August 31, 2014

Geethu Anna Jose officially receives Arjuna Award at Rashtrapati Bhavan

Indian basketball superstar Geethu Anna Jose added another feather to her cap by being officially conferred the Arjuna Award - prestigious national award handed to sports-persons in India by the Government of India - by President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Friday, August 29. Jose became the 17th basketball player in India to receive this award, but only the first since 2001. She is also only the second women basketball player to win the Arjuna Award since Suman Sharma in 1991.

The Arjuna Award secured Jose's well deserved legacy as being one of the most dominant basketball players in Indian history. The 29-year-old Center from Kottayam, Kerala has been the centerpiece of India's national women's team for a decade and has been one of the top performers at the Asian level, performances which have included leading India to gold medal wins at the Asian Beach Games and the 1st FIBA Asia 3x3 Championship. Domestically, Jose helped Indian Railways win nine consecutive national championships. Jose has always played professionally in Australia and Thailand and was the first Indian player to earn trials with the WNBA.

"A Dream come true and a recognition for my family, coaches, well-wishers, seniors, juniors, and the BFI [Basketball Federation of India]," Jose said after receiving the award.

Jose was among 15 Indian athletes nominated for this award earlier this month. She was finally chosen by the Selection Committee after unsuccessfully sending in application for the Arjuna Award four times previously.

Congratulations to Jose: hopefully she can continue to inspire other young basketball players to pursue their hoop dreams and follow in her footsteps. And of course, we hope that she'll be back on court soon to continue adding accolades to her already-storied career.

August 30, 2014

World Cup Shot Clock: 24 things to look forward to for the FIBA Basketball World Cup

Over the next two weeks, some of the top basketball players in the world will face off at the FIBA World Cup, the biggest global festival of hoops. From top contenders, exciting new faces, dark-horses, and a little bit of history, here are 24 things that you need to look forward to for the World Cup.

Click here to read full feature

August 29, 2014

China win third successive FIBA Asia U18 Championship in Doha; Disappointing India finish last

While at the senior level, Iran had replaced China as Asia's most dominant side in recent years, the Chinese showed another glimpse of why their future stars might be ready to reclaim their nation's hoops honour. For the third consecutive time, China won the FIBA Asia U18 Championship, hoisting the title in the tournament's 23rd iteration in Doha (Qatar) after a convincing victory over Iran in the final. China played fantastic basketball through the course of the 10-day tournament and made this their 11th victory overall in Asia's most prestigious junior basketball tournament.

China, who suffered a close call in winning the gold in Ulaanbaatar in an overtime game against Korea two years ago, had no such troubles this time around. They dominated the final early, breaking out to a 16-0 scoring run in the first quarter and holding on to a huge 36-19 lead by halftime. China kept their command on the game in the second half and had turned the game into a blowout before the beginning of the final quarter. China's most-accomplished young player Zhou Qi only made an appearance in the second quarter, by when his team had already grasped on to complete control of the game. Zhou still ended up with a game-high 16 points to lead his side to victory.

2012's silver-medalists Korea had to settle for Bronze as they bounced from an early deficit to beat Chinese Taipei 70-58 on Thursday. Korea's Kyongwon Kim was unstoppable, beasting his way to 26 points and 17 rebounds to lead his side to victory.

Earlier on the semi-finals, China exorcised the ghosts of recent senior-team defeats to Chinese Taipei by easily handling their neighbours 92-50. Chinese Taipei had no answer for China's duo of Rui Zhao (19) and Yuchen Zou (16), while Zhou Qi contributed 13 points and 17 rebounds off the bench. Only Yung-Cheng Sun (16) cracked double figures in scoring for Taipei. Iran were led by Navid Rezaeifar (18) and Mohammad Yousuf Vand (17) as they bounced back from a double-digit deficit at halftime to completely dominating the third quarter against Korea en route to a 78-60 semi-final win. Hyunwoo Jeon led with 16 points for the Koreans in the loss.

While the Chinese celebrated in Qatar, India's under-18 dream of continuing the same Cinderella success of their seniors was shot down early in the competition. After stuttering in qualifiers against Sri Lanka, India were placed in Group A of the tournament with China, hosts Qatar, and Malaysia. Despite the presence of the tournament's favourites China, there were hopes that good performances against the other two teams in the group could help see India go further than the past in the tournament.

Alas, India's performances dipped even further from their 10th place finish at the same tournament two years ago. India started off their campaign against the hosts Qatar. But despite a neck-to-neck first quarter, India were completely dominated in the second, being outscored 30-6 by their opponents. Down by 25 points at halftime, India pressed hard in the second half to make a comeback, but the damage had already been done. Qatar's Abdulrahman Mohammad Saad was unstoppable, tallying a breathtaking statline of 40 points, eight assists, and six rebounds against India. Abdelrahman Rehia Abdelhaleem added 26 and 10 rebounds as the duo paced the hosts to a 86-73 victory. Mahipal Singh had 20 points, six rebounds, and five assists for India in a losing cause.

India got their first and only win of the tournament against Malaysia early the next day. Although India started slow and turned the ball over several times, they bounced back from a small deficit in the first quarter to take control of the rest of the game. The duo of Gurvinder Singh Gill (24 points and 17 rebounds) and Mahipal Singh (22 points and seven rebounds) paced India to a 73-64 win. Yi Hou Wong scored 17 for Malaysia off the bench.

A month ago, China's Zhou Qi was part of the team which were surprisingly beaten in a historic win for India's senior squad at the FIBA Asia Cup. This time, Zhou Qi and the junior side were not messing around and went out to seek redemption. China dominated India on all fronts from the opening tip to the final buzzer, blowing out the Indians for a sixty-point victory. The final scoreline read 100-40 in China's favour, a lop-sided result that would come to haunt the Indians a few hours later. Zhou Qi paced the way with 21 points and seven rebounds for his side while Yuchen Zou added 19 and nine.

Right after India's loss to China, Malaysia played inspired basketball against the hosts Qatar to defeat them 78-70, and thus won their first-ever contest in the U18 FIBA ABC. This victory left India, Malaysia, and Qatar all tied in points behind China in Group A, with only two of teams able to progress and join the Chinese in the tournament's second round. Unfortunately, due to their worse point differential, India were the odd ones out. Despite their victory over Malaysia, India would finish fourth in their group and their tournament ended in sudden, heartbreaking fashion.

Because they didn't qualify for the Second Round, India played no further games and were adjudged to finish 13th in the tournament, tied with Iraq for last place (there was no 13/14th place playoff).

India also suffered some distraction when FIBA's 'No Headgear' policy sprung controversy again. India's Anmol Singh was made to remove his turban during warm-up of India's first game against Qatar. In their second game against Malaysia, Anmol was allowed to play with his turban for the first 10 minutes, before FIBA officials asked him to remove his turban again. The latest incident occurred a little over a month after FIBA forced two of India's senior team Sikh players - Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh - to remove their turbans during the FIBA Asia Cup. Back at home, the outraged Basketball Federation of India (BFI) once again complained to FIBA for this discriminatory policy and urged them to change the rules.

The tournament was a disappointing finish for a team which had the chance to prove that India's future could continue the optimism that basketball in the country had recently felt all around. While this team definitely had some talent, they showed a lack of maturity and experience, especially when they found it difficult to counter long periods of pressure and scoring runs by their opponents. There is no easy solution for this except the same thing that coaches and media in India have harped on for years: all our teams need more quality games to give them more experience of high-level play so they are better prepared for all international basketball situations in the future.

Captain Gurvinder Singh Gill (aka "Gary") finished as the team's leading scorer with 17 points per game and is a sure-shot to eventually graduate to the senior side in a few years. Another rising young talent - Narender - led the entire tournament fray in assists with 6.3 assists per game. He also finished top five in three-point percentage. Gill was a top five score in the championship. Of course, all of these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt since India only played three games.

Apart from the win over Malaysia, there won't be any other positive memories for Coach Jora Singh and his side to bring back from Doha. But just like we hope to use positive results as a pedestal to propel ourselves higher, let's hope that this negative result can be used as motivation for all the players involved to bounce back stronger in the future.

2014 FIBA Asia U18 Championship - Final Standings
  • 1. China
  • 2. Iran
  • 3. Korea
  • 4. Chinese Taipei
  • 5. Philippines

August 27, 2014

Nanjing 2014: Lithuania (Boys) & USA (Girls) secure 3x3 basketball golds.

The 3x3 halfcourt basketball tournament at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics concluded in Nanjing (China) on Tuesday, August 26th. 20 teams participated in each of the men's and women's sections in the nine-day tournament. Lithuania's Boys and USA's Girls emerged as champions after victories over France and Netherlands respectively on the final day of basketball. The Youth Olympics also featured a dunk contest and a shoot-out.

Lithuania defeated France in a thrilling boys final 18-16, while the American girls had little trouble steam-rolling their way through the course of the tournament before defeating Netherlands in their final game, 19-10.

Also on the final day of 3x3 basketball, Argentina's boys won the bronze medal after defeating Russia 17-14. The girls' bronze was settled in a tight contest as Spain sneaked past Hungary for a 12-11 win.

In the boys' semi-finals, Lithuania had defeated Russia 13-10, while France - led by 10 points from Lucas Dussoulier - beat Argentina 16-14. Netherlands girls shut down Spain 11-7 in the girls' semi-final matchup, while USA beat Hungary 21-14.

Medals were also handed out for the slam dunk contest (for boys) and the shootout (for girls) at the Youth Olympics. Karim Mouliom of France won the dunk contest while Spain's Lucia Togores Carpintero was the winner of the girls's shootout.

Final medal tally

Boys Tournament
  • Gold: Lithuania
  • Silver: France
  • Bronze: Argentina
Girls Tournament
  • Gold: USA
  • Silver: Netherlands
  • Bronze: Spain
Boys Dunk Contest
  • Gold: Karim Mouliom (France)
  • Silver: Ziga Lah (Slovenia)
  • Bronze: Fu Lei (China)
Girls Shootout Contest
  • Gold: Lucia Togores Carpintero (Spain)
  • Silver: Ela Micunovic (Slovenia)
  • Bronze: Katie Samuelson (USA)

August 26, 2014

Detour: Will Andrew Wiggins make Cleveland regret?

Andrew Wiggins was picked number one by the Cavaliers, but with LeBron James 'coming home', Cleveland traded him to Minnesota for Kevin Love. There could have hardly been a crazier way for Wiggins to begin his NBA journey – now, he has a chance to turn the shape this fantastic journey ahead on his own terms.

Click here to read full feature

August 23, 2014

NBA Jam 2014 to be held across a remarkable 16 Indian cities!

NBA Jam - the hugely popular college basketball and youth festival - will return to India in its biggest iteration yet for 2014. This year, NBA Jam is going to be held across a remarkable 16 Indian cities, truly spanning the length and breath of India and involving a greater number of young Indian basketball fanatics than ever before.

Held between August 18 - December 4 this year, NBA Jam is set to be held in 16 cities in India: Chennai, Guwahati, Cochin, Lucknow, Jaipur, Nagpur, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneshwar, New Delhi, Mumbai, Indore, Hyderabad, and Pune. For the first time, Indian ballers from beyond just the Tier 1 cities will be connected. Nationally, the hoops festival will involve more than 650 colleges and 3200 teams. Apart from 3x3 basketball in each city, the NBA Jam will also feature music and entertainment competitions like graffiti, DJ-spin off, B-boy dancing, and more.

This year's NBA Jam is a huge step up from last year's event, which involved just four cities and relatively far fewer teams. The 2013 edition of NBA Jam concluded in Mumbai by the end of last September, as national champions were crowned from squads that won their city-level championships going off against each other. Three former NBA legends - Robert Horry, Peja Stojakovic, and Ron Harper - attended the finale in Mumbai last year.

This year's NBA Jam is being sponsored by Jabong, who will also invite some of the lucky participants to earn internships with the company. Like last year, the crucial events and the finals of the tournament will be broadcast on Sony SIX.

To sign up your college/university team, head to and pick the city where you will be participating from. In addition to the news and schedule of your chosen city, the full schedule of all the NBA Jam events across the next three months in India is also listed on the website.

August 22, 2014

Return of the FIBA/Headgear controversy: India's Anmol Singh forced to remove turban at U18 FIBA ABC

The 'No Headgear' policy of FIBA (the International Basketball Federation) has sparked another controversy involving a Sikh basketball player for Team India. This time, the ruling effected Anmol Singh, the only turban-wearing player of India's junior squad that is currently participating in the FIBA Asia U18 Championship in Doha (Qatar).

The Times of India reported yesterday that under-18 rising star Anmol was made to remove his turban during warm-up of India's first game in Doha against Qatar. In their second game against Malaysia, Anmol was allowed to play with his turban for the first 10 minutes, before FIBA officials asked him to remove his turban again.

In a chat with TOI from Doha, national U-18 coach Jora Singh said, "Anmol was not allowed to play with a turban during our opening game against Qatar when the team was warming up. Today, he was allowed to play with the patka in the first quarter, but later on was told to remove it. Anmol then tied his hair with a small band and continued to play."
(via Times of India)

The latest incident occured a little over a month after FIBA forced two of India's senior team Sikh players - Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh - to remove their turbans in accordance with their 'No Headgear' rule in Wuhan (China) during the FIBA Asia Cup, a controversy that sparked the #LetSikhsPlay movement and since forced FIBA to review their ruling.

Currently, Article 4.4.2 of FIBA’s Official Basketball Rules states, "Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players," a list that includes headgear like turbans, hijab, etc.

The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) submitted a formal request to FIBA regarding the initial incident in Wuhan soon after, FIBA promised to review Article 4.4.2 during the FIBA World Congress, set to be held on 28-29 August in Sevilla (Spain) during the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Unfortunately, until the 214 members of FIBA Central Board meet next week and decide on the future of this rule, FIBA's officials on the ground will be compelled to continue following the set rules.

But the BFI claim that there had been a misunderstanding regarding Anmol Singh at the FIBA Asia U18 Championship, which ultimately led Anmol removing his turban - or patka - particularly in Game 2 against Malaysia. "The FIBA Commissioner who was assigned to supervise the match initially had no objection and allowed Anmol Singh to play in the first quarter of the game with his patka, which is a religious right of the Sikh community," said the official BFI statement, "The basketball rule says that player shall not wear equipment or object that may cause injury to other players while playing. The patka is made of thin cloth which does not cause injury to anybody, as Sikh athletes are wearing in other team games. We are surprised that why this discrimination by FIBA Asia is being repeatedly imposed on Indian Sikh athletes representing the country at international level."

The Hindu has reported that India's Union Sports Ministry has also sought intervention from the International Olympic Commission (IOC) to resolve the issue.

The BFI questioned the discrimination in basketball when other team games like volleyball, football, hockey, handball and cricket had no restriction on Sikh players wearing the patka.

The BFI's CEO Roopam Sharma has been nominated to attend the FIBA Congress in Spain to resolve the issue once and for all and "avoid such humiliation in future".

6-foot-10 Anmol, who plays backup Power Forward/Center for India, scored 10 points in India first game loss to Qatar. The next day, he played 16 minutes against Malaysia and shot just 1/4 for two points in the game. Nevertheless, Team India overlooked the distraction to bounce back and defeat Malaysia 73-64 in the contest.

Unfortunately, a day later, India were whooped thoroughly by China by 60 points and Malaysia scored a surprise victory over Qatar. With India, Qatar, and Malaysia all tied for second place in Group A, it was India that were knocked out because of their inferior point differential.

On court, India's juniors will be disappointed by this early exit: Qatar were a beatable side and the margin of defeat to China shouldn't have been allowed to run that wide. Hopefully the young players can recover from the setback and bounce back stronger.

Off the court, hopefully FIBA can bring an end to this whole senseless controversy next week. We need common-sense prevails over rudimentary thinking, so we can get back to basketball instead of worrying about whether a little bit of cloth covering someone's head could ever be a "threat". Especially if that bit of cloth has such a deep-lying significance to the culture and religion of the targeted individuals.

August 21, 2014

Great Leap Forward

Last month, American coach Scott Flemming inspired India to their biggest-ever victory. Could this be the game-changing moment for basketball in the country, asks Karan Madhok

This article was first published in Tehelka Magazine (Issue 33, Volume 11) in the magazine's August 16, 2014 edition. Here is another look at the feature.

Coming of age: Indian players celebrate their Asia Cup victory over China in Wuhan. Photo: Karan Madhok for

When the buzzer rang to signify the game’s end, all 12 members of the Indian men’s basketball team — affectionately nicknamed the Young Cagers — jumped into each other’s arms, celebrating together with glee rarely felt in the country’s basketball scene before.

For the first time in India’s seven-decade- long basketball history, they had done the impossible, defeating China 65- 58 last month in Wuhan, the most populous city in central China. The Chinese are the Goliaths of Asian basketball and among the top dozen teams in the world. India, placed 61st in the Federation Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) rankings, shocked the home crowd during the 5th FIBA Asia Cup, a biennial tournament featuring the continent’s top teams. Two years ago, the Indians were at the bottom of the pile, while China usually finish at the top more often than any other side. But on 13 July, the tables were turned.

While India’s heroes celebrated the stunning win on the court, the mastermind behind this improbable victory watched in silence from the sidelines, calmly soaking in the once-in-a-lifetime moment for him and his team.

In 2012, American Scott Flemming became the latest in the line of foreign coaches hired to make the most of India’s untapped potential. Two years later, he finally saw the fruits of his labours. India didn’t just defeat China, they became the breakout story of the tournament, as they gave headaches to top Asian teams such as Iran and the Philippines.

“I think we have proved that we belong,” said Flemming, 56, as he looked back at the team’s improved performances. “I don’t think there is anybody here that we feel we can’t beat. We have gotten past that point where we thought we had very little chance of winning. Those days are long gone. Now, we are going into every game knowing that we have an opportunity. It is a new day for India.”

But was this performance just a fluke in India’s otherwise dismal history?

The first national basketball championship was held in New Delhi in 1934 and the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the game’s governing body in the country, was formed in 1950. Fifteen years later, the men’s team first took part in the FIBA Asia Championship — the highest platform for the game in the continent. Their best finish in the tournament was fourth place in 1975, and they have never reached those heights again. In 1980, as many countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics at the height of the Cold War, India made their first and only Olympic basketball appearance, but lost all seven of their games by an average margin of over 48 points each.

Game-changer Coach Scott Flemming. Photo:
Limited to mostly Asian tournaments over the past few decades, the Indian team had been reduced to the role of minnows against the continent’s giants, happy to compete for participation points rather than gold. India’s current FIBA world ranking sees them trail behind the likes of the Virgin Islands, Cape Verde and Georgia.

Which is why the ‘Wonder of Wuhan’ — India’s surprise victory over China last month — will be remembered in the country’s basketball history forever. Although China fielded mostly a second-string squad for this tournament, they still featured those who will play professionally in the Chinese Basketball Association, one of the continent’s top professional leagues. Truly, all the countries India faced had players who play professional basketball for a living. The only exception was India.

All of India’s finest players today, such as Amjyot Singh, Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi and Amrit Pal Singh, are semi-professionals who have other day jobs and only participate in basketball tournaments to represent their state or the government unit that they work for. India is also among the handful of teams in Asia that don’t take advantage of FIBA’s ‘naturalised player’ rule, which allows each country to field one foreign-born player ‘naturalised’ into their nation. Since India doesn’t allow dual citizenship, no foreign player has given up his/her original passport to join India’s cause. Every single member of Team India was born, bred, and learnt to dribble the basketball — for better or worse — in India.

While India managed to defeat China, the latter is miles ahead in the marathon. Basketball is China’s favourite sport and the country boasts of world-class basketball infrastructure, star players such as Yao Ming, who have featured in the NBA (the world’s top basketball league in the US), and concentrated grassroots efforts that have produced hundreds of millions of talented young players.

Meanwhile, India has an unbalanced and mostly disorganised grassroots nursing system, and sorely lacks the necessary infrastructure to support our top talents, and the team’s exploits are mostly ignored by the mainstream media.

Worst of all, internal politics within the national and state federations have stunted any real growth and there is rarely any motivation from those who are in the basketball fraternity to rise higher. Many stay content to swivel around in mediocrity.

When he first came to India, an important part of Flemming’s mission was to change this attitude. So far, he has helped India take baby steps to success. On the court, the team has vastly improved on the defensive end and takes better care of the ball on the offence. Additionally, a growing sense of team chemistry through continuity has helped produce improved results in international tournaments over the past year, such as the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship in the Philippines and the Lusofonia Games in Goa where India won gold.

Flemming succeeded fellow American Kenny Natt, a former NBA player and head coach. But with limited time and resources, Natt couldn’t provide the team the needed turnaround in his 18-month stint. In 2012, Flemming came to India with 30 years of coaching experience, mostly at top college programmes in the US. He last served as an assistant coach to the NBA’s Development League side Texas Legends.

“My mission has been to improve India’s total national team programme from the under-14 team to the senior team,” says Flemming. “This can be done only with some consistency in player development methods and installing the same system of play. I also wanted to be a coach to other coaches in the country.

“It was my goal to narrow the gap between the top teams in Asia and our Indian national team. I have really emphasised the defensive part of the game with our team. I think this is being demonstrated by our opponents’ lower field goal percentages and lower scores. Defence will always help neutralise teams with more talent.”

India’s improved performances are a perfect underdog story, but it shouldn’t be. The country has the population and enough wealth to take bigger strides in the sport than they have taken so far.

Jayasankar Menon, who captained the national team in the 1990s, says that although India has taken real steps forward, only a professional league can herald a period of sustained success.

“Without a pro league, India cannot improve any further,” he says, “As far as players are concerned, playing for India once or a hundred times is the same. I have come across this situation after playing for India for a decade. The players need to be financially settled and only a pro league can make this happen. It is the right time for the administrators to act. Watch how the kabaddi and badminton leagues have done it. I know there are a lot of ifs and buts but the pro league is the answer.”

The responsibility for providing this answer will ultimately fall upon the BFI and its sponsors, a partnership between global sports/media company IMG Worldwide and India’s biggest conglomerate, Reliance. IMG-Reliance and the BFI have been planning to launch a professional league for years, and their efforts to grow the game at the grassroots with school and college leagues across cities has been a major step forward to get the game to more youth than ever before.

The recent launch of the football Indian Super League (ISL) — also organised by IMG-Reliance — provides a ray of hope for Indian basketball, as IMG chairman Mike Dolan announced that the ISL model would be used to launch India’s first professional league next year.

As many global observers have noted, basketball is one of the world’s fastestgrowing sports. With the interest of IMG-Reliance and the NBA, the 1.2 billion-strong country has the potential to become the game’s next lucrative market. But only a high-quality product will capture the fans’ attention, and the future performances of the national squad will determine if India can continue to provide a product to market to the larger masses.

“After the Asia Cup we have the confidence that we can compete with the top teams in Asia,” says Flemming, “We need to take the next step and win more of those games. We have come a long way, but still have a lot of room for improvement.”

Flemming’s two-year contract with Team India will come to an end in a few months, and he has said that he will evaluate the plans of his family and of the BFI before taking any future decisions. But regardless of his future, he has already secured his name in Indian basketball history by helping the Young Cagers finally grow up to defeat China and giving basketball fans in the country a moment that could change the game forever.

August 20, 2014

Carlos Barroca takes over basketball operations in NBA India, replacing Troy Justice

Over the past 35 years, Carlos Barroca carved up a legendary career as a leader in the game of basketball back in his home nation of Portugal. Now, he gets the opportunity to bring in that experience and leadership qualities to carve up a new legend in India.

The NBA recently announced that Barroca will be taking over as the Senior Director of Basketball Operations for NBA India. A former basketball coach, general manager, television analyst, and ambassador, Barroca will replace Troy Justice, the much-beloved American coach and basketball ambassador who had enjoyed several successful years closely aiding the growth of hoops in India.

Barroca will spearhead the NBA's basketball development initiatives in India, which include training local coaches and players, executing grassroots programmes and working with key basketball stakeholders across India to grow the sport. His 35 years of experience has given him several different roles involved with basketball, mostly in Portugal. During the 2000-2001 season, Barroca served as the head coach of the Portuguese Basketball Federation and the national U-20 squad, and has joined the NBA’s Basketball without Borders programme as a guest coach since 2006. Following his time on the sidelines, Barroca was appointed as National Director of High School Sports Programme and selected as a member of the Supreme Council for Sports as well as the Olympic Committee of Portugal. Barroca also served as a consultant for Adecco, a Swiss HR company, S.A., where he promoted team building and motivation in corporate HR.

Barroca joins the NBA India team at a crucial time: in India, the league is currently involved in various grassroots initiatives to grow the NBA brand as well as the brand of basketball, such as the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme, NBA Jam, and more. The rise of the NBA in India will not be isolated from India's overall improving basketball fortunes, and Barroca will have to keep an eye on the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the performances of the India's national squads, and the promise of a potential professional basketball league in the future. Meanwhile, India and the NBA have been drawing closer together abroad, too: an NBA team now has an Indian owner (Vivek Ranadive of the Sacramento Kings) who will be visiting India along with the NBA's new commissioner Adam Silver this December. Plus, the same team also made Canadian national Sim Bhullar into the first-ever player of Indian descent to be signed by the NBA.

With so much on their plate, it is an exciting new beginning both for Barroca and for NBA India. But every new beginning signifies an end too; and in this case, it marks the end of a fruitful tenure by Troy Justice as NBA India's basketball operations' senior directory. Justice will join the NBA's Basketball Operations department in New York at the end of September, working closely with each member of the Basketball Operations staff in the regional offices to support their efforts to grow the game of basketball at both the elite and grassroots level. He will also focus on expanding the NBA’s global youth basketball programming through the Jr. NBA/WNBA programme.

In India, Justice will leave behind some big shoes for Barroca to fill. India can be a challenging place for many outsiders, but Justice took to the country's many idiosyncrasies with ease, and soon, became as popular draw across the country's grassroots basketball circles. From Kerala to Mumbai to Punjab and more, Justice traveled the length and breath of India over the past half a dozen years preaching the gospel of hoops. His personal approach to coaching, his acceptance of everything Indian, and of course, his deep knowledge of the game, all made him a fan favourite among both players and coaches in the country.

A personal thank you from my end to Justice for being just the right fit for basketball and for the NBA in India. He got his start in Indian basketball around the same time I did, and I will always remember our initial correspondences and meetings as we worked to help the game rise from the ground up. Of course, I will always remember our little trip to Aman's in Ludhiana for the best butter chicken in Ludhiana, but that's another story for another day.

Good luck to Justice for his endeavours ahead, and a warm welcome to Barroca, who will hopefully continue to expand on the path of his predecessor.

August 19, 2014

Thrissur teams lift 31st Kerala State Youth Basketball Championship trophies in Irinjalakuda

Thrissur's boys and girls under-16 teams both celebrated on Monday as the city bagged double titles at the 31st Kerala State Youth Basketball Championship, held at the Christ Vidyanikethan indoor basketball court in Irinjalakuda from August 14-18, 2014. In two close finals, Thrissur's girls scraped past Kozhikode while the boys survived an intense finish against Ernakulum.

In the boys final, Thrissur held on to a double digit lead at halftime, but Ernakulum made a brave comeback in the second half behind stellar performances by Ebin Wilson (20) and Joshua J George (18). In the end, Thrissur held on to a close 70-64 victory. Gokul Babu (20) and Gineeb Benny (17) led the scorers in the winning side.

In the girls final, it was Thrissur who were left to fight back after going down by eight at halftime to Kozhikode, the tournament's reigning champions. But behind a team-high 18 points by Aleea Seby, Thrissur never gave up and bounced back to edge for a 65-61 victory as the final horn sounded. Anusha IP led the game with 19 points for Kozhikode in the loss.

Gineeb Benny and Nimmy George - both of Thrissur - bagged the Best Player award in the boys and girls divisions respectively, instituted in memory of PKS Naidu, the former Technical Committee Chairman of Kerala Basketball Association.

In earlier games, Niya Scaria scored 18 points as Kannur secured the girls' bronze medal with a 57-44 victory over Pathanamthitta. Bronze medal in the boys' competition went to Kottayam, who had no trouble blowing past Alapuzha for a 45-25 win. Jacob Jaimon led the winning side with 16.

August 18, 2014

Vivek Ranadive and Adam Silver to visit India this December

Vivek Ranadive is a Mumbai boy. He was born and bred in India's largest city before he headed West to study at some of the world's finest educational institutions, launch a billion-dollar software company, write a few books, and eventually, become the first-ever Indian-born owner of an NBA franchise when he secured the majority shares of the Sacramento Kings.

From holding Indian culture nights in Sacramento to signing the NBA's first player of Indian-descent, Ranadive has taken the lead in bringing the NBA closer to the Indian community. But ever since becoming the Kings' owner about 15 months ago, he hadn't yet taken a trip back to the country of his birth in an official capacity.

As the Grand Marshal of the India Day Parade in New York City yesterday, Ranadive announced that he will make that official visit to India this December. And he won't be alone - Ranadive also mentioned that he will be bringing along the NBA's new commissioner Adam Silver, too for the league's head honcho's first-ever trip to India.

The last time an active NBA commissioner visited India was when David Stern headed to Mumbai in summer 2013 to launch an NBA Cares programme. Relative to Stern's other global itineraries over his 30 years as the commish, it was surprising that saved India for so late in his tenure.

Silver, on the other hand, took over the NBA at an opportune time for the league's relations with India. Ranadive, who was previously a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, broke into the scene in Sacramento and has since aggressively promoted 'Indianness' in the NBA. And the NBA's presence through TV broadcasts, social media, grassroots events, and in-person visits continued have also been steady rise in India. It makes perfect sense that Silver's first introduction to India be led by the man who can smoothly bridge the gap between the traffic jams of Mumbai and hard-maple court surfaces in Sacramento: Ranadive.

When he made this announcement, Ranadive was leading the India Day Parade in New York along with Sim Bhullar, the 7-foot-5 Indo-Canadian who was made the first player of Indian-descent to be signed into the NBA by the Kings just days ago. It is unclear whether Bhullar will still be a part of the Kings come December - he could be cut if he doesn't perform well at training camp in a couple of months or demoted to the Kings' D-League affiliate Reno Bighorns. Either way, it is unlikely that Bhullar himself will have time in his playing schedule to join Silver and Ranadive in India in December - and for fans rooting for him to have a bigger role in the NBA, the busier he is, the better.

Although neither of them are 7-foot-5 behemoths, Ranadive and Silver are metaphorically 'big' enough to draw considerable interest from the Indian mainstream media when they do visit. For Ranadive, this trip will mark his first official opportunity to speak out to Indians directly and up-close about the Kings and the NBA. For Silver, we hope that the visit is the first of many of the NBA's growing interest in India.

August 17, 2014

USA complete three-peat of FIBA U17 World Championship with victory in Dubai

Led by rising young star Malik Newman, USA survived their toughest challenge yet in the final against Australia to capture the 2014 FIBA U17 World Basketball Championship in Dubai on Saturday. The final was a repeat of USA's triumph over Australia in the tournament in 2012 and it marked the Americans third consecutive victory of the under-17 world title.

USA won all seven of their games as the Senior World Champions showed the world that their future is set to be as bright as their present.

The final was a surprisingly closely-matched contest between two of the strongest young sides in the tournament. Newman scored 16 of his team-high 21 points to hand the Americans a seven-point lead in the first half. Newman, the USA captain, also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game. Australia made a comeback after halftime, led by Dejan Vasiljevic who had 29 points and six three-pointers. In the end, the USA survived a tight fourth quarter to secure a 99-91 win and the gold medal.

Australia's captain Tom Wilson poured in 23 points in a losing effort.

Newman was named the tournament's MVP as he helped the United States continue their undefeated streak in the tournament going back to all the three editions of the championship, totaling to a total of 23 victories.

USA had used a balanced effort a day earlier to defeat Serbia 89-68 in the competition's semi-final, eclipsing a triple-pronged attack by Serbia's Nikola Rakicevic (19), Vojislav Stojanovic (18), and Stefan Peno (18). Australia made a huge comeback after being 22 down early in the game in their Semi-Final versus Spain to trump their opponents 80-74 in overtime of a memorable contest.

Serbia finished at third place by defeating Spain in a close tie, 62-59, on Saturday. Rakicevic had 17 for Serbia while Spain were led by Ramon Vila (20) and Santiago Yusta (17).

Final Standings
  • 1. USA
  • 2. Australia
  • 3. Serbia
  • 4. Spain
  • 5. Puerto Rico
All Tournament Team
  • Malik Newman (USA) - MVP
  • Diamond Stone (USA)
  • Isaac Humphries (Australia)
  • Dejan Vasiljevic (Australia)
  • Nikola Rakicevic (Serbia)

August 15, 2014

It's official: Sacramento Kings sign Sim Bhullar to a contract & make him the NBA's first desi ever!

And now, officially, a player of Indian-descent has become a part of the NBA family. If you've been following the desi-hoops noises in recent years, you wouldn't be surprised to hear that this player is the 7-foot-5 Canadian giant Sim Bhullar. And of course, it wouldn't surprise you that the team which picked him is the Sacramento Kings, the first and only NBA franchise whose majority owner is an Indian.

As India awoke to celebrate Independence Day on August 15th, thousands of miles away in a different time zone, Bhullar - born to parents that immigrated from Punjab, India to Toronto, Canada several decades ago - announced via his own Twitter account that the Kings had signed him to his first NBA contract. Further details of the contract haven't yet been announced, but the rookie minimum this year is $507,366, and it can be assumed that it's a non-guaranteed deal to participate in training camp with the Kings from October.

Bhullar, who played the last two years for New Mexico State University (NMSU) and won the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) tournament MVP honours in both years declared for the 2014 NBA draft earlier this summer, but wasn't picked by any NBA team on draft night. Only a few days later though, the Sacramento Kings signed Bhullar to join their Summer League roster for Las Vegas, with hopes that the giant Center could earn a potential roster spot.

He didn't exactly make waves at Vegas, but he wasn't given much of an opportunity to make even a tiny ripple. Bhullar only hit the floor in four games at the Summer League for the Kings, playing just about two and a half minutes per game. He only attempted and scored one basket (so, that's a 100 percent from the field!) and grabbed just two rebounds in a total of 10 minutes of action through the entire tournament.

Meanwhile, the Kings did pretty well at the Summer League without much help from Bhullar, as they won the tournament with a final triumph over the Houston Rockets.

Despite his near-absence from meaningful Summer League action, the Kings chose to sign Bhullar, officially making him an NBA player. Bhullar will now attend training camp and will have a chance to prove that he can be a part of the roster on Opening Night of the 2014-15 season.

Despite the odds against him, the big man's chances are looking good. At this point, the only other listed Centers for the Kings are DeMarcus Cousins (aka Boogie Smooth, the people's champ, who needs to be an All Star this season) and Aaron Gray, who was traded to the Kings last December but only played around 10 minutes a game in Sacramento last season. Cousins is the literally and figuratively the centerpiece of this franchise, but if Bhullar can prove his worth to Coach Mike Malone, he may be able to earn some spot as Cousins' backup Center.

In all likelihood, Bhullar will make the team but probably not play too often. Despite his dominant years in college, he may have a much tougher time keeping pace with the speed of the NBA. That said, Bhullar has indeed gotten in much better shape and lost a lot of weight over the summer, and we hope that the hard work that he has put in to improve both his game and his conditioning can reap him some rewards.

Of course, all of this smells like a marketing ploy hatched by the Kings and their Indian-born owner Vivek Ranadive. In just over a year as the new owner of the team, Ranadive has shown great creativity in promoting the team to their existing and potentially new fans. It is all too well known by now that the billion-plus population of India is basketball's most exciting (relatively) untouched market, and many are hoping to capitalize on that potential fanbase. Ranadive's Kings have of course taken the lead in this matter, Over the past year, Ranadive’s Kings have hosted Indian-culture nights, launched the NBA’s only Hindi-language website, and much more. When Bhullar was added to the Summer League roster, the Kings even announced him as 'Indian' under the 'Nationality' column of the team-list, which had to be corrected after a few of us complained on Twitter.

So yes, Bhullar's official signing to the Kings will continue to the trend of popularizing the Kings (and thus, the rest of the NBA) to India. Bhullar's jersey sales won't exactly skyrocket - since most Indians are still new to the NBA - but there should be a noteworthy bump for sure. Hell, I might go buy one, too. Here's a guy who seems to love Butter Chicken almost as much as I do AND he could play backup minutes to Boogie Cousins? That's a no-brainer.

But the big question for the big man now is, can he prove that he's more than just a marketing tool? Bhullar has made desi ballers around the world extremely proud, and now, the next step is to silence all the doubt and the hate by proving that he really does belong in the NBA. The Kings could sure use strong contribution from a talented young big man who can be a beast on defense, a soft touch around the basket, and a wingspan to strike fear in all opponents. He has improved dramatically over the past two years, and hopefully he keeps improving to have a more well-rounded game for the upcoming NBA season.

UPDATE: Kings' owner Ranadive commented on Bhullar's signing, further signifying the India connection in this move:

“I’ve long believed that India is the next great frontier for the NBA, and adding a talented player like Sim only underscores the exponential growth basketball has experienced in that nation,” said Ranadivé. “While Sim is the first player of Indian descent to sign with an NBA franchise, he represents one of many that will emerge from that region as the game continues to garner more attention and generate ever-increasing passion among a new generation of Indian fans.”      

August 14, 2014

Road Game: How travel has turned the Indian basketball team into family

This article was first published in my column for on August 4, 2014. Click here to read the original post

India at a team dinner during FIBA Asia Cup. Image courtesy Ekalavyas/Chawn Flemming

In October 2008, a teenage basketball player Vishesh Bhriguvanshi was chosen to be part of India’s four-member squad for the first-ever Asian Beach Games, held at the picturesque island of Bali in Indonesia. It was a 3×3 beach basketball tournament and India was among the eight countries invited to take part. Little was expected for the team and from the rising young player.

In 2014, Bhriguvanshi is one of the leaders of India’s basketball team, the engine that revs up the system from the backcourt. Born in a humble home in Varanasi, more popular for its ghats than its shooting guards, Bhriguvanshi could’ve barely imagined that the game of basketball would one day take him across the continent and even further.

But back in 2008, he was just a teenager, as curious about stepping into the borders of a new nation with an Indonesian stamp on his passport as he was about this experimental new 3×3 form of the game.

India may be one nation but there is rarely any homogeny among Indian squads. Players speak in different mother tongues, have different religious beliefs and customs, and grow up accustomed to various different climatic conditions. Domestically, each player of the squad is at or close to their comfort zone, and thus, still held apart via the various separations that complete the jigsaw puzzle of our large nation. But on the road, the jigsaw pieces converge under the same tiranga flag with the one thread that connects them all: basketball.

There are few better ways of gaining that experience than travel. Bhriguvanshi, like other veterans of the national squad, has a passport full of visa stamps, and every journey – like his trip to Bali in 2008 – becomes another adventure to add to the scrapbook. And together, they turn their differences to grow from becoming more than a team, and into a brotherhood.

So why does Bhriguvanshi remember Bali so fondly? “We had no expectations, we just wanted to play well,” he recalled, “But we won once, we won twice, and soon enough, we somehow found ourselves in the Final. It was against the Philippines, who were considered to be a much stronger team and featured all of their top players from the recent FIBA Asia Championship. But we won that final: that until today is the biggest thing for me, that we got that gold medal, and I got to celebrate it with my teammates at the Beach Games.”

After eight years with Team India, Bhriguvanshi has been part of squads that have played on the road in Kuwait, Indonesia, Turkey, Japan, Philippines, and a half dozen times in China. It is in the squad’s most recent trip to China – to Wuhan for the 5th FIBA Asia Cup – where India displayed the perfect culmination of team spirit and camaraderie that helped elevate them from being mere pushovers to a team with real spirit, zeal and the ability to shock even the giants of the game in the continent. Bhriguvanshi and India couldn’t defeat Philippines this time when they faced off in the Quarter-Final, but they left Wuhan with an effort that would bond the squad together forever.

“We are starting to feel like a real team,” said Yadwinder Singh in the midst of India’s eye-opening Wuhan campaign. Yadwinder was the team’s most experienced and had been playing for India internationally since 2002, “It feels great when we get into an elevator, and strangers see us and congratulate us. Now they know who we are. They know we are Team India.”

“When the team plays together, like we’re doing these days,” he added, “We feel so happy. We eat together, we make fun of each other… Everything feels good.”

Playing abroad is about much more than the tournament itself; India’s Head Coaches in the past, including current coach Scott Flemming, have all stressed about the importance of taking as many exposure trips as possible so that the team can get a sense of togetherness and the challenges of being in a new environment. Together, these trips can help the Indian players to adjust to courts and facilities outside of India. Almost everywhere they travel, the basketball infrastructure is likely to be better than what they have at home; but ‘better’ can put them in the pressure of unfamiliarity. It’s always a challenge for players who have played a majority of their competitive games on outdoor cement courts to then move into perfectly-groomed indoor wooden arenas at FIBA international events.

Adjusting to different climates can be a challenge as well, but nothing matches the homesickness that the team feels when trying to adjust their palates to a myriad of different international cuisines.

“The worst thing [about travel abroad] is definitely the food,” he said, “It’s tough to get Indian food,” said Bhriguvanshi, and added that he missed the staple home cuisines more than anything else. “My favourite is just daal-chawal-subzi.”

Team India huddle. Image courtesy Ekalavyas/Chawn Flemming

“I don’t think anything is real tough [on the road] because they have each other and they care for each other like brothers,” said Coach Flemming, who has been the Head Coach for two years, longer than any foreign coach before him, “You can talk about small things like food. I’m sure they miss loved ones and family. But I think most of them have been doing this long enough that they’ve kinda got used to that. And the ones who are new are so excited to be here they’re not complaining.”

“So probably the toughest thing is being together all the time,” Flemming added, “It’s like a family. You know when you’re with your brothers and sisters all the time they get on your nerves. I probably get on theirs. So you have to keep it fresh and you gotta have fun. You can’t be serious or locked into the game all the time.”

Bhriguvanshi confessed that his favourite thing about playing on the road is the opportunity to face off against the top players on the continent in world-class arenas. A rising star as a teenager when he secured the MVP award at the Basketball Without Borders Asia camp back in 2008, Bhriguvanshi has been one of India’s best players ever since and has taken the role of captain for many international tours since. But, back at home, his rise has been stunted by limited opportunities against tougher competition, and instead, wasted the prime years of players like him or others at his level. International basketball not only gives them a much-needed competitive spike but also provides them a fitting stage to showcase their skills.

“I love playing against good teams,” Bhriguvanshi said after India had completed the Preliminary Round at the Asia Cup in Wuhan, after facing Japan, China, Indonesia, and Iran, “The grounds and facilities at many international arenas are great, and it feels good for us to play here.”

As India put together a string of strong performances in Wuhan, they began to earn respect among the foreign legion, too. Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino media, among others who were covering this event, began to fawn over India’s stars. Many found it hard to believe that this team without a single professional player or without any ‘naturalized’ Indian players could defeat China. It was pure passion and determination that led India to punch above their weight level and collect some big wins, and in the process they began winning hearts, too.

Yadwinder Singh said that the improved performances also improved the relationship between the team.

“I used to hate it when, before, we would go abroad, and we would all separate,” said Yadwinder, who has long been the team’s ‘glue-guy’ in the locker room, “We would eat separately from each other, and no one waited for anyone to eat together or go out. There’s nothing like that anymore. We are now glued together. We forgot the [opening loss] Japan game when we beat China.”

Yadwinder speaks from great experience, of travels that have taken him all across Asia and handed him two passports glued together to fit in all the visa stamps. “My first international trip was an Under-20 tournament in Kuwait. Since then, I’ve been to Australia for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, been to New Zealand, Malaysia, Dubai, Iran, Jordan, and China several times.”

Yadwinder stressed that, the infighting and blame games hurt the team in the past as much as their on-court performances did. “Before, our team would leave India united, but when we would lose the first game, we would separate. We would point fingers and blame each other,” he said, “That doesn’t happen anymore.”

It hasn’t all been all work and no play for the team, even though, technically, ‘work’ for a basketball player is ‘play’. On the road, Flemming has made sure to give the squad time off of the game, too to go sight-seeing and make the most of whatever free time they are able to have abroad. They’ve visited historical sites in Turkey and been go-karting together.

“It’s been really fun travelling with these guys,” said Flemming, “We’ve been to Turkey, to the Philippines, and to Nepal. We’ve been getting to know each other better. They get to know me. I feel the reason that we’re winning games and doing good things is because finally, all these things that I’ve been telling them are sinking in.”

Traveling abroad to unfamiliar countries has indeed brought many of these players closer together, many of whom who otherwise spend half the year in opposing state or club teams against each other. This is why ever Indian coach has always pleaded for more time with the national team: not just to coach them better and avoid other club/state obligations that might unnecessarily distract or even hurt the players, but also to help build up team spirit and an identity.

Wuhan was my first time witnessing India’s basketball team play abroad, and beyond the exhilaration of the team’s historic performances, it was a strange experience. India might be the world’s second largest population and more culturally relevant globally than most Asian countries, but they’re the ‘lovable underdogs’ in these tournaments, unfortunately garnering pity more than praise. In future tournaments, such as the invitational tournament in Dubai next month or the Asian Games in Korea after that, the team will play determined to be feared by their opponents. Veterans like Bhriguvanshi and Yadwinder will be hoping that, after years of travel, when the team puts in strong performances again in the future, it won’t be a surprise but an expectation.

But at the end of the day, playing abroad is about more than wins and losses, or unique adventures in other nations for India’s top players. For many of them, it’s about honouring the flag that is raised and the anthem that is heard before every game.

“Playing for India is by itself a huge honour,” said Bhriguvanshi, “It’s not like we get anything back for doing this – we play only for pride. If we’re going outside, we want to do well for India. We don’t want anything to think that this team is like any unsuccessful team of the past.”

August 13, 2014

Indian basketball superstar Geethu Anna Jose to receive Arjuna Award this year

Geethu Anna Jose has done it all for Indian Basketball, and then some.

Perhaps the finest basketball player that Indian has produced - of any gender - in recent times, Jose has been the center-piece of India's Women's national squad for the last 10 years. The 29-year-old out of Kottayam, Kerala, has enjoyed a glittering career, which has included performing as one of the leading scorers, shot-blockers, and rebounders in all of Asia at FIBA Asia Women's Championships, leading India to gold medal wins at the Asian Beach Games and the 1st FIBA Asia 3x3 Championship. She finished as the top scorer in the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship and was MVP at the CommonWealth Games basketball tournament in 2004. At the club level, Jose has played professionally in Australia and in Thailand, winning MVP honours with the former when with the Ringwood Hawks. Back home in India, she has been a one-woman wrecking crew, winning almost every tournament she has participated in for her clubs Indian Railways or Southern Railway. As a senior, she led the Indian Railways women's squad to nine consecutive National Championship titles. She also became the first (and only) Indian to earn trials with the WNBA - the world's finest women's basketball league - in 2011 when she worked out with the Chicago Sky, Los Angeles Sparks, and San Antonio Silver Stars.

And now, this 6-foot-2 hoops living legend will finally be conferred the honour that she has deserved for years: Jose's name is among the 15 Indian athletes recommended for this year's Arjuna Award, the prestigious national award handed to sports-persons in India. Jose will become the 17th basketball player in India to receive this award, but only the first since 2001. She will also be only the second women's basketball player to win the Arjuna Award since Suman Sharma in 1991.

Despite her accomplishments, Jose's previous applications for this award had failed, and the Arjuna Award Selection Committee - led by former Indian cricketing legend Kapil Dev - only accepted her on the fifth try. "I'm glad that the government has begun to honour women hoopsters," she told Times of India upon hearing this news.

Named after the mythical hero of the Mahabharata Arjun, [and now quoting from Wikipedia] "the Arjuna Awards are given by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of the Government of India to recognize outstanding achievement in National sports. Instituted in 1961, the award carries a cash prize of 500,000 rupees, a bronze statuette of Arjuna, and a scroll."

[More from Wikipedia]"The Government has recently revised the scheme for the Arjun Award. As per the revised guidelines, to be eligible for the Award, a sportsperson should not only have had good performance consistently for the previous three years at the international level with excellence for the year for which the Award is recommended, but should also have shown qualities of leadership, sportsmanship and a sense of discipline."

Multiple sports-persons from various avenues are conferred the award every year. This year, the 15 sports-persons who have been recommended by the Selection Committee for the Arjuna Award are Akhilesh Varma (Archery), Tintu Luka (Athletics), HN Girisha (Paralympics), V Diju (Badminton), Geethu Ann Jose (Basketball), Jai Bhagwan (Boxing), R Ashwin (Cricket), Anirban Lahiri (Golf), Mamta Pujari (Kabaddi), Saji Thomas (Rowing), Heena Sidhu (Shooting), Anaka Alankamany (Squash), Tom Joseph (Volleyball), Renubala Chanu (Weightlifting) and Sunil Rana (Wrestling). The awards will be handed out on August 29 in New Delhi.

Surprisingly, no athlete was recommended for the coveted Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award this year, which is India's highest honour for achievement in sports and given to the absolute top achievers. No Indian basketball player has yet won this award.

On a side-note, it seems like legendary Indian basketball coach Sankaran Subramanian was once again ignored from the short-list of recipients of this year's Dronacharya Award, the parallel award given for excellence in sports coaching in India. No basketball coach has ever been conferred this award, but for his tremendous achievements over multiple decades, Dr. Subramanian - who passed away last year - should receive this award posthumously.

Congratulations to Jose for her well-deserved achievement. She has been head and shoulders above any basketball player in the nation for years and is one of the few players we've ever had in our history that could stand among the best players in the continent. At 29 and recently married, Jose peak years might be the near rear-view mirror and she seems to be enjoying a period of semi-retirement. Still, hoop fans in India will hope that she will have a few more strong years on the court ahead of her.

For now, we hope that this honour brings more attention to the national mainstream audience of Jose's past accomplishments in the game. Furthermore, her conferment of the Arjuna Award can also shine the spotlight on Indian basketball and women's basketball in particular. She can continue to serve as a great role model for more young Indians hoping to follow in her footsteps. Despite her accomplishments, Jose never managed to lead India deep into the biggest FIBA Asia Championship or realize her WNBA dreams. But she went further than anyone else, and as a winner of the Arjuna Award, she can help show the way to the new generation of young ballers the way to realizing those dreams, too.

August 11, 2014

Legendary Indian basketball coach Dr. S Subramanian should win posthumous Dronacharya Award

Named after Dronacharya - the legendary teacher of the Mahabharata mythology - the Indian government has presented the 'Dronacharya Award' since 1985 for excellence in sports coaching. The name of the award is only fitting, as the parallel award given to sportspersons is named after Dronacharya's favourite pupil, Arjun. Since the award's inception, Indian coaches in the fields of Athletics, Boxing, Wrestling, Chess, Cricket, Football, Volleyball, Billiards & Snooker, Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Shooting, Kabaddi, Yatching, Hockey, Volleyball, Squash, Rowing, Archery, Gymnastics, Table-Tennis and even Kho-Kho have received the prestigious annual award. And yet, not once has a basketball coach come close.

But for the second consecutive year, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has applied for the late Dr. Sankaran Subramanian - one of the greatest Indian basketball minds of All Time - to be nominated for the award. Subramanian passed away last summer at the age of 75 after dedicating 43 fruitful years to coaching hoops in India. He has spotted and developed some of India's finest players over the years, created the country's finest basketball academy, and been responsible for the success of various teams over the years. And yet, his contributions - like those of other masterminds in Indian basketball - have been ignored by most of Indian sports fraternity outside of basketball.

This year, former captain of India's Hockey team Ajitpal Singh is heading the committee for selecting the Dronacharya awardee. The committee will have 15 members, including 12 eminent sportspersons and three officials, who will be the director general of the Sports Authority of India and a joint secretary and deputy secretary from the ministry. Several coaches are given the award every year, and in 2013, there were five recipients. The Dronacharya and Arjuna awards will be handed out on August 29, 2014 in New Delhi.

Once again, the BFI's President RS Gill has sent the selection committee details of Subramanian's achievements, and today (August 11), the committee is meeting in New Delhi to decide on the final nominations. Hopefully, the slight against this great coach - who was ignored by the mainstream for over four decades of dedication to the game as a coach - will be corrected and he will be given this highest coaching honour in India posthumously.

Subramanian has a long history of success, for himself and for the talents that he produced. From 1968 onwards, he had been thoroughly involved in coaching and developing players in Punjab and for the Indian national team. Subramanian was the coach of the Punjab state team, the director and chief of the Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA) in Punjab and also the director of the National Institute of Sports in Patiala. He was the man behind the discovery and development of several star players who are currently in India's national men squad - the team which achieved the 'Wonder of Wuhan' by defeating China at the FIBA Asia Cup last month - including Amrit Pal Singh, Amjyot Singh, Yadwinder Singh, and Palpreet Singh. He was the man who first honed the skills of Satnam Singh Bhamara, India's 17-year-old 7-footed phenom who is garnering hype to become the future face of Indian basketball. Over the past years, he trained hordes of athletes (at the Senior as well as Junior level) who went on to represent India in FIBA Asia Championships, in Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and even the Olympics.

Subramanian played basketball for his school and college teams and later joined Indian Air Force in the year 1958. He played in Air Force and Inter-Services Championships and also participated in the National Basketball Championships for three consecutive years from 1964-1967. He took to coaching after that in 1968, working with the Air Force team and with Services and leading them to wins in several national level tournaments. He also briefly coached the Mysore Girls team in the early 70s. He joined NIS in Patiala in 1973 from where he worked to hone several junior and senior players and host national coaching camps at NIS.

Subramanian had been the head coach of the Punjab State teams from 2000-2013, and led them to an era of great dominance in this period, collecting 14 Gold, 13 Silver and 9 Bronze Medals in Sub-Junior, Youth, Junior and Senior National Championships. Under his tutelage, Punjab's Senior Men's team won the National Championship in 2012 and finished as runners-up this year.

He was also a FIBA certified International Referee in basketball and had officiated in many international Tournaments in India and abroad.

The number of talented stars who had blossomed under his tutelage during this period is too vast to be mentioned here, but some of them include Arjuna Award winner Manmohan Singh, Paramjit Singh, who represented Indian in the 1980 Olympic Basketball team, and Tarlok Singh Sandhu. In India's most recent Men's squad, a record number of six players were developed under Subramanian in his Ludhiana Academy: TJ Sahi, Yadwinder Singh, Jagdeep Singh Bains, Amjyot Singh, Amrit Pal Singh, and Satnam Singh Bhamara. He also trained women's international Kiranjit Kaur, who won gold for India in the 2012 Asian Beach Games.

Subramanian was originally from Tamil Nadu, but it was to Punjab Basketball where he dedicated in life, and it was in Patiala, Punjab, where he breathed his last breath. His daughter, Indira Bali, summed up his love for basketball in the perfect way. "He was a man who would have died on the Basketball Court rather than in a hospital," she said.

Basketball in India has recognized this great legend of the sport - hopefully, the Government at large does too and brings his memory the honour it deserves. It is preposterous that basketball doesn't yet have a Dronacharya Award winner, but Dr. Subramanian would make the perfect nominee to finally break that curse. It will only be right if, inspired by Guru Dronacharya himself, we can refer to Dr. Subramanian as 'Guru Subramanian' too, because he was indeed one of the nation's greatest teachers - of any sport.