January 30, 2012

Central Excise (Men), KSEB (Women) win 12th Kerala Champions Trophy

Customs & Central Excise (Men) and Kerala State Electricity Boards (KSEB) (Women) were victorious in the finals of the 12th Champions Trophy Inter-Club Basketball Championship organised by the YMCA in Kuriannoor, Kerala on January 28th. The championship, which was held from Jan 24th-28th, was held under the auspices of the Kerala Basketball Association (KBA) and the PDBA.

The Women's final was a close affair, as KSEB, winners of the trophy last year, were looking for a repeat victory against the team from Assumption College in Changanassery. Playing strong defense on the defending champs, Assumption held to a 33-25 lead after three quarters. But KSEB made a bullish comeback behind the experienced Anjana SS (15 points) to take the lead an survive for a 43-40 victory.

Customs & Central Excise played against the newly-recruited Kerala Police side in the Men's final, and the result was never in doubt for the more experienced and bigger Central Excise team. Led by Monish Wilson (34) and Shinumon Augustine (25), Central Excise led the whole way and cruised to a 95-59 drubbing. Anu Mohandas scored a team-high 18 points for Kerala Police.

Now, Customs and Central Excise, a Kochi-based side, will represent Kerala at the All-India Federation Cup Championship, which is set to be held at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Kochi itself.

January 23, 2012

NBA in talks with IMG about starting a professional basketball league in India

We might be another major step closer towards seeing a dream come true: India's first fully professional national basketball league.

Two years ago, IMG Worldwide, the international sports management company, in their partnership with Reliance industries, India's richest conglomerate, signed a 30-year-deal with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) to support the progress of hoops in India. IMG-Reliance oversaw the improvement of basketball tournaments in the country and brought world-class basketball coaches to lead India's national teams. During this time, the world's biggest basketball league, USA's National Basketball Association (NBA) continued to heavily promote their brand and the game of basketball in India through inner-city leagues and special appearances by NBA stars in the country.

Now, it seems that the two interested parties - IMG and NBA - may be joining hands to take the game to the next level, and realise the dream of the professional league.

According to Bloomberg, the NBA's commissioner David Stern held talks with executives at IMG Worldwide Inc. about establishing a professional league in India.

From the Bloomberg article:

Talks among Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and IMG Chairman Mike Dolan, who replaced the late Ted Forstmann in November, will continue, said one of the people, who was granted anonymity because he isn’t authorized to discuss the talks publicly.

YAY! One tick closer to the Indian Basketball League? With the NBA and IMG joining hands to help the BFI, the next generation of basketball players in India are in for a very bright future.

January 19, 2012

All India Invitational Basketball Tournament tips off in Chennai

Eight Men's teams and Five Women's teams have been invited for an 1st Chennai Invitational Basketball Tournament, tipping off at the Somasundaram Grounds at T. Nagar in Chennai today. The tournament will be held from January 19th-24th.

Invited teams include ONGC from Dehradun, who have been on the form of their lives in recent months. They have won last 5 All-India basketball club tournaments, in Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Kerala, & most recently, at the Savio Cup in Mumbai on Sunday. Women's champs from the Savio Cup - Southern Railway - will also be at the tournament. Southern Railway, who are from Chennai, will be playing with a home court advantage. American side 'Shooting For Success', who have been taking part in the Savio Cup competitions for the last few years, have also been invited to Chennai.

Tamil Nadu's state Men's & Women's sides will also be taking part in the tournament.

Here are the teams taking part in the competition:


Group A: IOB (Chennai), Shooting For Success, Indian Railways, Central Excise (Kochi).
Group B: ONGC (Dehradun), Services, Vijaya Bank (Bangalore), Tamil Nadu.

Women: Southern Railway (Chennai), South East Central Railway (Chhattisgarh), South Central Railway (Secunderabad), South West Railway (Hubli), Tamil Nadu.

January 17, 2012

The Heart, The Mind, and the All Star Vote

Democracy, as Winston Churchill once very famously said, is the "worst form of government, except all those other forms". On the bright side, it gives every person the choice to elect their representatives. On the other hand, it gives every person the choice to elect their representatives. When you get your way, democracy is great. When Mayawati gets elected (and re-elected) as your state's Chief Minister, you start to seriously doubt the system.

I live in India, the world's largest democracy, and I write about the NBA, which is based in America (sorry Toronto), a large, efficient, and proud democratic nation. That is why I guess it wasn't difficult for me to understand and support the idea of fans voting for the starters for the yearly mid-season exhibition - the All Star Game - ever since the NBA introduced fan ballots. The All Star Game, after all, is just an exhibition, a time to have fun and a showcase event for the NBA's most popular and best players and for the fans to see all of them, from so many of the league's 30 different teams, on the court competing at the same time.

The NBA offers the fans to vote for the five all star game starters in each team, but then has the league's coaches fill in the remaining seven spots in each roster to bring balance to the team and also reward less popular but deserving players for their efforts.

But, by rewarding fans with the power to vote for the 41.67 percent of each team every year, the NBA is potentially diluting talent in favour of popularity. Which is fine, since the game is an exhibition for the fans. But this is why I also believe that being an All Star shouldn't count as much to a player's legacy as, say, being named to one of the All-NBA Teams or All-NBA Defensive Teams. Yes, deserving players do become all stars in the process, but a player's legacy should be judged by their talent (rewarded by official All-NBA selection) than by the popularity amongst the masses, many of whom (like me) vote by the heart first and the mind second.

And I have always, unashamedly been an All Star voter with the heart first and the mind second. If the NBA is letting me choose my favourite five players for each conference, then I'll choose the players I'm most biased towards and not the ones that deserve it the most. This is because a) It's just more fun to see players I like, than the deserving ones I don't, and b) The deserving ones will get voted in anyways: the coaches' ballot for the reserves assures a good safety net.

WARNING: You are advised to NEVER follow the above justification when you're actually voting in real life, because you know, an exhibition basketball game is obviously a little different from politics. There is not much of a safety net there, my friends. Real life: Mind first, heart second. All Star game: Heart first, mind second.

I'm rarely one to criticise the democratic process of all star voting though: when an injured Yao Ming used to get voted in year in/year out, it's fine, because after all,
the NBA is a global nation of basketball lovers who have the right to vote (daily) for whom they want to see at the All Star Game. If millions of Chinese fans want to see Yao, then what's wrong with that? (Funny that I'm mentioning China and democratic process in the same sentence. But that's another story...)

When it comes to all star votes, the vox populi is always right. Damn those intellectual basketball elites!

The NBA opened its All Star Ballot just 11 days into the shortened 2011/12 season, and the voting will be complete by January 31st. The 2012 All Star Game is set to be held in Orlando on February 26th.

Now, if I was to put on my 'intellectual basketball elitist' cap on, these are the players whom I would probably vote in as starters at the All Star Game this season, Keep in mind the NBA's 2 guards, 2 forwards, 1 Center system which sometimes creates unbalance and force me to vote for crappy Centers:

  • East: Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard.
  • West: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andrew Bynum.

    Now, going by the first ballot returns from the fan-voting, these are the players most likely to start the game on February 26th:

  • East: Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard.
  • West: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Andrew Bynum.

    Wait, what? So are you saying that the fans actually know what they're talking about? Yes sir. Fan voting, however critisised, is usually pretty close to reality, because the best players will also usually be the most popular.Of course, there are a few interesting anomalies: Ricky Rubio ending third amongst West guards, ahead of the likes of Westbrook, Nash, and Monta Ellis. Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol have more votes than better performers like Aldridge and Kevin Love. Luol Deng, who will definitely be picked as a reserve this year, only getting the seventh-most votes amongst forwards in the East. But, surprisingly, in the majority cases, the system works. Unlike me, most fans vote by both the heart and the mind.

    Not me, though. Here are the players I've been voting for to entertain me at the all star game. Go ahead and mock my choices - but hey, it's a democracy, remember?


    Derrick Rose
    Dwyane Wade
    Carmelo Anthony
    Kevin Garnett
    Tyson Chandler


    Ricky Rubio
    Tyreke Evans
    Metta World Peace
    Pau Gasol
    DeMarcus Cousins

    Yes. Please calm down Kobe/LeBron/Howard/Durant fans: I'm just personally more entertained by different players. Yes, I understand that not one of my Western Conference nominees is going to start - hell I'd be surprised if any of them even makes the reserves this year. That is fine, most of my favourite players are in the East, anyways. And yes, this is the first time I'm voting for Metta World Peace. My starting forward spot had been going to someone called 'Ron Artest' for the majority of the last decade.

    So those are my choices. Now tell me: how do you vote - by the mind, the heart, or a mixture of both? Are you a fan of the NBA's fan-democratic system, or do you wish it never existed?

    Because in a few years, the system is going to get a little more interesting, especially for Indian fans. Watch out when the first Indian player makes it to the NBA. He doesn't even need to log more than five minutes a game in the league. We have a billion people here who'll ensure he starts!
  • January 16, 2012

    ONGC Men & Southern Railway Women cruise to easy final wins at the 7th Savio Cup

    It is famous for being one of the most competitive and exciting basketball tournaments in the country, and judging by the quality of the Men's games thus far, it seemed that the final encounter at the 7th Savio Cup All India Basketball Tournament at Don Bosco, Matunga, Mumbai, was going to be an epic encounter between two sides in peak form. But the night belonged to the stacked ONGC outfit, who showed no mercy versus National Champions Punjab and clinically finished off their opponents for a 61-42 victory on Sunday.

    In the Women's final, last year's winners Southern Railway showed no mercy on Chhattisgarh's South East Central Railway (SECR) - presumably their toughest competition in the tournament - as they headed for a comfortable 86-49 win.

    The triumph for ONGC and Southern Railway came only about a week after both had won the Men's and Women's competition at Athirampuzha JCI Tournament in Kerala.

    The 7th edition of the Savio Cup was held from January 8-15, 2012. The Men's final featured ONGC and Punjab, two teams with the most number of recognisable faces of Indian Men's Basketball today. With the addition of Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Yadwinder Singh from Railways - two players who were barred from taking part in the Senior Nationals last month - ONGC strengthened their squad that already featured Trideep Rai, Riyazuddin, Anoop, and other stars. Vishesh and Yadwinder had been an integral part of the Railways side which had lifted the Savio Cup a year ago: the two stars celebrated Savio Cup victory once again but in different colours.

    ONGC carried out their game-plan and played efficient offense in the Final against a strong Punjab side, which featured India's current internationals like TJ Sahi, Jagdeep Singh Bains, Amjyot Singh, and Amrit Pal Singh. Punjab had a bad shooting night, and ONGC took advantage to dominate the game and win 61-42.

    In the Women's final, it was a similar story as Southern Railway - led by Geethu Anna Jose and Anitha Paul Durai - lifted yet another trophy. This was the third trophy for the duo and other Railway players who had won the National Championship in Tamil Nadu, the Athirampuzha championship in Kerala, and now, the Savio Cup in Maharashtra.

    The Men's division featured several tough teams this year, including the competitive IOB side, who lost to Punjab in the 'Semi Final League' stage. American side 'Shooting For Success' once again brought star-studded players and highlight plays to the Matunga courts, but were a disappointment this year as they failed to repeat their Finals performance from 2011 and lost several of their games.

    A Slam Dunk competition was also held at the tournament, where American player Terry Fields of 'Shooting For Success' defeated Punjab's TJ Sahi for the title.

    January 15, 2012

    The North-East finally has an official basketball academy

    Basketball development in the North-Eastern states of India usually lags far behind the northern or southern states, and this lag shows up with poor and unprepared performances in national basketball championships in India. This is why it brought great relief of basketball fans from the North-East when the much-awaited North East Basketball Academy was finally inaugurated in Guwahati, Assam, on January 13th.

    Veteran sportsmen Pulin Das formally inaugurated the academy at the Assam Olympic Association.

    Here's more from the Assam Tribune:

    Mukut Medhi, secretary general of the academy, informed in the opening ceremony that initially they will select 10 boys and 10 girls for the residential camp while another 10 boys and 10 girls will have day boarding facilities. The players will be of in the age group of 14 to 18 years.

    The academy has already selected two girls from Meghalaya, two boys and two girls from Tripura, one boy and a girl from Manipur, two boys from Mizoram and five boys and as many girls from the home State Assam. The organisers also have appointed Yolinda Hynniewta as coach for the girls while Mukut Medhi himself will be in charge of boys.

    According to the source above, the Academy will be receive the majority of its funding from the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). The academy will use their own Hengerabari basketball courts for training, as well as incorporate the Maligaon basketball courts and the Sarusajai indoor stadium on rent basis.

    January 14, 2012

    National U18 (Junior) Basketball Coaching Camp in Delhi

    India's Basketball Head Coaches Kenny Natt & Pete Gaudet are currently coaching and overseeing a National Junior Coaching Camp for under-18 Boys & Girls at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi. The camp tipped off on December 27th, 2011 and is set to continue until the 10th of Feb, 2012.

    According to the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), 25 boys and 25 girls, representing the best U18 basketball talent from all around India, are currently in training at the facility in Delhi.

    Here is the complete list of players participating in the camp:


  • Ajay Pratap Singh (Chhattisgarh)
  • Bobby Singh (Chhattisgarh)
  • Shyam Sunder (Chhattisgarh)
  • Khan Fardeen Faizal (Maharashtra)
  • Melvin Rego (Maharashtra)
  • Amit Kanarjee (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Jitender Patidar (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Syed Anam Ali (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Keshav Kumar Sharma (Rajasthan)
  • Abhishek Rai (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Abhishek Kumar Singh (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Himanshu Singh (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Karthickeyen Saminathan (Tamil Nadu)
  • U Kumaran (Tamil Nadu)
  • Rakesh Sangwan (Haryana)
  • Gurwinder S. Kung (Jharkhand)
  • Karan Joshua (Karnataka)
  • Akimjeet Singh Sahal (Delhi)
  • Pankaj Rathee (Delhi)
  • Narender (Delhi)
  • Nikhil Kumar (Delhi)
  • Khushmeet Singh (Punjab)
  • Loveneet Singh (Punjab)
  • Palpreet Singh (Punjab)
  • Akashdeep Singh (Punjab)

  • Head Coach: Kenny Natt
  • Coach: JN Nehra
  • Coach: Rajeshwar Rao
  • Strength & Conditioning Coach: Zak Penwell
  • Physiotherapist: Naved


  • Jenna PS (Kerala)
  • Poojamol KS (Kerala)
  • Elizabeth Hilarious (Kerala)
  • Libina MJ (Kerala)
  • Geetha R (Kerala)
  • Anjana PG (Kerala)
  • Sneha Rajguru (Maharashtra)
  • Shireen Limaye (Maharashtra)
  • Jowarikailas Pingle (Maharashtra)
  • Krittika Divadkar (Maharashtra)
  • Sangheeta Mandal (Chhattisgarh)
  • Pushpa Nishad (Chhattisgarh)
  • Saranjeet Kaur (Chhattisgarh)
  • Pushpa Nishad (Chhattisgarh)
  • Saranjeet Kaur (Chhattisgarh)
  • Poonam Chaturvedi (Chhattisgarh)
  • Anjana Daisy Ekka (Chhattisgarh)
  • Sangeetha Kaur (Chhattisgarh)
  • Navaneetha PV (Karnataka)
  • Madhuri K (Karnataka)
  • R. Raja Priyadharsharni (Tamil Nadu)
  • L. Suganya (Tamil Nadu)
  • R. Ramya (Tamil Nadu)
  • M. Kalaynasi (Tamil Nadu)
  • Madhu Kumari (West Bengal)
  • Monika Gurjar (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Preeti Kumari (Uttar Pradesh)

    Head Coach: Pete Gaudet
    Coach: Rajesh Patel
    Physiotherapist: Abhay Gupta
  • January 11, 2012

    New Basketball Club in India hopes to bring Indians home & abroad together in hoops

    In the brave new flat world, everything and everyone is on the same level, no distance is too far, and no vision too outlandish. And it is one such vision – of a basketball player turned trainer turned coach (though not all necessarily in that same order!) – that could propel the birth of a unique new step for Indian basketball players, at home and abroad.

    Born and bred in Kansas City, USA, but with the blood of Kashmiri parents running through his veins, Shahid Bhat, an athletic trainer back in the States, seems to have found his real calling thousands of kilometers away in his paternal homeland. Over the past few years, Bhat has been involved with coaching and promoting basketball in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. He is the founder and organiser of the Srinagar-based Srinagar Kashmir Basketball Academy (SKBA), a small league for basketball enthusiasts from across the state.

    But Bhat’s next step could be his biggest: moving southwards to the capital of India – New Delhi – where Bhat plans to fulfill his dream and the dream of many Indian-origin basketball players from North America and around the world. Bhat has planted the seeds to create a new basketball club – tentatively called Formula 23 Basketball Club India (F23BCI) – where he will bring together and train amateur Indian and Indian-origin basketball players in New Delhi, before setting out his newly formed squad to take part in some of India’s top basketball competitions.

    If Bhat’s vision is realised, F23BCI would play their first games together by Spring 2012.

    “With the idea of this club, I want to reach out to more people in India who are interested in basketball,” Bhat said, “There are several talented players I know of in the US & Canada who haven’t been able to continue their basketball careers as they got older beyond casual pick-up games. Then, there are of course players in India who may not be signed to government service team but are still talented and interested in playing the game. I want to bring all these talented players of Indian backgrounds together and create a team that takes part in the top Indian basketball tournaments.”

    Bhat’s novel venture will not only produce an entertaining squad, but also help fulfill the dreams of several talented basketball players who may not have had another outlet for their talents. The US, Canada, Australia, and a few other countries are loaded with Indian-origin basketball players, who, after a certain point in their career, may not be able to participate in a competitive environment again: this club will help create an environment and an interesting opportunity for them to bring the game to India. It will also help vanquish the mistaken belief amongst many Indians that our own kind is just not physically built for basketball: if the right kind of training and diet is provided to the players in India, they too could become elite athletes.

    Another group that would benefit from this team would be Indian players who are currently not part of the government service teams system. Currently, the best basketball players in India are all government employees for various states and services and are semi-professionals who play in the various tournaments through the course of the year, while the younger ones play in the tournaments structured for their schools or colleges. But India has flocks of other players outside of the school/college structure and in non-government professions interested in remaining connected with the game: a short training camp and a true basketball-team environment could be a boon to their hoop dreams.

    Bhat will be basing the club in Delhi, where he hosted tryouts for Indian players in early January at the Hansraj College Basketball Court. As the owner, general manager, and coach, Bhat announced the roster of the squad a few days ago, a team that featured former CCAA player of the year Inderbir Gill, Punjab's electrifying point guard and National Championship winner TJ Sahi, basketball analytics entrepreneur Vasu Kulkarni, and other players from around India or of Indian-origin.

    Bhat is now looking to pick a convenient two to three week training period sometime early next year where he will schedule the team’s training. And then come the games and the tournaments!

    All players on the F23BCI roster will be paid: players who live outside of Delhi (whether they’re from other parts of India or from across the globe) will be compensated for their travel and lodging expenditure once they become a part of the squad. Bhat hopes to have them sorted out in the near-future. “So far, I have been mostly funding for my projects myself,” he says, “But I have reached out to other people internationally who are interested in realising this dream for basketball in India.” Some of his efforts have already found financial results, encouraging Bhat to move on with his venture.

    F23BCI isn’t exactly Bhat’s first project in India: the hoops enthusiast already has a few years of experience working with the game in India under his belt. Bhat had been regularly visiting Kashmir to visit his family members, and it was during one of these visits where he got a chance to help out in a volunteer basketball camp in Srinagar in 2009

    “I had no exposure to basketball in India before,” he says, “I was so wrapped up with my own basketball career. It took a simple google search of ‘basketball’ & ‘Kashmir’, and that’s how the journey began.”

    Bhat had briefly played at the Avila University in Kansas City back in the USA, and worked for several years as a high school basketball coach in his home town. Working as an athletic trainer in the city where he was born and raised, it was in his ancestral homeland of Kashmir where his second ‘career’ began.

    After his experience volunteering with the camp in Srinagar, Bhat held a practice basketball session for children at a branch of the Delhi Public School (DPS) in the city. “That was an overwhelming experience,” he said, “I had no idea what to expect, and it became a learning experience for me.”

    The students at the school hadn’t had enough – they kept on contacting Bhat long after his departure from Kashmir, and so he returned to DPS-Srinagar again a year later. The timing of this trip coincided with a local tournament in the city featuring several different schools. Without pay, Bhat began to volunteer in organising and running this tournament, and refereed several games in the process.

    Realising the potential interest of schoolchildren in Kashmir and now having experienced working with Indian authorities, Bhat’s next plan was to open his own basketball academy in Srinagar. “I contacted DPS who allowed be to host the academy, and soon, this led to a full-blown local basketball league in Srinagar,” Bhat added.

    From April – June 2011, the 1st Srinagar Kashmir Basketball Academy (SKBA) was held at DPS (Srinagar), helmed by Bhat. “We got a good response: a lot of young players were curious about the league. Other schools also began to send teams to play. About a 100 players signed up for the league. I was in charge of everything: refereeing, coaching, advertising the league, even cleaning the courts!”

    “But the academy wasn’t funded well, so I remain unsure about its future,” he added, “In addition, I wanted to shift the academy out of DPS court. I have a dream of building an indoor court in Srinagar one day to host a top academy in India – one that is committed to teaching basketball the right way!”

    Until that day comes, Bhat will fulfill his other dream of the F23BCI, another venture that will help him teach basketball the right way. The new club will not just play games but focus on training hard and practicing together. The players – from numerous different backgrounds but united under a loose ‘Indian ballers’ umbrella – will then head out as a team to play high level basketball, and be paid for it.

    And like he has done in Kashmir for a few years now, Bhat will continue to back them up, giving in hard hours of work with little in return. “We know that there is little money in basketball right now, but we don’t do it for the money,” he says, “We do it because we love the game.”

    India's Senior Coach Kenny Natt speaks at the Sathyabama University in Chennai

    The Head Coach of India's Senior Men's Basketball team Kenny Natt was invited as a special guest to the Sathyabama University in Chennai during the closing ceremony of the South Zone Inter-University Tournament for Men hosted by the institute. The university's chancellor Remibai Jeppiaar, coaches, student-athletes, and other students of the institute were present during the ceremony.

    Natt spoke to the students about the importance of academic achievement first, touching on the topic of education (building life-long foundations), developing character and other life skills, and disciplined dedication, both on and off the basketball court. He told young basketball players about 'coachable traits' and accountability, both as players and as young men.

    Natt also told the youngsters about his own accomplishments: the American has been a former NBA player, an assistant coach in the NBA with the Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Sacramento Kings, and briefly, a NBA head coach with the Kings. Since last year he has been a member of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) leading India's Senior Men's squad into international tournaments.

    "I’m extremely grateful for having had this opportunity," said Kenny Natt on being invited as the chief guest at the event, "I will certainly look forward to returning to next year’s south zone event, in addition to attending events held in the other zones as well. Considering the young talent that I’ve scouted out so far, I can honestly say that the future of basketball in India will dramatically improve within the next few years to a level that will lift eyebrows both domestically and globally."

    "Sooner than later, don’t be surprised when we all will see basketballs bouncing everywhere in cities and country sides throughout India. It will be just a matter of time, and I will be personally gratified to had played a role in its growth process."

    January 10, 2012

    Jharkhand Men & West Bengal Women win the East Zone Basketball Championship

    The East Zone Basketball Championship for Men & Women, held from January 4-7, 2012 at the JRD Tata Sports Complex in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, came to a conclusion on last Sunday with hosts Jharkhand winning the Men's title while West Bengal taking home the Women's championship.

    A total of seven Men's and three Women's sides had taken part in this four-day tournament. Both the finals came down to the wire with thrilling games on Sunday evening: West Bengal Women defeated Uttar Pradesh in the final game 44-40. UP's Men's team also reached the final, but was defeated in a close game by the hosts Jharkhand, 48-46.

    Earlier, in the 3rd/4th place games, Jharkhand Women beat Orissa 47-36 and Orissa Men beat West Bengal 65-44.

    The team's that took part in the competition were:

    Men: Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand.
    Women: Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand.

    January 9, 2012

    Muggsy Bogues in India - Q & A: "I survived 14 years in the NBA because I believed in myself"

    The shortest player to ever suit up in an NBA jersey - Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues - was in India on Monday, the 9th of January, to host a clinic for the NBA and the United States Senate India Caucus at the Modern School (Barakhamba) in New Delhi. Bogues interacted with around 75 local schoolkids and was welcomed by five visiting members of the American congressional delegation.

    At 5 foot 3 inches, Bogues didn't let height be a factor over his skills as the point guard played in the NBA from 1987-2001. Bogues was drafted by the Washington Bullets in 1987 where he played for his rookie year before being picked up by the expansion Hornets side. After 9 successful years in Charlotte, he played for the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors in short stints before ending his career in 2001.

    In Delhi on Monday, Bogues visited the Modern School to interact with several young basketball players, mostly from the Modern School itself or from the Delhi Public School in RK Puram. Aided by India’s Women's under 16 Jr. National Team Assistant Coach and former Sr. National Team Player Shiba Maggon, Bogues started his clinic in the afternoon by focusing on his biggest strength, one that helped him conquer opponents much taller than him: dribbling. "Control the ball, don't let it control you," Bogues told the kids, as he helped them practice several skills including crossvers, running with the ball, changing hands while dribbling, changing directions, footwork, and focusing on dribbling with the fingers. Bogues also worked on drills for chest passes and for lay-ups, focusing on beating the defender with a crossover dribble before exploding for an open lay-up.

    "If you really want to be a basketball player, you have to practice hard: dribble the right way, and shoot the right way, and above all, develop good work ethics," Bogues told the gathered youngsters, "A lot of people told me when I was young that I wouldn't make it, but I did, and I survived the NBA for 14 years. This was only because I believed in myself. You have to believe in yourself too and understand the importance of self motivation to achieve your goals."

    Joining Bogues at the event was Senator Mark Warner from Virginia, the Senate India Caucus Chairman, along with four other members of the Caucus from across the USA, who are on an official visit to India from January 7-14th. The two American Head Coaches of India's Senior Men's and Women's teams - Kenny Natt and Pete Gaudet - also attended the event.

    After the clinic, the delegation from the US took part in a short shooting competition with the local school kids. An exhibition game was then held between two teams of the Mahindra NBA Challenge: U16 Boys teams from Modern School and DPS (RK Puram).

    Earlier in the day, I got an opportunity to hold a brief interview with Muggsy Bogues, a player we know as the shortest to ever play in the NBA, but whom NBA India's Senior Director Akash Jain called the "player with the biggest heart". Here are some of the excerpts from the Q&A:

    Hoopistani: What brings you here to India? Is this your first time?

    Muggsy Bogues: Yes this is indeed my first time here. I'm only visiting Delhi and will be here for a day. The NBA has brought me here to come and promote the game of basketball in India. The NBA has a long term commitment, which is to expose the game in this country. I will also be promoting the benefits in health, lifestyle, and life-skills that grow along with the game of basketball. I believe that there is a lot of untapped potential for basketball in India.

    Hoopistani: It seems that the NBA is keen to abolish the notion that one needs to be tall to be a basketball star. 6 foot 1 Brandon Jennings was here preaching the same purpose last year. Is that the message that you are bringing here with you as well?

    MB: Yes, that that is exactly the message that I want to spread here in India. Height isn't everything. When I was growing up, many people told me that I would never make it. But I felt like I had the potential to play well. I developed a lot of confidence in myself over the years and I was able to show that even someone at five foot three inches could play basketball - which is known as a 'tall man's game' - at the highest level, the NBA. Without that confidence and self-belief, players like me or Brandon Jennings would've never made it.

    Hoopistani: At the grassroots level in India, a lot of players are still scouted based on their height first and talent second. Was this also the case in the US when you were younger?

    MB: Yes, it was very similar, to an extent. People thought that in basketball, height equaled talent, and there were few opportunities for smaller players. But I always believed that the game is for whoever has the skills to play, not just for six or seven footers! I want to pass on that same belief to Indians who are still at an early age.

    Hoopistani: Was it a struggle for yourself - as a shorter player - to have coaches and scouts recognise you for your natural talent and hand you opportunities?

    MB: Yes, I had to change the mindset of a lot of coaches when I was young who believed that height was the only important thing. I competed and played well against those bigger than me to change the perceptions. But what helped me is that I understood my point guard position and absorbed all the knowledge I could relating to that position. I had to play to my strengths, which were dribbling and passing the ball. A lot of smaller players who are point guards think that they have to score a lot to be effective and sometimes, this can hurt them. That's why a point guard has to know when to score and when to get his teammates involved.

    Hoopistani: Smaller players are anyways having more and more influence on the NBA nowadays: Does the future of the league belong to the point guards?

    MB: You know, the NBA is about trends. If one team is succeeding in a certain style of play, others will try and copy that style. These days, yes, a lot of good players are small: even the shooting guards. In my time, most of the shooting guards were around 6-5 or 6-6; now, there are a lot of smaller SGs like Jason Terry or JJ Barea who are making a difference.

    Hoopistani: What tips would you give an undersized point guard such as yourself who have to defend taller opponents at their position?

    MB: I always felt that defense was one of my biggest assets, and I worked by taking my defensive stance early to prepare for the opponent. What I would teach an undersized player that it is all about will. Once you learn the basic principals, it is just your will, not your technique, that will make you an elite defensive player. You have to make your opponent work hard.

    Hoopistani: What other expectations do you have for your trip in India, which is a country growing to love the game of basketball?

    MB: I'm really excited to be here. It'll be a thrill to speak to young players here and show them that someone at my size is also capable of being good at the game of basketball. I have little other expectations: I know basketball has a promising future in India, and I hear that there is some talent here, too. Recently, I was reading about the Indian seven-footer Satnam Singh Bhamara in ESPN Magazine, a young basketball star from this country, and the next thing I know - I'm being called to India by the NBA! Satnam is in Florida right now, so I won't have a chance to meet him, but I hope to catch him someday!

    Hoopistani: Finally: You were a star for the Charlotte Hornets for several years and now you work in that city, but the franchise has since moved to New Orleans. Where do your loyalties lie: with the Hornets or with the city of Charlotte?

    MB: Definitely with the city of Charlotte. I played in that city, my entire fan base was in that city, I'm now involved with the Charlotte community now and coach High School basketball there. Apart from taking the 'Hornets' name, the team in New Orleans is an entirely different franchise now.

    January 8, 2012

    7th Savio Cup tips off in Mumbai!

    One of Mumbai's most respected and loved basketball tournaments returns: the 7th edition of the Savio Cup All India Basketball Tournament will be held at the Don Bosco High School in Matunga, Mumbai, from January 8-15, 2012. Once again, some of the best Men's and Women's club teams from around India - plus the now-regular American side 'Shooting For Success' - will take part in the tournament.

    Six Men's teams and three Women's teams will take part in the competition, tipped off at 4 PM on Sunday, Jan 8th, with a Men's clash between hosts Maharashtra and the recent winners of the Senior National Basketball Championship, Punjab.

    The inauguration ceremony was held at 6 PM on Sunday.

    Fr. Bosco D'Mello, the Principal of the Don Bosco School said, "The Savio Cup Basketball tournament for Men and Women is back to enthrall and entertain us in 7th year in succession. It has been growing in reputation and stature year after year and this year in its 7th edition it promises to get even bigger."

    The teams participating in the Savio Cup this year are:

    Men: Punjab, Indian Railways, Services, Maharashtra, ONGC, Shooting For Success
    Women: Southern Railway, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra

    Railways were the team to beat last year in both the divisions: the Men's side defeated Shooting For Success in a classic final game, while Southern Railway Women also got their stiffest challenge in the final game against Chhattisgarh.

    Shooting For Success, a San Antonio (USA) based basketball club and foundation, will be participating for the fifth consecutive year in the Savio Cup, and they have become one of the favourites of the locals for boasting their athletic lineup of stars. This team will be led once again by their point guard and leader David "DJ" Jones. This year, a new addition to the side will be 6'10" big man Timir Patel, an Indian-origin basketball player from Texas who has played at the highest level of college ball in the US as well as trying his skills in several different countries around the world.

    Every year, the Savio Cup also features an exciting slam dunk contest: here is a short video of last year's dunk contest to whet your appetite for the 2012 Savio Cup!

    Southern Railway & ONGC win Athirampuzha JCI Tournament

    ONGC (Men) and Southern Railway (Women) won the top prize at the 3rd Athirampuzha JCI All-India Invitational Basketball Tournament on Friday, January 6th, at the St Aloysius Basketball Court at Athirampuzha in Kottayam, Kerala. The Men's winners, ONGC, walked home with a 40,000 rupees cash prize while Southern Railway were awarded Rs. 30,000 for winning the women's division in the tournament.

    The Men's final was a star-studded affair between ONGC of Dehradun and IOB from Chennai: but it was ONGC's stars that shone brighter on the final day. Bolstered by the addition of Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Yadwinder Singh, ONGC had become one of India's strongest teams - at least on paper - a few months ago. But both the players were barred from taking part in the Senior Nationals held in Chennai recently, where the ONGC-powered Uttarakhand only managed a seventh-place finish.

    But there was no stopping the duo at the tournament in Athirampuzha - Vishesh and Yadwinder led the way in the final with 19 and 15 points respectively as ONGC cruised to a 63-47 victory over IOB.

    The Women's final was between Southern Railway and Kerala Fives, and it saw a predictable result and a predictable star. Geethu Anna Jose, who recently celebrated a gold medal at the Senior Nationals with Indian Railways, was once again an imposing force in the middle, scoring 16 points to lead her side to a 50-32 win.

    January 7, 2012

    Muggsy Bogues - NBA's shortest ever player - comes to India!

    It is kind of tragic when you're known for your height - or the lack of it - before your game. But if you're Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, the shortest player to ever play in the NBA, the achievement of enjoying a 14-year-long professional basketball career at just 5 foot 3 inches is nothing short of a very tall feat (see what I did there?)

    And now, the former Charlotte Hornets point guard will be coming to India on Monday, January 9th to participate in an NBA India - Senate India Caucus Basketball Event in New Delhi to promote basketball participation and healthy, active lifestyle to Indian youth.

    Fans in New Delhi who want to catch a glimpse of the star should visit the Modern School in Barakhamba from 3-5 PM on Monday, January 9th. Activities will include a Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA clinic for 75 local boys and girls and an exhibition game between two teams from the Mahindra NBA Challenge – the under 16 boys teams from the Modern School and DPS. India’s Women's under 16 Jr. National Team Assistant Coach and former Sr. National Team Player Shiba Maggon will also be present at the event.

    Despite his height, Bogues enjoyed a successful pro career: he is the all-time leader in minutes played, assists, and steals for the Charlotte Hornets. Of course, the Hornets later moved to New Orleans and Charlotte since have a new basketball team, the Bobcats. Bogues was drafted by the Washington Bullets in 1987 where he played for his rookie year before being picked up by the expansion Hornets side. After 9 successful years in Charlotte, he played for the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors in short stints before ending his career in 2001.

    He since worked as the coach of WNBA side Charlotte Sting for two seasons, and is currently the head coach of the United Faith Christian Academy men’s high school basketball team in Charlotte.

    Oh, and he also had a role in Space Jam.

    Like they did with the visit of 6 foot 1 Brandon Jennings to India last summer, it seems that the NBA is keen on spreading the message of "you don't need height to make it" amongst young Indian basketball players. In Bogues, they will be introducing the shortest ever to sport an NBA jersey, someone who silenced the doubters not just by making it, but by playing at a respectable level for 14 productive seasons.

    Bogues visit to the school in New Delhi will be held by NBA-India as part of a visit by an American Congressional Delegation to India, lead by US Senator Mark R. Warner (co-chair of the U.S. Senate’s India Caucus) from January 7-14th.

    January 6, 2012

    Roster annouced for Formula 23 Basketball Club India

    Providing an opportunity to Indian-origin basketball players from other countries as well as Indian players who never qualified for club/state teams at home, Indian-American basketball trainer Shahid Bhat has created a new semi-professional basketball team Formula 12 Basketball Club India, or F23BCI, who will be taking part in basketball tournaments in India starting from later this year.

    After tryouts at the Hansraj College in New Delhi, Bhat announced the roster of players for his team on F23BCI's Facebook Page. Once a schedule for games and practice has been finalised, this team will convene together to go through a vigorous training camp before heading out to compete against other teams in India. The roster features former CCAA player of the year Inderbir Gill and basketball analytics entrepreneur Vasu Kulkarni, amongst other players from around India or of Indian-origin.

    On Friday, January 6th, team owner Shahid Bhat announced that India's star point guard Talwinderjit Singh 'TJ' Sahi was also added to the roster of the team.

    F23BCI Roster

    Inderbir Singh Gill
    TJ Sahi
    Ekam Nagra
    Aukif Khan
    Vasu Kulkarni
    Abhishek John
    Syed Shamsul Arfeen
    Abu Bakr
    Vinay Kaushik
    Pravin Dovan
    Shubindo Bhundel
    Vipin Dhaiya
    Adarsh Hooda

    OWNER/Head Coach/GM: Shahid Bhat

    Watch this space: Bhat has been involved with promoting basketball in Kashmir for the last few years. I will be posting a detailed interview and story on the new club in a few days.