day of games, the Karnataka Boys beat Kerala and Tamil Nadu Girls beat Madhya Pradesh. Girls reigning champions Chhattisgarh started off their campaigin in style, beating Uttar Pradesh 57-23, led by Shahranjeet's 24 points. Full results can be found here.

I will be brining comprehensive coverage of these championships from Vashi for both this blog and the BFI website. Also, check out the scores page at the BFI site to keep up with regular updates of results from the matches at the championship.

October 23, 2010

My Pre-Season recap, if there's anyone out there to listen...

Please care about the pre-season. Please, pretty please! Look, I even went on NBA.com/India and pleaded its case. It's not not important, okay?

Well, whatever your sentiments may be for the seven or eight exhibition games played by each NBA team before the start of the regular season, you can now hold them until next October. The pre-season has concluded, the real season is only three/four days away, and peace has been restored in the galaxy, somewhat.

Still, the last few weeks haven't passed by without its set of talking points. Here are the stories that stood out from over the last few weeks of pre-season games:

The new technical rule: Be careful the next time you pump your fist in excitment or frown at the referee or raise your eyebrow to emulate The Rock. NBA refs have been given a super ridicolous new technical foul rule that will keep most of the NBA's players worried more about their body language than their defensive assignments. A bunch of critics have already emerged against this new rule and we can hope that Commissioner Stern will ease them up a little.

NBA going to Europe, Mexico, and Outdoors: The NBA continued to try new things in the pre-season, as the Lakers, Knicks, and the Timberwolves headed to Europe to play in Milan, Paris, and London. The Spurs also faced the Clippers in Mexico. And the Suns, in what is starting to look like a yearly tradition, held an outdoor game against the Mavericks.

The Teams playing well...: The Jazz have been on an absoulte tear in the pre-season, going 8-0, and so have the Magic, who have been 7-0. The Magic is no surprise: this is their THIRD STRAIGHT undefeated pre-season, and they're on a 21-0 pre-season streak. Too bad it doesn't count in conference finals games against the Celtics.
The surprise undefeated squad are the Grizzlies, who have also gone 8-0. And there are a few more surprises, because back in the East, the Cleveland Cavs are the third best team, going 6-2. Should anyone be shocked, since this has been the best regular season team over the last two years? They lost, like, just one player, right? Whatshisface whoever?
And then there's the Celtics, who are looking scary efficient, including their bench. They went 7-1. Plus, Shaq is in Boston and all things in life seem to be happy again.

... And the ones dissapointing: The Suns, last year's Western Conference finalists, lost Amar'e, and look in danger of losing their swagger, too. Then again, this is only the pre-season.

New faces making it count: The two leading scorers of the pre-season are both new faces in their squads: Amar'e in New York and LeBron in Miami. It'll be interesting to see how LeBron's scoring will be effected once Wade returns from his injury. Amar'e looks like he'll flourish with D'Antoni again.
The third leading scorer is Monta Ellis... Is this is a sign for a breakout season?

Miami-Orlando cancelled game: The NBA doesn't want LeBron, Dwight, Bosh, or Stan Van Gundy to fall on a slippery floor and hurt themselves (not too sure about Stan, actually). That is why this game was cancelled in Tampa last night. Too bad, it would've been a chance for Magic to protect their super important pre-season winning record against the new-look Heat.

Injury concerns in Miami: Wade went out about three minutes into the Big 3's debut in Miami. And now, it seems Mike Miller's gonna miss a couple of months. This is not my favourite team, but it'll still be sad to see injuries stopping what could otherwise be a historically good squad.

Rookies stepping up: The silent battle for this year's rookie of the year has already begun. Blake Griffin (injured and missed all of last season), John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins are all looking good. Should be a fun race to keep an eye on.

The Carmelo Question: Is he going to New Jersey? No he's going to New York now. No, Chicago is the best fit right now. I think he's happy in Denver.
Too much speculation, too few answers. As of now, Carmelo Anthony is still a Nugget, but things could change as soon as I finish this sentence, really. He seems to have caught the LeBron-Decision bug and look for brighter lights and bigger success. I wonder how the speculation is going to affect his game...

Lockout looming?: Dark clouds in the league ahead. There has been much discussion and debate about the player's salary agreement, and it seems right now that David Stern wants the player's salary to be dropped by a third. Will there be repurcussions? Will there be a lockout? Rajon Rondo is already saving his cash for next year.

But whatever happens next season, happens next season. In three days, the 2010-11 season tips off. I will soon have my season review up, too. Let's get ready for some games that count...

October 21, 2010

Diwali, the JDBASKETBALL way

So Diwali is just about 15 days away, and like every year, you can expect the following things:

1) Fireworks keeping you up until the wee hours of the morning.
2) Fireworks giving your pet nightmares that go on at least until Holi.
3) A laddu/gulab-jamun/barfi/any other Indian sweet overdose.
4) Decorated houses shining proudly all night.
5) Basketball... Much basketball...

That's right, because this Diwali, Delhi hoopers will be getting a special gift: American basketball coach JD Walsh will bring back the JDBASKETBALL clinic to the city to hold a Diwali Vacation Camp on November 6-7 at the American Embassy School (AES) in New Delhi.

The camp will be open to kids in Elementary, Junior High School, High School, and University level, and training for the students will be separated by age and ability.

Email info@jdbasketball.com for more information. Each session of the camp will be limited to 30 participants.

Over the past three years, JDBASKETBALL has operated over 100 clinics in 12 cities to over 5,000 youth throughout India.

I'm guessing there will be no fireworks allowed on court. Except for metaphorical ones.

October 20, 2010

Montfort School celebrate double victory at 1st IMG-Reliance School Basketball League

Basketball in India continues to take crucial steps in the right direction. To help the help of the game at the grassroots level and to create the right kind of competitive atmosphere for young talents to grow, the first ever IMG-Reliance School Basketball League was held in New Delhi from August 16-October 20th. 20 boys’ and girls’ teams from 12 different schools across the city took part in a mammoth 96 matches in the preliminary and super league stages.

At the end, the best two teams faced off in the Finals, which were held at Modern School (Barakhamba Road) - both the boys’ and girls’ finals were between the hosts Modern School and Montfort School (Ashok Vihar). The visiting teams pulled off a historic double by winning both the matches and going home as champions.

In the Girls’ final, the Montfort team came undefeated throughout the tournament and continued their phenomenon surge ahead. Montfort took an early lead and never took their foot off the gas pedal. Led by Manini Rai (19 points) and A. Chinmayee Meghana (17), Montfort strolled to a comfortable 56-25 victory.

The Boys’ game was a lot more competitive, as the hosts Modern started off strong in an attempt to upset the favoured Montfort side. Modern held a six-point advantage going into half-time, but Montfort returned to their confident and aggressive style of play in the second half. The comeback was completed successfully and Montfort held on in the final minutes of the game to win the game 50-43, led by 16 points from Nakul Agarwal who has been their best player throughout the tournament.

Earlier on Tuesday, DPS (Mathura Road) Girls and GD Goenka Boys won third place against their rivals DPS (RK Puram) Girls and DPS (Mathura Road) Boys respectively.

Each of the players from the two winning teams was presented with a Rs. 2,000 cash award from the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). Second place players received Rs. 1,500 and third place players received Rs. 1,000 each.

Additionally, the tournament’s sponsors IMG-Reliance provided an extra cash bonus to the top three performing schools of both divisions in the tournament to encourage the improvement of basketball infrastructure in the institutions. Bikram Singh, the vice-president of IMG-Reliance handed out Rs. 1 lakh to the first prize winners, Rs. 75,000 to the runners-up, and third place teams were rewarded with Rs. 50,000.

"This is a great moment in the history of basketball in India and specifically in Delhi," said Harish Sharma, the Secretary-General of the BFI, "The success of this league has been made possible due to our partnership and the support of IMG-Reliance. Now, we want to take this league to other cities across the country."

Sharma added that this was the first time that cash prizes were being rewarded to the schools. "We want to encourage the schools to promote basketball with this money by improving their basketball courts and facilities."

The league has been a colourful get-together of basketball enthusiasts as well as those who are new to the game. Along with encouraging established players and fans, many other school children across Delhi have grown a new-found interest in the game. Sharma has promised an even bigger and better school league in Delhi next year.

Montfort Girls star Chinmayee was satisfied with her team’s performance. "We’re very happy to win this league. It was a great experience playing in front of large crowds, which encouraged us. The league went on for a long time, and it helped us improve our game as we played each time two or more times. I feel very lucky to have won this year because I’m in 12th standard and won’t be participating in next year’s tournament."

From Montfort Boys, the final’s leading scorer Nakul Agarwal credited his team-mates for their support and inspiration in helping to pull off a great performance through the course of the tournament. Montfort made a great comeback after trailing in the first half. "Modern played a very tough game, but we had to prove that we are the best team and we are unbeatable. That is why we came motivated in the second half to win."

"It feels great to have won the trophy," added Nakul, "This the first time that basketball has been promoted so well in the schools and it’s great for the growth of the game in India."

Final Scores

Girls: Montfort School 56 (Manini Rai 19, A. Chinmayee Meghana 17) bt. Modern School 25 (Gauri 11)
Boys: Montfort School 50 (Nakul 16) bt. Modern School 43 (Archit Sinha 15, Satyam Nayyar 12)

Final Standings


1. Montfort School
2. Modern School
3. DPS (Mathura Road)


1. Montfort School
2. Modern School
3. GD Goenka School

October 19, 2010

Hoopistani on NBA-India!

I hope you're not sick of me yet, because if you are, this bit of news might actually cause a sourly belch in your stomach.

Now that we have that lovely visual out of the way(!), I want to announce that for the 2010-11 NBA Season, I will be writing a weekly feature for NBA.com/India, the National Basketball Association's micro-site for its fans in India. So stay updated for regular NBA articles in the Hoopistani flavour. The articles will also be displayed if you access NBA.com from India.

Done belching yet? Now start reading. First article goes up this Friday.

October 17, 2010

Video: Chinese National Team beat the Brazilians. Literally.

Hmm... Talk about a "friendly" match.

If you haven't seen this video yet, it's time to feast your eyes on one of the most atrocious things to happen to a major basketball game since Ron Artest went up the stands.

About five days ago, the Chinese National Basketball team were playing a friendly against a team from Brazil, part of their preparation for the 2010 Asian Games that will be held in the home soil for the Chinese (in the city of Guangzhou). In just the first quarter of this game, the referee called a foul on a Chinese player, and the coach of the China Sr. Men's team American Bob Donewald, Jr. reacted angrily (really angrily - cursing out loud, smashing the scorers table, etc.). Play between both teams became rougher, until finally, an open fight busted out on court.

Actually, I would be wrong to call it a "fight." In a "fight", two parties attack each other. This wasn't like that at all - this was more like a spanking. For the lack of a better phrase, the Chinese players "opened a can of whoop-ass" on the Brazilians, beating up black and blue on their home court. The Brazil players did not really respond, and even when everything seemed to be calm and the players began heading back to their locker rooms, they were attacked by the entire Chinese contingent again.

Here is the video:

Shameful. Just shameful.

From China.org.cn:

China's coach, Bob Donewald Jr, was quoted by sina.com as saying: "We really didn't want to pick a fight, but we had to protect ourselves. One of our players was sent to the hospital with concussion. The Brazilian behavior was unprofessional
But the witness told a different story.
"Donewald was the one who goaded the Chinese players into fighting. The players had been pretty much normal until the coach's outbursts. Donewald was howling at the players and the referees from the first minute," said the witness.
"Chinese players Ding Jinhui and Zhang Bo carried out two ferocious fouls immediately after a timeout during which Donewald had said something to them," the witness said.
'Chinese players deliberately picked a fight'
"The Brazilian players applauded the fans as they walked off the court. But that was seen as a provocation by the Chinese players and they chased after them and attacked them again. They deliberately picked a fight," the witness said.
The match was abandoned and the Chinese side put on an in-house training session instead. But the spectators demanded their money back and the organizers have promised a refund.

According to BBC.co.uk, the China's players will be made to attend classes on good sportsmanship.

This is so damn awful, really, the Chinese Federation should be ashamed for this, especially since it is so close to their own Asiad event in less than a month. And Coach Donewald should've known better than watching (or even coaxing) his young players into this kind of situation.

Indian Men are in the preliminary round in the Asian Games' basketball tournament. Head Coach Bill Harris is known for his defensive capabilities, but he'll need some masterful defense to block against this kind of physical assault if India play the hosts.

October 15, 2010

Dishant Shah: Sky's the Limit

If it hadn’t been for a few encouraging coaches, we would have lost one of India’s rising young basketball talents to another sport.

At 18, Dishant Shah from Baroda is slowly beginning to make a name for himself at the highest level of basketball in the country. The undersized center (he’s 6’8”) just returned from Yemen after captaining the Indian junior side at the U18 FIBA Asia Championship. Upon his return to India, he was the only junior player invited to train with the Sr. National Men’s team that is preparing for the Asian Games.

But all this could’ve been so very different. It was only five years ago when Dishant was busy spending his time perfecting another sport.

“I used to have interest in cricket before,” said Dishant, “That is all I used to play.”

Fair enough – nearly every child that has breathed the Indian air has at some point thrown a cricket ball or dreamt perfecting that square drive. But luckily for the Indian hoop world, a basketball coach approached Dishant to take up a different game after he noticed the youngster’s sudden spurt in height.

“I admit I didn’t like basketball that much in the beginning,” said Dishant, “It was a completely different sport. But when I hit the court and started playing a lot, I saw a sudden improvement. I began to enjoy myself because soon after I was chosen for the Gujarat Sub-Junior team.”

As the national tournaments and call-ups became more frequent, Dishant became more motivated towards basketball, and his love affair with the game grew deeper. He played his first Sub-Jr. Nationals in Billai, right after which he was selected for the Indian Sub-Jr. team. He kept on being invited to more camps. In July 2008, he captained the Indian Youth (U16) team to the Children of Asia International Sports and Games in Russia.

A month later, Dishant was promoted to the Junior squad, joining the team to the U18 FIBA Asia Championships in Tehran (Iran). Dishant kept reaching for higher, and as his performances improved, so did the attention.

He received his very first senior team call-up in 2008, when he was part of a young squad that went to Hong Kong for the Super Kung Sheung Cup.

Dishant was also chosen for the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders – Asia camp that took place in Beijing in 2009. “The BWB was a great experience,” said Dishant, “Several NBA players were there as coaches and we learnt a lot from them.”

A simple twist of fate, a change of sport, and voila… The country saw the development of a devastating basketball talent. Dishant captained the U18 squad Middle Asia Zone qualifying for the FIBA Asia Championships, and after dominating their opponents, the team travelled to Sana’a (Yemen) for the final tournament. India finished 13th overall, but Dishant was still proud of his team's performance.

“We need to keep taking part in competitions like this,” he said of the tournament in Yemen, “It brings us great experience and makes us confident.”

India was grouped with Japan, hosts Yemen, and Iraq. Although they lost all their three group games, Dishant said that the game against a tough Japan side brought out the best in the squad. “We were actually leading up until the last four minutes,” he said, “And then their great three-point shooters brought us down.”

Dishant was one of the strongest performers for India at this stage, and his height and versatility caught the attention of new Indian Sr. Men’s coach Bill Harris, who called the youngsters to Chennai to try-out for the Senior squad. Dishant is amongst the select squad of 14, 12 of whom will be part of the final team to travel to Guangzhou (China) next month for the basketball tournament in the 2010 Asian Games.

So far, Dishant has been playing at the center position for this squad, too – India has an undersized team, but Dishant believes that they will be able to overcome their height disadvantage under the new coach. “Yes, India is a short team and we will face many bigger players in China, but we cannot back down from anyone just because they are taller,” said the confident young star, “We have to use certain defensive techniques to negate opposing big men. We have to simply pay attention to our basics and fundamentals and we should do fine.”

“What we need most is coordination and teamwork amongst ourselves – although we have some good individual players in the squad like Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Jagdeep Singh, Yadvinder Singh, and others, it is important to know that basketball is a team game, and we will be able to compete as long as we play in that way.”

Dishant himself as an excellent post game, featuring a smooth shooting touch from inside the ‘D’. Whether or not he makes the final cut, this is sure to be another important experience for a player who has rapidly improved from a cricketer/basketball novice to U18 captain and member of the Indian senior team. “I have already been very motivated ever since I was called for these tryouts,” said Dishant, “I want to make the best out of it. I am a younger player and I want to learn from all the talented seniors around.”

Dishant has also sung praises of his new coach. “Coach Harris’ main strength is in defense, and we are feeding off that. A good defensive team always wins. We have been emphasizing on certain defensive tactics with the coach, such as on-the-ball defense, recovery, and providing help defense to a teammate that has been beaten – this is something that we don’t usually do in India.”

“We have a good coach, so our chances for the Asian Games are good. I hope that we can bring back some good results.”

From a casual young cricketer to a budding basketball star, Dishant Shah has already come a long way. He may be a fresher on the senior team, but seeing the pace with which he has already achieved success, there is no doubt that in the near future he blooms into one of India’s leading basketball players.

October 12, 2010

From the WNBA to India - Tamika Raymond takes on a brand new challenge

Soon after it was announced that the Indian Sr. Men's team will be led by American coach Bill Harris, formerly of Wheaton college, there was a collective flurry of celebration over the basketball networks around the country. "Yes... FINALLY... gud going... All the best Mr. Harris..." Facebook pages announced the news deliriously with ALL CAPS and Twitter updates were retweeted with glorious abandon. No, Harris wasn't the saviour for Indian basketball, but he was definitely an important foundation as the team built itself towards respectability before the 2010 Asian Games.

There was just one niggling problem.

Pratima Singh, India's Women's National player, shared her grievances first: "why not for the girls team.... this is not good...," which she later followed on by "humare baare main bhi to soche koi (someone think about us, too)!"

The rest of the girls watched jealously for a few days, as Harris landed in Chennai and started his era with the Senior Men. Indian players, particularly the women, are known for their hunger to keep learning, keep exploring, keep improving... Just like the men, they wanted their leader, too.

And it didn't take long before their wish was granted. After a thorough search for coaching talent in the USA, the NBA found recommended a former WNBA player and NCAA D1 assistant coach the BFI. BFI's Secretary-General Harish Sharma presented Tamika Raymond to the Women's squad.

Raymond brings with herself the perfect balance of experience and approachability. She is still young, only two years retired from her career as a professional basketball player in the WNBA, which is the most competitive women's basketball league in the world. After being drafted sixth overall by the Minnesota Lynx in the 2002 WNBA draft, Raymond played for the Lynx for six years, before taking her talents to Connecticut to play for the Sun for a year in 2008.

But being a professional player wasn't enough: Raymond also began to work as assistant coach at Ohio State University in the off-season, juggling both careers of a player and a coach with ease for several years. After five years at Ohio State, she took up the assistant coaching job at the University of Kansas. Both these institutions have great basketball programmes and play at the highest level of college basketball in the US – NCAA Division I.

But this is her first gig as head coach – and with a wonderful twist of fate, she finds herself in South India. "I was doing some work with the NBA internationally, and I heard that they wanted my name in the pool of people being considered for the India job," Raymond said, "I thought it was a great situation and so I agreed."

"My past experience is surely to help me with this new responsibility," she added, "At Ohio State, I worked with an older coach who stressed on the fundamentals of perfecting the women's basketball by breaking down and studying every bit of information about the game. At Kansas, I worked under a younger coach who believed in exploring new concepts and disciplines of training student athletes."

"Being young and a former pro-athlete myself, I feel I will be able to relate very well with the girls here. I hope I will be able to understand their issues better and we can all work together."

Raymond has been in India for less than two weeks, but she has already organised the team into following a strict, regimented training schedule. Time is scarce – the Asian Games tip off in a month, and India will have to be prepared to face the likes of China, Korea, and Thailand in their group.

But no matter how good a coach, it is the players who inevitably decide on the success of a squad. So far, Raymond seems to be happy with the group she has been given to work with. "The girls have responded well to the practices we have had so far," she said, "They're very talented, proud, and respectful, but the best thing is that they are like sponges: they want to keep learning, they want to keep working in the gym, and want to care for the game of basketball. All this combines to show for the great energy that they have in practice."

Raymond also commented that the Indian Women were strong in their basketball fundamentals, and seemed to have high basketball IQ and retention.

As the team shapes up, Raymond envisions a squad that is strong defensively but also is efficient with its offensive execution. "I want us to be a smart team in our tactical approach and I want us to play hard," she said, "I think if we do that, we can perform pretty well at the Asian Games. I have seen the statistics from the previous games that these girls have played and I think we can improve on them."

Raymond noted that there are various ways in which the team can be improved, and they can do it by following certain aspects of the US model. "In the US, there are certain extra things that the players do which takes them to the top," said Raymond, "There is more stress on weight training, on a strenuous conditioning regiment, and tactical breakdown of offensive and defensive fundamentals."

"We have a lot of talent there, so there is no reason why India can't achieve its potential in basketball. Yes, we have a long way to go, but we're all working together to improve the game here: I really admire the work the BFI has been doing in India."

That race towards improvement is in full swing. Basketball in India was getting all the right kind of support from IMG-Reliance and the NBA – and now, with the hiring of the two American coaches for our senior teams, the players feel confident to start learning. Start delivering.

The girls didn't have to wait too long or complain too much. They have their coach, now, and they have a mission. There was no reason to be jealous of the boys anymore. Facebook statues rejoiced and the ‘Like' thumbs went up as the news of Raymond taking charge of the Sr. Women's team spread. Even Pratima Singh was satisfied.

"THANK U...:)," she commented, "WE R HAPPY..."

If Raymond's team continues to play hard, the rest of us will be very happy, too.

October 10, 2010

A Crossover to connect Basketball, Education, and India

One of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, American coach John Wooden received legendary status with his success and exemplary basketball philosophy while at UCLA. Wooden is known for designed the 'Pyramid of Success', a set of building blocks for winning at basketball and in life. At the top of the pyramid was 'Competitive Greatness', which Wooden defined as "Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day."

The basketball world lost a great when Wooden passed away four months ago, but his fire he started continues to blaze. If the vision of the ambitious Crossover Academy comes into being, India could soon have its own young men and women playing and living by the 'Wooden Way'.

Shaun Jayachandran is the founder and president of Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy, a basketball programme which will soon launch in Chennai with a mission to provide free educational and basketball training opportunities to Indian youth. Jayachandran, who is of Indian descent, holds a special bond with the land of his forefathers. He also counts himself as a member of John Wooden's "coaching tree", as his high school coach Bill Sweek played under wooden at UCLA.

"I wanted to combine three of the things that I love in life," said Jayachandran, who is a basketball coach and chemistry teacher, "Basketball, Education, and India. Basketball is more than a game to me - it is a form of education. The game offers creativity but can also be broken down mathematically and scientifically. It is a great teacher of leadership and other life skills."

With this purpose in mind, Jayachandran is looking to launch the Crossover Academy in Chennai in 2011. The mission will start as a short camp for the first few years in India, where students can sign up to attend a FREE two-week basketball camp. The participants in this camp (open to boys and girls, ages 9-16) will be coached basketball fundamentals and educate the youngsters in a mix of Indian and American academic styles. Jayachandran says that the aim of this programme is to prepare young Indian athletes for shoot for attending high school and/or college in the USA on a basketball scholarship.

CSBA is targeting towards an attendance of 100-125 student athletes for the first leg of the academy. The youngsters won't just play basketball, but also take part in conferences and lectures on basketball theory and study game-tape to enhance their skills.

"I read a statistic somewhere that less than 40 percent of Indians go to high (secondary) school," said Jayachandran, "It was surprising, because in the US, Indians are respected for their intelligence. This shows that there is so much more potential in the country for education. If these youngsters can get a full scholarship, it will mean that they can have a top-class education in the USA for free. They can then either use this opportunity to carve out a professional career in basketball for themselves, but even if that doesn't work out, they will have reputed school and college degrees that will help lead them to many more avenues in their life."

"CSBA students will not only be well informed and motivated about their opportunities, but will also receive support as they continue on in their ventures both inside and outside of India," Jayachandran added.

With time, Jayachandran and CSBA aim to expand the two-week camp into a full residential Academy that runs all year long in Chennai. Students will be readied for the next journey in their life via test preparation, cultural integration, English pronunciation courses, along with presentations on U.S. college applications and interviews.

The wheels for the August '11 camp in Chennai are already in motion. A public kick-off event will be held on October 27th in Boston, through which Jayachandran hopes to involve the Indian-American community to support the programme. "We will be funding CSBA through grants and charities," said Jayachandran, "The Indian-American community as well as the basketball coaching community in the States is keenly supporting this mission."

In December, another representative from CSBA will visit India to finalise the launch process and Jayachandran is hoping to finalise all the necessary contracts by early next year.

Chennai, and the whole state of Tamil Nadu, is a major hoop destination already in India, with some of the most active tournaments and successful teams of the country hailing from the region. Jayachandran still feels that there is much room for improvement in Indian talent.

"Unfortunately, the talent level of basketball in India right now is based more on athleticism right now than on developed skills," he says, "There is certainly room to grow and to introduce new ideas. Basketball is a game that requires developed and trained intuition, an understanding of the ebb and flow as well as the coordination of various skill sets."

From his father's teachings (who is a football/soccer coach) to the teachings of the several other basketball coaches and programmes that he has been part of, Jayachandran says that he has discovered several ways of teaching the game via a discipline to doing things the right way.

"India, with its large population, has an opportunity to truly make leaps and bounds in the global basketball world," said Jayachandran "At the same time, the more educated Indians are, the stronger the country will become. Basketball is another form of education, and it can help the young adults today become leaders of the future."

Wooden would've been proud: if we can develop a string of youngsters that live his philosophy, performing their best every single day, then future is indeed bright for basketball in India.

October 9, 2010

Indian Men and Women teams drawn for Asian Games Basketball

The 2010 Asian Games are a little more than a month away, and preparations for the Indian senior basketball teams at the competition have been going on in full swing in Chennai. The men's and women's national teams have also been blessed recently with two new American coaches Bill Harris and Tamika Raymond respectively to guide them into this crucial competition.

Now, the draw has been made: the draw was held at a ceremony in host city Guangzhou (China) on October 7th, draws were made in in eight sports, including Basketball, Water Polo, Handball, Sepak Takraw, Rugby, Football, Volleyball and Gymnastics (Artistic, Rhythmic and Trampoline).

And if you don't know what Sepak Takraw is, neither did I until about three seconds ago. Okay - I did know the game, I just didn't know what it was called. Sepak Takraw is "kick-volleyball", where you combine football and volleyball together.

Anyways, back to the hoops draws. 17 Men's teams will be participating - and the Men's draw is looking complicated. The better eight of these teams (China, Korea, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Qatar, Iran) have been placed into second round groups E and F. The rest of the team are spread across Groups A-D. The winners of Group A and C join Group E in the second round, and the winners of Group B and D join group F in the second round.

All good so far? Now, India is in Group D along with Afghanistan. If they win, they can move on to the next round to play Chinese Taipei, Jordan, Qatar, and Iran in group F. And it's not going to be a cakewalk, mind you, because the last time the Sr. Men's team were in competitive action at the South Asian Games, they lost to only one team (including the final): Afghanistan - who actually beat India twice in the competition.

The other teams in the men's pool are: Hong Kong, Kuwait, DPR Korea, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Mongolia.

The Women's pool in the tournament only has seven teams divided into two Groups. Indian Women are in Group X, along with China, Korea, and Thailand. Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Maldives are in the Group Y.

The 16th Asian Games will be held from November 12-27, 2010

October 8, 2010

Tamika Raymond appointed to lead Indian Sr. Women's National Team

Tamika Raymond has been appointed as the head coach for the Indian Sr. Women's Basketball team for the 16th Asian Games slated to be held in November. Raymond will be working with the Indian team in Chennai before leading them for the Games, which will be held in Guangzhou (China) from November 12-27.

Raymond was appointed coach by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) following a comprehensive search by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) for coaches in the U.S., and after interviewing several candidates, Raymond was selected. The National Basketball Association (NBA) assisted BFI in identifying potential U.S. coaching candidates.

Raymond will also be supported by IMG-Reliance who is in partnership to support BFI in developing basketball in India.

Raymond is a former WNBA player and NCAA Division I Assistant Coach. She spent seven seasons (2002-2008) in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), six with the Minnesota Lynx and one year with the Connecticut Sun. She also served seven years (2003-2010) combined as assistant coach at two NCAA Division I colleges: Ohio State University and University of Kansas.

"The players in this team are definitely talented," said Raymond, "I am hoping to put in some work with them so that they can become a tactically smart team with good fundamentals and strong defense. We still have a long way to go but I think this team can show some improvement perform pretty well at the Asian Games."

"It's a great challenge and I admire the work that the BFI is doing in raising the level of basketball in India."

Harish Sharma, the Secretary-General of BFI, welcomed Raymond to India. "We are excited to have Coach Raymond in India. She will bring her experience after playing in the world's best women's league - the WNBA - to our players, and she has also worked as an assistant coach in a tough D1 college competition. We are hoping that she can share her coaching expertise with the girls in India to improve our performance for the upcoming games."

"The BFI is grateful for the assistance of the NBA in helping us to bring her here," said Sharma, "Furthermore, our partners at IMG-Reliance will also continue to work with us to look after the coach's needs."

Raymond's job began in Chennai from Monday, October 4th as she began holding work-outs with the players. She will evaluate the talent available and work with his selected squad to train for the upcoming competition over the next few months.

Raymond’s appointment was announced soon after the appointment of William R. Harris, another American basketball coach who was appointed to lead the Indian Sr. Men’s Basketball Team to the Asian Games a week ago.

October 5, 2010

Bill Harris Q & A: "Basketball in India is a goldmine waiting to be developed"

A little more than a week ago, former Wheaton college basketball coach William (Bill) Harris was appointed as the head coach of the Indian Senior Men's Basketball team for the upcoming Asian Games. Harris is currently in Chennai working with the select squad to prepare them for the tournament to be held in Guangzhou (China) in from November 12-27.

Harris has over 30 years of experience as a head coach in the game of basketball across several institutions in the US. He retired from his position from the D-3 Wheaton College in 2009 after 18 successful years.

Before he got a chance to head down to Chennai and meet his team, I got the opportunity to converse with Harris about his decision to come to India, his coaching style, and his vision for basketball in India.

Hoopistani: What inspired you to return to coaching? How did you choose India?

Harris: When I didn't sign a new contract with Wheaton, I hadn't thought to myself that I am retiring from basketball. I love coaching and I love competition - I have a fire in my belly which made me return to the game.

Basketball is an exciting sport - I missed the feeling of walking into a loud arena and being on the sidelines directing the games.

I was initially not aware that there was an opening in the head coach position here. I was motivated to take up this challenge by the NBA and [Director of Basketball Operations-NBA India] Troy Justice who helped me in making this decision. The needs of the Senior Men's team have been described to me as the ones that fill my skill-set. I will be bringing discipline and am known for being a teacher of defensive intensity.

Hoopistani: India is a drastically different environment from your previous coaching jobs. How have you prepared for the challenges you will face here?

Harris: Soon after I accepted this position, I met a number of coaches to get their ideas and suggestions about this assignment over the last month. I have been developing practice plans, too. Facilities are different here - I have learnt that I will have to adjust to all the other things related to organising basketball practicing here, outside of just the coaching.

Hoopistani: What will be your approach when working with the Indian team?

Harris: I will take the first few days to evaluate the talent that I am working with. I want to find the most inspired and the hungriest players. I want to find men who want to compete and want to become better. I will be looking for intensity as well as talent.

We will probably be spending more time dealing with the defensive aspects of the game. One of the reasons I was hired for this job was to implement an intense, team-oriented defensive system. As I coach, I am able to see defensive intangibles that a fan doesn't see. I am looking forward to the challenge of helping this team get better.

Hoopistani: What will be the team's expectations for the Asian Games?

Harris: I'm a blank slate with the team right now. I do not have any result expectations from this team when we go out to the Asian Games. But by the end of my time here, I do expect to have a team that compete as hard as they possibly can. Most importantly, they must understand that basketball is a team sport, and individual recognition will come with team success.

India should understand that the name 'India' on their jersey is important, and not the individual names.

Hoopistani: What is your vision for basketball in India?

Harris: I hope I will be able to help build on the foundation that has been built by the BFI and the NBA in the development of the basketball programme here. Rome wasn't built in a day - we have to lay the stepping stones to our plans first.

Why shouldn't India be amongst the world's elite in 20 years? Why can't India's youth grow up to become great players? Why can't the Indian people get a chance to watch one of their own playing in the NBA? It would be my dream to watch India play the USA in the Olympic gold medal game one day and wonder who to root for!

30 years ago, Americans were very poor in soccer and went through some growing pains. We lay the right foundations then and are seeing the results now. The same thing can happen with basketball here.

This country has a large population with a lot of potential and untapped resources. Basketball in India is a goldmine waiting to be developed. It will be a progress that will take some time, but the future is bright and I'm honoured to be a part of this movement.