February 29, 2016

KSEB Women and IOB Men win 2016 FEASTO All India Basketball Tournament in Kozhikode

Kerala's City of Spices Kozhikode - also known as Calicut - played host to some of the top basketball players in the nation over the past week as the FEASTO All India Basketball Tournament for Men and Women as the city's VK Krishnamenon Indoor Stadium from February 22-28. The championship, revived after a gap of 16 years, featured various top-level basketball clubs from around the region and other states. It was the Women's team from Thiruvanathapuram's Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and the Men's team from Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) in Chennai that emerged champions with resounding victories in their respective finals on Sunday, February 28.

In the Women's final, Kerala stars Stephy Nixon and Anjana PG scored 18 points apiece for KSEB to help them easily defeat the more experienced Southern Railway squad from Chennai, 71-52. Apporva Muralinath scored 18 for Southern Railway in the loss.

In the Men's final, IOB relied on the efforts of talented forward G. Sivabalan (18) to rush past Bengaluru's Vijaya Bank, 75-52. A. Aravind scored 19 for the losing side.

Prasanna Venkatesh of IOB and Anjana PG from KSEB won the Men's and Women's MVP awards respectively.

February 28, 2016

Hosts Mumbai University won India's UBAU National University Basketball Championship for Men 2016

It may not always make national headlines, but India has a surprisingly fervent collegiate-level basketball culture, and for years, the top university/college teams have been taking part in competitive championships around the nation. These championships, held in different zones, then build up to the zenith with the National Championship, featuring 16 of the top teams in India in a tournament to determine the best of the best.

This year, the UBAU All India Inter-Zonal University Basketball Championship for Men was held at Mumbai University's Kalina Campus. The host team gave the home fans a reason to cheer in the finale: Mumbai University defeated edged past Chennai's Anna University 64-61 in the final to lift the title for the first time in 25 years on Sunday, February 28th.

The final was a neck-to-neck contest worthy of featuring the two best university teams in the nation. Mumbai led Anna by just four points at halftime, but Anna University bounced back with a strong third quarter performance to take a small lead. In the fourth quarter, Mumbai's young star Samson Sandhu (25) took over the game, hitting numerous clutch shots as his team took advantage of two key Anna players getting fouled out to inch ahead and win the game, 64-61. Sanket Kalbhor added 21 points and 11 rebounds for Mumbai. Also present on the occasion were UBAU senior executives, Mr Joe Damsker, Mr Robert Clawson and Ms Sunday Zeller, among others.

Samson Sandhu was named the tournament's MVP. Sanket Kalbhor (University of Mumbai) won the best defender award, and Anna University centre P. Vijay was named the "best shooter" of the Championship.

Poonam Mahajan, BJP MP and President of the Maharashtra State Basketball Association was the chief guest on the occasion. Other dignitaries present were Niranjan Hiranandani, co-founder and Managing Director of the Hiranandani Group, Dr UN Kendre, Sports Director (Mumbai University), Krishnan Govind Muthukumar, Secretary (MSBA), Dhananjay Velukar, Chairman, Technical Committee (MSBA), Manjula Nichani, Principal of Kishinchand Chellaram college, Mumbai, Dr Rajkumar, Sports Director (Punjabi University) and Rakesh Malik, Association of Indian Universities (AIU) Observer, who distributed the trophies and medals to the winning team.

Earlier in the morning, 2015 champions University of Madras beat southern opponents SRM University, Chennai 81-75 to finish third. Justin Gnana Raj (21), Sandeep D (17 pts) and Anto Bethle (16) led Madras' charge, while SRM University were led in a valiant effort by Shashank Rai (30) and Susyl Paul (17).

Final Four Standings
  • 1. University of Mumbai
  • 2. Anna University
  • 3. University of Madras
  • 4. SRM University

The final 16 teams that participated in the UBAU All India Inter-Zonal University Basketball Championship this year were:
  • Pool A: Punjab University (Chandigarh), Savitribai Phule University (Pune), KIIT University (Bhubaneswar), Madras University (Chennai).
  • Pool B: SRM University (Chennai), Banaras Hindu University (Varanasi), Kurukshetra University (Kurukshetra), Rajasthan University (Jaipur).
  • Pool C: Mumbai University (Mumbai), Delhi University (New Delhi), Kerala University (Thiruvananthapuram), Utkal University (Bhubaneswar).
  • Pool D: Pandit Ravishankar Shukla University (Raipur), Anna University (Chennai), Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University (Nagpur), Guru Nanak Dev University (Amritstar)

February 25, 2016

21-year-old Palpreet Singh Brar wins India's ACG-NBA Jump programme to secure a NBA D-League tryout

Palpreet Singh Brar - a six-foot-eight Punjabi power forward with a penchant to dominate the post - has had a stranger basketball journey than most young players in the country. Through his teenage years, Brar went relatively unnoticed by the national basketball scene, all until he enjoyed a terrific breakthrough for India's junior squad at the U18 FIBA Asia Championship in Mongolia in 2012. Scoring over 21 ppg, Brar became the tournament's third-leading scorer and caught the eyes of Asian scouts as India's next breakout star.

Unfortunately, that breakthrough was also a reminder of how Brar joined the long, sobering list of Indian talents who are discovered a little too late to make the most of their potential. Although he became a member of India's national squad, he was relegated to play behind star big men Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh (both now playing professionally in Japan's D-League) and, over the next crucial three and a half years, his progress was marred with inconsistencies.

But the pendulum seems to have swung in Brar's favour once again. A few months ago, male Indian basketball players between the ages of 18-22 were blessed with a new dream to hatch: the NBA joined hands with ACG Worldwide to launch the ACG-NBA Jump, a first-of-its-kind talent search programme to find the best young basketball player in India. After scourging through multiple cities over several months, national finals of the ACG NBA Jump were held in Greader Noida this week and Palpreet Singh Brar - 21-years-old - emerged as the national champ. With his victory, Brar has won an opportunity to be trained by NBA level coaches and participate in NBA D-League tryouts later this year.

"I am thankful to ACG NBA Jump for this," Brar said, "I will focus on becoming a stronger player now that I am going to compete with some of the best in the world."

The ACG-NBA Jump National Finals were held at Jaypee Greens at Greater Noida from February 22-25, with Brar being announced as the competition's winner on Thursday. Brar stood out as the best among 32 of India's top young players chosen for his programme, after a four-month search in Ludhiana, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. Brar had qualified for the final after being selected at the Delhi tryouts.

Three-time former NBA champion and former coach Brian Shaw was also among the talent scouts and judges at Greater Noida for the National Finals and felt that Brar stood out highest from the competition.

"His feel for the game and understanding, I could tell he grasps it," Shaw said, "Palpreet Singh, we all thought, was the guy who had the best chance to succeed."

"ACG-NBA Jump has given basketball playing youth in India a pathway to professional ranks," said Yannick Colaco, NBA India's Managing Director, "We are committed to growing the program in the years to come. While Palpreet Singh has been selected for a national tryout in the NBA D-League, the entire pool [the final 32] will be a part of Elite Talent Club and NBA will monitor their progress on a regular basis."

"Promotion of sports and youth development has always been a part of ACG’s CSR vision and the successful conclusion of this program is an important milestone towards realization of this vision," said ACG Director Karan Singh. "The final pool of players represented the very goal of the programme that was to identify and hone the untapped talent pool of basketball in India. We strongly believe that our partnership with NBA to tap this potential and create a solid platform for the aspirants has found the right beginning. We are as excited as the winner and hope that Palpreet Singh makes a long lasting impression in United States for the D-League National Tryout."

Now, Brar will continue to undergo training with NBA certified coaches in India up until the NBA D-League tryout in June 2016 in the USA. The 2015 D-League tryouts were held in New York on June 14, 2015. Brar will be hoping to become the second Indian citizen in the D-League after his countrymen (and former roommate!) Satnam Singh. Satnam became the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA (by the Dallas Mavericks) last summer and currently plays for the D-League's Texas Legends. Satnam was present in India last October to launch the ACG-NBA Jump in Ludhiana.

After a late but explosive start to his basketball career, Brar was headed towards the emptiness that many basketball talents in India experience, when they are good enough to be stars in India but have limited opportunity to make the most of their potential beyond that. But the ACG-NBA Jump has arrived as a welcome boost to players like Brar to provide a new career goal. While the D-League tryouts are 'open' events, Brar will be heading there armed with the help of NBA-certified coaches focused singularly on him to help him succeed. It benefits the NBA to have more Indian players in the D-League (or make the jump up to the NBA itself) from the marketing standpoint to tap into the growing young population of new fans in India. Brar is still only 21, and already has years of national and international basketball experience under his belt. Armed with the NBA's assistance, he should grab the bull by its horns and extend the limits of his potential as far as he possibly can.

His story will be watched and observed by basketball fans and players in India, and stories like his and Satnam's - and Amjyot and Amrit Pal's - will continue to inspire young players to aim higher. If the ACG-NBA Jump can produce a successful Indian player (if not for the D-League, then at least an improved player for the Indian national team), it will set the wheels in motion for more players appearing from India's unexplored talent pools.

February 22, 2016

Former NBA champion and Head Coach Brian Shaw is in India this week!

Brian Shaw knows a thing or two about tough journeys. Unsettled in any basketball home, Shaw spent the first 11 years of his career in seven different teams, including a stint in Italy, without making a significant mark or finding his footing. It wasn't until age 33, in his final NBA stop, that Shaw found basketball nirvana. A member of the Los Angeles Lakers from 1999-2003, Shaw played a small but pivotal role in the legendary team that won three NBA titles besides Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. His story proved to be one of perseverance, timing, and professionalism: given the right amount of hard work and a little stroke of luck, even the toughest journeys can lead to a fulfilling destination.

This week, Shaw will hope to relay that same mantra to dozens of aspiring young basketball players in India - players who may face seemingly insurmountable odds in their basketball journeys - and give them the inspiration to keep their hoop dreams alive.

To help promote the sport for the NBA, Shaw is scheduled to land in India on Wednesday, February 24, for a five-day visit until February 28. During his trip, he will be tipping off premier NBA events like the ACG-NBA Jump National Finals in Greater Noida, NBA City Finals in Jaipur and NBA Jam in Mumbai. Shaw joins the growing legions of former Laker champions to visit India, including AC Green, Pau Gasol, Robert Horry, Horace Grant, and Ron Harper.

Shaw will make his first stop in Noida on February 24 where he will share personal drills and training techniques with participants of the National Finals of ACG-NBA Jump, India's first national basketball talent search programme. The national finals, from February 22-25 mark the culmination of the five-month programme that took place across six regions including Delhi, Ludhiana, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

From Noida, Shaw will travel to Jaipur on February 26 where he will share tips with students at the St. Edmunds School, as part of the Reliance Foundation Junior NBA programme, a comprehensive youth basketball initiative that applies the values of basketball to positively impact the lives of Indian boys and girls. Shaw will then travel to Mumbai the next day to engage the youth of Mumbai at NBA Jam at the KJ Somaiya College, where fans will have the chance to meet with Shaw, win NBA merchandise, and experience lifestyle elements including interactive games, contests and live music performances. He will conclude his India visit with a live television appearance on Sony SIX's NBA morning show 'Around the Hoop' on February 28.

In his professional playing career that spanned over 14 years, Shaw played for the Boston Celtics (who drafted him), Il Messaggero Roma in Italy, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Portland Trail Blazers, before finally finding his NBA closure with three championships with the Lakers. Shaw became an assistant coach with the Lakers soon after retirement (adding two more championships in 2009-10), served as an assistant coach for the Pacers, and was most recently the Head Coach of the Denver Nuggets from 2013-15.

February 18, 2016

For NBA teams, India was January’s Flavour of the Month

This feature was originally published in my column for Ekalavyas.com on February 6, 2016. You can find the original article here.

As of a 2013 census, persons of Indian origin make up just about one percent of the entire US population. But even though their percentage is small, there are still over 3.1 million Indian Americans. More crucially, despite being a small fraction of the overall population, Indians have managed to make their influence count: from taking a deeper role in developing their culture and expertise in North America, to evoking the foundation of their roots back in India. Now, that culture is spreading to the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The NBA has long been a progressive basketball league, accepting people of different cultures, races, nationalities, sexual preferences, and genders into their extended family. For years, various NBA teams, and the league itself, has held fan outreach or heritage nights to specific target fanbases, like the Noche Latina or Chinese New Year celebrations.

With little influence around the league in the past, however, it took some time for Indians to join the party. But over the last few years, that party is finally here, and Indian heritage is starting to be celebrated with more fervour in the NBA than ever before.

In January 2016, three NBA teams continued their tradition of hosting India-related heritage nights during home games: the Sacramento Kings, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Orlando Magic. In the larger scheme of NBA events, the impact of these themed-nights was small. But to the Indian diaspora in the US and the rapidly rising NBA-watching audience in India, the ‘India Nights’ were another nod by the NBA of its growing interest in Indians, both home and abroad.

Most ‘India Nights’ around the NBA follow similar themes, themes that often overplay Indian stereotypes and caricatures around the world. You want dancing? Get some cheerleaders in saris and play ‘Jai Ho!’ You want snacks? Nothing better than kebabs and curries in the concession stands. India is synonymous with colour to the West, and often, NBA arenas get decorated in a wonderful myriad to challenge a Holi celebration. Special T-shirts and memorabilia are worn by players or passed out to fans. Words like ‘Bollywood’, ‘desi’, ‘flavour’ and ‘colour’ are thrown about a lot. Indian or Indian-origin celebrities are honoured, and Indian or Indian-origin singers and dancers perform for the fans.

With every year, the spectacle is gaining more momentum, and the rise of competing ‘India Nights’ is adding that ‘flavour’ across the NBA.

Vivek Ranadive is the first Indian-born majority-owner of an NBA team, but before he made history by owning the Sacramento Kings, Ranadive briefly held a minority stake with the Golden State Warriors. Under Ranadive’s vice-chairmanship, the Warriors began a tradition of holding ‘Bollywood Night’ at their games. From the very first time in 2011, the Warriors introduced the epic ‘got Curry?’ T-shirts in honour of their young point guard Stephen Curry. Four years later, Ranadive had jumped shipped to head out to Sacramento, the Warriors had become the NBA best team, and Curry the league’s best player. But Bollywood Nights have continued in the Bay Area, and this year’s event is scheduled to be held on March 9 when the Warriors host the Utah Jazz.

When Ranadive came to Sacramento with dreams of NBA 3.0 and of making the Kings ‘India’s team’, he brought ‘Bollywood Night’ over with him. Over the last few years, this event in Sacramento has grown from strength to strength. The Kings’ players wear practice T-shirts with Devanagari script, the Sleep Train Arena gets decorated in style, Indian cuisine is on offer, and fans enjoy song-and-dance routines by Indian artists. Ranadive’s daughter Anjali, an aspiring pop-star, has also become a regular feature for halftime performances on Bollywood Nights.

When the 2016 Bollywood Night was held on January 7th, it also featured Indian-origin Miss America Nina Davulari, an announcement of the Kings’ players in Hindi, and a scintillating introduction video to reach out to fans from Mumbai to Sacramento. The Kings Dancers also dressed up in Indian garb on the night, as was Slamson the Lion, the Kings’ official mascot. Other events included Punjabi sword fighting and dance performances by the California-based Ankhiley Gabroo dance group. Sacramento native and artist Pam Shankar, of Indo-Fijian descent, sang the pre-game national anthem. The home team played the Los Angeles Lakers that night in Kobe Bryant’s last game in Sacramento and eked out a close win.

A few weeks later, Philadelphia scratched their Indian itch, too. On January 18th, the 76ers held their second annual Indian-American Heritage Night. Before the game, the Indian community and the 76ers honoured Indian Americans in Sports at the Wells Fargo Center, notably, Kevin Negandhi, an anchor for ESPN SportsCenter in the USA and Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy, a non-profit who have been coming to Chennai for several years to promote education and values through basketball among children from lower-economic households. The event featured Bollywood music bumping outside the entrances to the court, cultural exhibits around the arena, special Indian themed 76ers T-shirts provided to the guests, and a performance by Philadelphia-based dance company Aatma. The 76ers played their best game of the season to blow out the Portland Trail Blazers.

Not to be outdone, the Orlando Magic – title holders of the Best Heritage Night in the NBA for the past two years – brought back ‘India Day’ (as declared by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer) to Downtown Orlando on January 31st, in an event organized by the Indian American Chamber of Commerce (IACC). The IACC hosted Bollywood superstar Madhuri Dixit this year. A Cultural Street Fest was held pregame in front of the Amway Center, showcasing Indian dancing from various local Indian organizations. Guests enjoyed henna tattoos, sari wrapping, turban tying, free t-shirts and more. Halftime entertainment was provided by the Bollywood Dance Academy. The Orlando Magic snapped eight-game losing streak at the game with a 119-114 win over the Boston Celtics.

All of the events above have been covered by local South Asian-centric media, making more and more members of the Indian community aware of the NBA and of the league’s clout. Furthermore, the average NBA fan at these games is finding awareness about Indian culture: it may be just a Western, ‘whitewashed’ view of India, but it’s a start.

The growing attention to India and Indians has come at a strategic time for the NBA teams; the NBA office in India continues to grow its list of both grassroots and mainstream events around the country. More Indian fans are watching live NBA games on TV than ever before, and the future promises wider availability of NBA merchandise in big Indian cities.

Meanwhile, a couple of giant Indian men are becoming role models for South Asians in the US. Last year, Ranadive’s Kings made Canadian Sim Bhullar the first person of Indian-origin to play in the NBA. A few months later, the Dallas Mavericks drafted Satnam Singh, making him the first Indian national to be drafted into the league. Both the seven-footed giants are currently playing in the D-League – Raptors 905 and Texas Legends respectively – and are on the periphery of a potential NBA call-up. Their presence would add a little more of that much-clich├ęd desi flavour to the NBA.

It’s a win-win relationship for NBA teams to invest in their heritage ‘India Nights’, but the biggest reason to do so may be far simpler: about winning on the basketball court itself. All three NBA teams that held Indian heritage nights in January held a losing record and were outside the playoff race. And yet, all three teams picked up exciting or impressive wins that night. Coincidence, or is evoking India bringing NBA host teams a dose of good luck on their kundlis?

And speaking of good kundlis, you know which NBA team has the brightest fortune of them all? Which team is currently the reigning NBA champion, are leading the league standings after a historically good start, are on pace to have the greatest regular season of All Time, are favourites to repeat as champions, feature the league MVP, and have become the greatest show in basketball? It’s the Golden State Warriors, the team who got properly on the Bollywood bandwagon before anyone else.

Got Curry?

February 17, 2016

UBA Basketball League - with teams from around India - returns bigger and better for Season 2

Indian basketball players rejoice! Season 2 of the UBA Basketball League, is all set to be held between February 18th to April 3rd, 2016. The two phase event featuring professional eight teams representing teams from around the country is to be held at Pune’s Balewadi Stadium and Hyderabad’ Gachibowli Stadium. The league will be telecast live on Ten network channels: Ten Sports, Ten Action, and Ten HD.

With the objective of promoting basketball among the sports lovers, the United Basketball Alliance India (P) Ltd. (UBA India), has initiated a professional league that provides the young and experienced players, a platform to express themselves on the court. The league comprises of eight professional teams from different cities of India, which compete over the course of two months emerge as the Champions of the Season 2. The participating teams are: Pune Peshwas, Hyderabad Sky, Chennai Slam, Punjab Steelers, Bengaluru Beast, Delhi Capitals, Haryana Gold and Mumbai Challengers.

Speaking about the League, Todd Mack, Managing Director of UBA India, said, "Pro Basketball League is the platform, much needed for basketball players in India, who aspire to make it big in the sport. UBA provides these young players, an opportunity to test their skills at a professional level. Additionally, the best players from the League get an opportunity to train outside India, and rub shoulders with some of the big names of the sport, from around the world."

Olympic medallist boxer MC Mary Kom and Bollywood actor Suniel Shetty will grace the opening ceremony on Thursday, 18th February as chief guests at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune. The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) is extending its support to this event, and former international player, Norman Isaac of BFI, will be the Technical Commissioner of the League.

UBA has partnered with Emmy Award winning broadcaster Paul Crane who has covered sports at the highest levels in the United States for over three decades, to present the Pro Basketball League 2016. Steve Graham, executive producer of the League, has been involved with six past Olympic Games, international triathlons, auto racing and international volleyball games in his career.

The complete schedule of games in Pune and Hyderabad, including the semi-finals and finals, have been posted on Ekalavayas.com. You should head over to their report to also find a complete breakdown of all the eight participating rosters. The teams have been divided into North and South divisions, and each team will play four games: three against their division opponents and one cross-division match. In preparation for the second season, UBA held selection tryouts at the Jain International Residential School in Bengaluru earlier this week with 195 young players from all over India to form new squads before the league tips off.

Some notes of interest on the various participating teams:

South Division
  • Prasanna Jayasankar, a former India women’s captain, is the coach of Bengaluru Beast.
  • Current India international, Narender Grewal will be suiting up for the Pune Peshwas. The Peshwas lost in the finals of Season 1 of the league last year to Chennai. They will have home support in the opening stage of the league.
  • Chennai Slam are the reigning champions and feature the talented Nigerian player Chukwunanu Agu.
  • Hyderabad Sky feature veteran international point guard Joginder Singh.
North Division
  • Renowned women’s coach Shiba Maggon will be leading Haryana Gold. The team also features talented names like Ashiv Jain and Sanjeev Kumar.
  • Delhi Capitals have added Indian international Vinay Kaushik to their roster.
  • Mumbai Challengers feature former India international star Jagdeep Singh Bains, as well as guard Ranbir Singh. Up-and-comer Prudhvi Reddy is also part of the Mumbai squad, which is being coached by former India junior coach PC Antony.
  • Promising young big man Gurvinder Singh Gill will highlight the Punjab Steelers team, who will be without last year's MVP Ravi Bhardwaj.

Will Chennai repeat it's crown? The most stacked squad this year seems to be Mumbai, but the Slam have veteran stars who have tasted the success of winning from Season 1 already. Punjab's fortunes will depend heavily on the shoulders of young man Gill, and don't sleep on Haryana causing some havoc with their young talent, too.

Season 2 has returned bigger than ever, and having the games broadcast live on Ten Sports etc. will be a major step in ensuring that basketball action gets more attention from casual mainstream fans. Hopefully, the league can feature exciting moments to showcase India's ever-deepening pool of basketball talent. Several of the top international level Indian players have still not signed up for this league, but as it gets bigger, I'm sure that they will give it some consideration, especially since there is no other full-time professional basketball league option in India.

February 15, 2016

Indian Basketball legends team up in Delhi to spread a positive message: Save our game!

Indian Basketball is in dire straits. A damsel or a dame in distress, lying punctured out of air, begging for a saviour to help it bounce back up again. The past 11 months have seen the Basketball Federation of India split into two competing executive committees, cry all the way up to the international basketball federation - FIBA - for rescue, and suffer detrimental interference from the Indian government and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). The fraction between the BFI and the IOA led FIBA to refuse recognition of basketball at the ongoing South Asian Games in Guwahati, and eventually, see IOA cancel the basketball tournament at the tournament altogether.

To save the future of the game, it is the voices of the past who are now speaking the loudest.

The Indian Basketball Players Association (IBPA), an independent coalition of some of India's finest former players, coaches, and referees, held a 'Save Our Game' campaign at the Modern School in New Delhi on Sunday, February 14th, to shed light on the troubling trends in Indian hoops and preach a message of solidarity between the fighting factions of the BFI. Led by Secretary-General Jayasankar Menon, the IBPA brought together some of India's finest retired players to the event to hold clinics and speak to around 70 school-kids about healing the fractured future of the game.

"The IBPA is not supporting any factions," Menon told me in an interview on Sunday, "We are concerned with the welfare of the players. The Indian basketball legends appeal for an amicable solution [for the BFI]."

Aiming to give a voice to Indian basketball players - current and past - the IBPA was officially formed in New Delhi last summer. The associations includes various Team India legends, including several Arjuna awardees, Dhyan Chand awardees, an Asian all-star player, former Indian captains and a number of international and national players.

The cancellation of the South Asian Games (SAG) basketball event came as a rude shock to all the seven countries participating in the tournament, which was scheduled to begin on February 11th. Many of the countries, including India, sent Men and Women's teams to the SAG regardless, but without official sanction, they have only played in exhibition games in Guwahati.

"We can understand the feelings of players who had gone to the South Asian Games and became spectators," Menon added, "We know that they are losing financially, too, as a Gold medal was almost [guaranteed]. Even though the IBPA is Indian Basketball Players Association we are concerned with other players of the South Asian region, too."

Apart from Menon, an Indian Basketball legend and two-time South Asian Games gold-medalist, the 'Save Our Game' campaign in New Delhi was attended by several international and national level players, including Roopam Singh, Vidya Ramanarayan, Anil Gulatti, Balakrishnan, Khushwinder Sarna, Tarika Roy, Mukesh Khalia, Sandeep Bhola, Yudbir Singh, and Rajesh.

February 11, 2016

UBA holds selection trials for second season of their basketball league in Bengaluru

Last summer, the Universal Basketball Alliance of India (UBA India) introduced a unique new competition to the annual Indian basketball calendar. For two weeks in July, UBA brought together eight different teams representing major Indian cities to Hyderabad for a short-term basketball league. Although the first-of-its-kind experiment didn't attract India's cream of the crop basketball talent, it provided a strong alternative for hoop hopefuls looking for a payday in a country that still doesn't have a full-size national professional basketball league.

Boosted by the success of its first season, UBA are now set to launch Season 2 of their basketball league on February 18. In preparation for the second season, UBA held selection tryouts at the Jain International Residential School in Bengaluru earlier this week with 195 young players from all over India to form new squads before the league tips off.

Foreign trainers from the US, along with highly respected senior Indian coaches, evaluated the players on a number of parameters by putting them through a series of gruelling sessions. After selection trials in Bengaluru, this year's UBA Basketball League will be divided into two phases of games, in Pune and Hyderabad. The newly formed squads will travel to Pune for the first phase of the Pro League, to be held at the Chhattrapati Shivaji sports complex in Balewadi from February 18-28. The second & final phase will be held at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad between March 21 - April 3. UBA Season 2 will be telecast live on Ten Sports, another first in the history of Indian basketball.

Having the league in two phases allows more fans to witness the star players in action, and also gives teams time to prepare and strategise for the second phase. The eight teams from last year— Pune Peshwas, Hyderabad Sky, Chennai Slam (the reigning champions from the 2015 season) Punjab Steelers, Bengaluru Beast, Delhi Capitals, Haryana Gold and Mumbai Challengers— are back again this time around. The teams will be divided into North and South divisions, and each team will play four games: three against their division opponents and one cross-division match.

"Season 1 was about exploring possibilities and seeing what we could do to create opportunities for players," said UBA India Director Deepesh Solanki. "Now that a platform has been built, the next step is to successfully implement what we have planned."

"We are happy to see that kids are finally dreaming of being pros and having their own Indian basketball heroes to look up to. Instead of following Lebron they will now start idolising Jagdeep Singh Bains."

Bains, a former India star and mentor to Satnam Singh, was among the nine Indian players last year taken to Phoenix, Arizona in the USA by UBA India for a special basketball and fitness training programme.

The 195 players fought for 90 spots in the eight city-based teams for the league. "We have decided to reopen all the spots on the eight teams to give a fair chance to every athlete and for the coaches to take a good look at them." said Solanki, "We have been getting flooded with requests from players to join the tryouts— over 400 calls — but we could admit only around 200."

The coaches of last year’s finalist teams, Pune Peshwas and Chennai Slam, have been retained, and six new coaches for the remaining franchises will be hired. Prasanna Jayasankar, Shiba Maggon, Anthony PC, CV Sunny and Sunny Thomas are few of the respected Indian coaches roped in as part of the long term player development programmes, to ensure players are in top shape from one season to next.

"In my experience of over 30 years in basketball, this is the first time open tryouts have been held," said Jayasankar, a former Indian women’s team captain and longstanding coach, "All the boys are getting good opportunity. Anybody can come and give their best. From Indian players, to school kids, all are participating."

With the league now spreading to two cities and held over a total course of three weeks, UBA India has taken small but positive steps forward to expand their presence in Indian basketball. While Bains seems to be the marquee name in the league this time around, there is still a chance that bigger Indian stars will sign up to test their talent as the league gains traction and grows bigger. A few current and former Indian national players like Ajay Pratap Singh have already signed on for Season 2, and many more names could be revealed soon. A couple of Indian-origin players from abroad have also seen this as a boon to return to their ancestral homeland and participate in the growth of basketball here.

Let's be real, Indian kids are never going to idolise Jagdeep Singh Bains instead of LeBron James as Solanki suggested, but now, especially if the league receives good media and Ten Sports broadcast coverage, there is a chance that both of them can be idolised together!

Hoopdarshan Episode 26: NBA All Star Preview with NBA Canada's Payal Doshi

The 2016 NBA All Star Weekend is upon us, and for the first time, basketball's biggest exhibition event will take place outside the United States - in Toronto, Canada. To bring Hoopdarshan listeners closer to the event, we invited Payal Doshi, the Social Media Manager of NBA Canada, to give us a brief buzz of how Toronto has prepared for All Star. Of course, hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok give their unadulterated predictions and expectations for the All Star Weekend, too. We wrap up this episode by speaking to Payal about her experiences with Indian Basketball and reveal a big Bollywood-NBA surprise for ASW.

Toronto's own Payal Doshi is the Social Media Manager at NBA Canada. With vast experience as a writer, in TV and digital production, and social media outreach, she has worked with ANOKHI Media, The Score, OMNI Television, and more in the past. She was also the face of the famous 'Inside the Purple Room' series. You can follow her on Twitter at: @PayalDoshiTV.

The new episode of Hoopdarshan also touches on recent sobering news in Indian basketball, like the South Asian Games fiasco, and a variety of other topics in the wide breath between India and the NBA All Star Weekend, including Vince Carter tattoos, Sting, Drake, Butter Chicken, and taking Amir Johnson to the Taj Mahal.

Hoopdarshan aims to be the true voice of Indian basketball, and since we're such hopeless fans of the game, it will become the voice of everything basketball related we love, from the NBA to international hoops, too. On every episode of Hoopdarshan, we will be inviting a special guest to interview or chat to about a variety of topics. With expert insight from some of the brightest and most-involved people in the world of Indian basketball, we hope to bring this conversation to a many more interested fans, players, and followers of the game.

Make sure to follow Hoopdarshan on Soundcloud or search for 'Hoopdarshan' on the iTunes Store! Auto-sync Hoopdarshan to your preferred podcast app NOW!

Hoopdarshan can be found on...

February 10, 2016

ACG-NBA Jump announces 32 Indian finalists to compete for NBA D-League tryout

Out of a field of thousands from around the country, 32 young Indian basketball players have emerged, taking one step closer to realising their dream to play in the NBA's Development League (NBDL).

Last year, Satnam Singh became the first Indian player to be drafted into the NBA, and within a few months, found his way into playing for the D-League team Texas Legends. To find more Indian players to follow in Satnam's footsteps, the NBA joined hands with ACG Worldwide in October to launch ACG-NBA Jump, the first-ever basketball talent search programme in India.

Split into three phases, the programme aims to to provide basketball players (all men for the first iteration of this programme) between the ages of 18-22 from around the country the opportunity to develop their skills; one top player from the programme would also receive the opportunity to attend the NBA Development League (NBA D-League) National Tryout in the United States. After regional, elite camps in six Indian cities over the past four months (New Delhi, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata), Phase one of the programme is over, and ACG-NBA Jump have chosen 32 finalists to head back to Delhi-NCR for phase two, a national camp to determine the cream of the crop.

Satnam was present himself back in October to launch phase one of the programme in New Delhi.

The national camp will be held in at Jaypee Greens in Greater Noida from February 22-25, 2016, consisting of 32 players representing all six regional camps. While the camp will serve as a selection process, its main activity will be to impart intensive coaching to this select group of players thus enriching the talent pool of the country, reported OneIndia.com.

Via OneIndia

"ACG-NBA Jump has given basketball playing youth in India a pathway to professional ranks. We are committed to grow the program in the years to come," said NBA India Managing Director Yannick Colaco.
"While one out of the 32 players will get the big opportunity of a national tryout in the NBA D-League, the entire pool will be a part of Elite Talent Club and NBA will monitor their progress on a regular basis."
"Promotion of sports and youth development has always been a part of ACG's CSR vision and this programme is an important milestone towards realization of this vision," said ACG Director Karan Singh.
"The final pool of players represents the very goal of the programme that was to identify and hone the untapped talent pool of basketball in India. We strongly believe that our partnership with NBA to tap this potential and create a solid platform for the aspirants has found the right beginning. We are as excited as the 32 selected players and can't wait to see the final chosen one take off to the United States for the D-League National Tryout."

At the end of the four-day camp, the player with the best prospect will emerge as the winner of the talent search. In the third and final phase of the programme, thee top player will attend the NBDL Tryout in the USA for the opportunity to earn a spot on a D-League roster. The selected player will continue to undergo training up until the tryout in June 2016.

Sony SIX, the official broadcaster of the NBA in India, will create a feature around ACG-NBA Jump, following the programme through its various stages and tracking the winner till his NBA D-league tryout.

Finalists for ACG-NBA Jump National Camp:
  • Ludhiana: Dildar Ravinder Singh, Jaipal Singh Maan, Anmol Gurdip Singh, Manjinder Singh, Anmoldeep Singh, Rajveer Singh.
  • Delhi: Darshan, Jotish Joy, Himanshu Sharma, PalPreet Singh Brar, Arshpreet Singh, Sunil, Tushar Vijay, Vishal Kumar Gupta, Akimjeet S. Sohal, Rachit Prem Singh.
  • Hyderabad: Ambati Prudhveshwar Reddy, Dinesh Kumar Mishra, Eswar Ambala, PV Nikhil Sai Kumar.
  • Mumbai: Loveneet Singh, Samson Sandhu, Gaurav Chandel, Sanket Rajendra Kalbhor, Pranav Wagle.
  • Chennai: Jeevanantham Pandi, Arjun Rajagopal, A Surya, S Vignesh, Vijay Pranav.
  • Kolkata: Allen Saju Mattam, Sagar Dinesh Joshi, Manpreet Singh Grewal.

Basketball cancelled at the 2016 South Asian Games (India sends teams anyways)

The ongoing spat between the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has led to the organizers of the 2016 South Asian Games (SAG), currently in progress in Guwahati and Shillong, to cancel the basketball tournament at the event. The games are being held from February 5-16 and the basketball tournament for Men and Women - involving seven countries including India - was initially scheduled to be held from February 11-16. The cancellation came soon after the international basketball federation FIBA de-recognized this event after IOA conducted trials for an Indian team without the BFI's approval.

Unfortunately, the biggest victims of this fiasco have been the national team players representing India and other South Asian countries. The IOA coaxed India's Men's and Women's teams to prepare for the tournament and board on a flight to Guwahati despite BFI/FIBA dissaproval, but soon after, it was announced that the SAG Organisers had cancelled the basketball tournament.

"We tried to sort the issues out and suggested different options like going ahead with the event and give away medals without the results going into record books," Games Chief Executive Officer and Sports Authority of India Director General Injeti Srinivas told reporters, "But there was no response from some quarter. So we have decided not to go ahead with basketball. It will not be held now."

Here's a timeline of how the situation in Indian basketball spiraled down to this eventuality:

The draw and schedule for the basketball tournament at the SAG had already been laid out. India's Men were drawn in a group with Maldives and Pakistan in a six-team contest, and India's Women were drawn in a group with Bhutan and Nepal in a tournament with seven participating teams. Afghanistan, the SAG Men's basketball winners from 2010, did not send a Men's team. India finished with a silver in 2010, and it is a pity that they will not get a chance to go for the gold. Another loss is that India would've gotten a chance to rekindle their rivalry with Pakistan in a new sport, as our neighbours were supposed to be participating in both the Men's and Women's divisions. Even if the tournament had taken place, any records of performances would not have officially counted in FIBA's eyes.

Good job, old bureaucrats in suits, saris, and kurtas. Your efforts have ensured that every basketball team in Asia suffers something much worse than a loss: the finality of not being able to play at all. It's a distasteful irony: the only thing keeping basketball from developing in India are people who manage basketball and Indian sport itself.

February 9, 2016

Madhya Pradesh (Boys) and Chhattisgarh (Girls) win India's 2016 Sub-Junior Basketball Championship in Puducherry

The best of India's under-14 basketball talent got together on the same platform in Puducherry for a week of exciting hoops at the 2016 National Basketball Championship for Sub-Junior Boys and Girls from February 2-8. The 42nd edition of this long-running event came to an end with two closely-contest final games on Monday, February 8th. Madhya Pradesh's boys retained their title with a heart-thumping overtime victory while Chhattisgarh Girls bounced back from their final loss at the tournament's previous edition to claim top spot again.

Organized the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the 'Sub-Jr Nationals' were held at Puducherry's Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium. A total of 23 boys' teams and 27 girls' teams from around India participated.

Chhattisgarh returned to the girls' final with an aim to recapture their spot at the top of the podium after losing to Kerala in the final at Nashik 15 months ago. Facing a strong Tamil Nadu side, Chhattisgarh started the final contest on Monday in style, rolling to a 21-8 lead early in the first quarter. While their shots were falling off, TN played tough defense to close the gap after halftime and make it just a seven point game before the final period. Behind the efforts of Elizabeth Ekka (24 points), Chhattisgarh were able to hold on to a 54-48 win and celebrate as champions. Pavithra Sree led TN with 16 in the loss.

The boys finale pitted the tournament's two best teams - Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh - against each other, and the close finish showed that the two neighbouring states had little to separate them on court, too. The final was a repeat of the tournament's previous edition, where MP had defeated Chhattisgarh in a high-scoring game to win the gold. On Monday, it was Chhattisgarh who got started off on the right foot, with hopes to overturn their bitter loss last time and double up on the success of their girls' team. In a defensive contest, Chhattisgarh held on to a 31-20 lead at halftime. But the halftime break seemed their opponents the boost they needed, and MP turned the tables on Chhattisgarh by making a big comeback to take the lead. Chhattisgarh equalized the game in the last 10 seconds of regulation at 53-53, and when time expired, the game went into overtime. MP, fueled by their second-half momentum, separated themselves from their rivals in the five extra minutes to repeat as champions, 64-59. The duo of Jeet Kharwar (21) and Brijesh Tiwari (19) walked home as the most valuable performers in the final for the winning side.

Earlier in the day, the fight for the bronze medal took place in the girls’ and boys’ categories. In the girls' 3rd place match, Maharashtra comfortably defeated Madhya Pradesh 63-36 to capture the bronze medal. In the boys’ category, Rajasthan clinched 3rd place defeating Uttar Pradesh in a close game 71-66. Despite a few late mistakes, Rajasthan held on to their slim lead to close out the game and take home the bronze medal. Rajveer’s 21 points were crucial for Rajasthan. UP's Priyanshu put up a game-high 25 points in a losing effort, while Aniket added 16.

The winning teams were awarded a cash prize of Rs. 50,000 each, while the runners up were awarded Rs. 30,000 each. The third placed teams received a cash prize of Rs. 20,000 each.

A day earlier, Chhattisgarh girls were made to sweat till the very end in a tightly-contested semi-final contest against Maharashtra. Elizabeth Ekka exploded for 30 to give Chhattisgarh an early lead, but Maharashtra bounced back behind the efforts of Shruti Bhosale (16) to take the game into the fourth quarter. Chhattisgarh showed their late-game class and nerves to edge past for a 66-61 win in the end. In the other girls' semi-final, the trio of Pavithra Sree (20), Deepa D. (18) and Hari V. (16) led Tamil Nadu to a 70-57 win over Madhya Pradesh, blowing open a close game with a huge fourth-quarter run. Rajvi Desai scored 27 for MP in the loss.

MP found more favour in the boys' semi-final game, where they had defeated Rajasthan 59-46 behind a 25 point effort by Pankaj S. Rajveer SB scored 18 for the losing side. Chhattisgarh had little trouble getting past Uttar Pradesh despite a game-high 29 points by UP's star Priyanshu. Chhattisgarh started slow, but gained momentum as the game progressed and were in complete control of the second half en route to the 70-49 win. Rishab (18) and Sajjad (16) led Chhattisgarh's scoring surge.

Final Scores
  • Girls: Chhattisgarh (Elizabeth Ekka 24, Shweta S. 13) bt Tamil Nadu (Pavithra Sree 16) 54-48 (21-8, 8-9, 9-14, 16-17).
  • Boys: Madhya Pradesh (Jeet Kharwar 21, Brijesh Tiwari 19) bt Chhattisgarh (Sajjad Ali 13) 64-59 OT (12-15, 8-16, 15-8, 18-14, 11-6)

Third/Fourth Place Games
  • Girls: Maharashtra (Suzanne 14) bt Madhya Pradesh 63-36 (21-13, 17-6, 12-11, 13-6).
  • Boys: Rajasthan (Rajveer S. 21) bt Uttar Pradesh (Priyanshu 25, Aniket 16) 71-66 (22-18, 12-11, 19-16, 18-11).

Final Standings

  • 1. Madhya Pradesh
  • 2. Chhattisgarh
  • 3. Rajasthan
  • 4. Uttar Pradesh
  • 5. Andhra Pradesh

  • 1. Chhattisgarh
  • 2. Tamil Nadu
  • 3. Maharashtra
  • 4. Madhya Pradesh
  • 5. Karnataka

February 4, 2016

FIBA Asia finalises 2016 calendar at central board meeting in New Delhi

FIBA Asia - the continent's governing body for basketball - held the second meeting of their 2014-19 Central Board in New Delhi, India, the past weekend. During the meeting, FIBA Asia finalised the basketball calendar of 2016 international events and took steps to prepare national federations for the region's flagship competition - the new FIBA Asia Cup - in 2017. The meeting was hosted by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

Until recently, the biggest Asian basketball tournament has been the biennial FIBA Asia Championship, a competition held separately for Men and Women to determine the best team in the continent and to alternatively choose the Asian representative for the Olympic Games' basketball tournament and the FIBA World Cup. But starting in 2017, the format and nomenclature is set to change. The 'FIBA Asia Championship' will now become the 'FIBA Asia Cup' and for the first time, incorporate FIBA Oceania as well to include teams like Australia and New Zealand in the same competition as China, Iran, Philippines, India, etc. The new FIBA Asia Cup will be held every four years. Meanwhile, the biennal tournament previously known as the 'FIBA Asia Cup' - which incorporates 10 best teams in Asia for a tournament - will be changed to the 'FIBA Asia Challenge' and held under it's new moniker for the first time later this year.

FIBA Asia Central Board announced the upcoming season of events, with their full schedule and host countries:
  • 2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship: Iran - July 15-24, 2016 - The competition will qualify the top three teams to the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship.
  • 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge: Iran - September 9-18, 2016 - This event is the first step in the process of identifying the qualifiers for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup.
  • FIBA Asia Champions Cup: Iran/China - October 7-16, 2016 - Featuring the top club teams in Asia.
  • 2016 FIBA Asia Women's U18 Championship: China/Thailand - November 13-20, 2016 - The competition will qualify three teams to the 2017 FIBA U19 Women's World Championship.
The Central Board also decided to set a re-worked strategy for promoting FIBA 3x3 basketball competitions in Asia. It was also at this meeting that FIBA Asia discussed the current conflict between the BFI and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). With the 12th South Asian Games basketball tournament tipping off in Guwahati, India, next week, the IOA held trials to choose Indian national teams against the BFI's wishes. Due to this, FIBA sent a letter de-recognizing the tournament altogether and asked all South Asian teams to refrain from taking part.

February 3, 2016

BFI-IOA spat: FIBA de-recognizes basketball at South Asian Games, tells teams not to participate

Welcome to the latest chapter of the a Dante's Inferno, a descent through the nine circles into Hell, otherwise known as the harrowing drama plaguing the current state of Indian Basketball.

The newest step backward? After the ongoing spat between the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) regarding which Indian team (if any) will participate in the 2016 South Asian Games (SAG) starting this week, FIBA - the international basketball association - have decided to de-recognize the basketball tournament at the SAG altogether. On Tuesday, FIBA sent a letter to all South Asian countries to refrain from sending teams to the Games' basketball event.

The letter, signed by FIBA's Secretary-General Patrick Baumann and dated on February 2nd, was sent to all national federations whose nationals teams are due to participate in the basketball competitions (Men and Women) at the South Asian Games, which are slated to be held in India (Guwahati and Shillong) from February 5-16, 2016. The national federations are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and of course, India itself. It was titled URGENT - Non-recognition of South-Asian Games basketball tournament to be held from 5 to 16 February 2016. The basketball tournament at the Games is scheduled to be held from February 11-16.

In the letter, FIBA writes:

"Please be informed that due to unacceptable interference by the Indian Olympic Association in the affairs of the Basketball Federation of India, FIBA is unable to recognise and endorse the basketball competitions of the South-Asian Games scheduled to take place form 11 to 16 February 2016.
"The Indian Olympic Association as well as the State authorities in charge of sport in India continuously fail to recognise the Basketball Federation of India duly recognised by FIBA despite the several correspondences issued by FIBA to all relevant authorities in India. Accordingly, the Indian Olympic Association has granted to an Ad-hoc Committee the authority to select the Indian national teams due to participate in this event in complete violation of FIBA's decisions and directions.
"As a result, the matter was discussed at the last FIBA Asia Board meeting held on 30 January 2015. During this meeting, the decision was unanimously taken to condemn the actions undertaken by the Indian authorities in charge of sport which in essence deprive the national basketball federation of India duly recognised by FIBA the statutory right to select and manage its national teams.
In view of the seriousness of this matter, you are therefore requested to refrain from sending any of your national teams to this basketball event."

The FIBA warning was forthcoming considering recent developments. As many of you who closely follow Indian basketball may already know, there is a major rift between two parties competing for the helm of the BFI. Due to the fact that they follow BFI constitution in forming their committee, FIBA recognized the side led by President K. Govindraj - Team Govindraj - and they have since been responsible for hosting India's recent national championships and sending teams abroad for international tournaments. But the IOA hasn't recognized Team Govindraj after appeals by the competing group led by President Poonam Mahajan: Team Mahajan. All this confusion has meant that several Indian players have been forced to choose their loyalties between one side or the other and robbed Indian basketball of its necessary cohesion.

The IOA, in consultation with the Government of India, are behind the organizing and executive committee for the planning and management of the 2016 South Asian Games. But because of the broken relationship between the IOA and the BFI, there was confusion about the trials and formation of the Indian basketball teams in the Men's or Women's divisions for the SAG. The IOA announced that they will be holding trials for the Indian teams on Saturday, January 30th, at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi. But the BFI's Team Govindraj 'shot off a warning' on SportStar at the IOA for interfering with the basketball selection trials, which are being held by the IOA outside of their legal jurisdiction. Govindraj claimed to SportStar that Team India trials have already been concluded and the team chosen, but there has been no word released (yet) of which players will actually be representing India at the SAG.

So here we are, with a drama full of characters worthy of Shakespearean or Premchandic dramas. The IOA is organizing the SAG and sending basketball teams not approved by the BFI. Meanwhile, FIBA is telling no basketball teams to go to the SAG. I would hate to be the talented Indian and South Asian basketball player - so worthy of respect and support, so thirsty for international exposure - stuck in the middle of these fighting factions.

India is the reigning runner-up of the SAG basketball trophy (we lost in 2010 in the Final to Afghanistan in Dhaka). On February 11, the 2016 SAG's basketball tournament is due to start. Will anyone show up?

Indian basketball's youngest at Puducherry for 2016 Sub-Junior Nationals

Star players aren't born ready-made; it takes years of practice, training, and importantly, experience. For hundreds of India's future star basketball players, the biggest step of that valuable experience began on Tuesday, February 2, as the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) tipped off the 42nd Sub-Junior (U14) National Basketball Championship for Boys and Girls in Puducherry. A total of 23 boys' teams and 27 girls' teams from around India will be in Puducherry from February 2nd - 8th, 2016 for the tournament.

The tournament's opening ceremony took place at 6 PM on Tuesday at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium at Puducherry. Arise Steel is the main (title) sponsor of the event.

Participating Teams

  • Group A: Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Haryana, Maharashtra.
  • Group B: Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chandigarh.
  • Group C: Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Group D: Kerala, Gujarat, Puducherry.
  • Group E: Tamil Nadu, Goa, Punjab, West Bengal.
  • Group F: Bihar, Delhi, Telangana, Tripura.
  • Group A: Kerala, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal.
  • Group B: Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi.
  • Group C: Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha.
  • Group D: Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry.
  • Group E: Punjab, Goa, Rajasthan.
  • Group F: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana.
The 41st Sub-Junior Nationals were conducted in Nashik, Maharashtra, where the Kerala girls and the Madhya Pradesh boys emerged victorious clinching the gold medals. Chhattisgarh girls and boys were the second placed teams.

Another matter of interest at the nationals is that the daughter of politician Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra - Miraya Vadra - is playing for Team Haryana at the tournament. Her team lost to Tamil Nadu 80-58 on Tuesday.

The first day of the nationals didn't go as planned for hosts Puducherry. Puducherry's Girls teams were completely dismantled by Himachal Pradesh, who started off the first quarter with a 20-0 run and zoomed past to to a 47-15 victory. Meanwhile Kerala, the tournament's reigning champs, started their title defense in style, blowing past West Bengal with ease to a 48-17 victory behind 18 points by Krishna Priya SS.

Puducherry's boys team hardly fared better on opening day, going down to Gujarat 61-22. Boys' reigning champions Madhya Pradesh meanwhile played one of the most thrilling games of the day in a close win over Maharashtra. After holding to a comfortable 16 point lead after three quarters, MP allowed Maharashtra a dangerous late comeback, and were only saved by the buzzer as they held on to win 57-55 at the end of the game. MP's Pankaj Singh scored 26 for the winning side.

Selected Day 1 Scores

  • Odisha (Sourav Kumar Sahoo 16, Brahmananda Behera 14) bt Haryana (Aryan 14) 61-59 (10-14, 14-24, 18-13, 19-8).
  • Madhya Pradesh (Pankaj Singh 26) bt Maharashtra (Sankalp Panda 14) 57-55 (13-10, 10-7, 24-14, 10-24).
  • Gujarat (Rushal 15) bt Puducherry 61-22 (25-10, 12-5, 13-2, 11-5).
  • Kerala (Krishna Priya SS 18) bt West Bengal 48-17 (11-4, 21-5, 7-6, 9-2).
  • Tamil Nadu (Pavithra Sree 36) bt Haryana (Maika 32) 80-58 (23-6, 8-9, 23-14, 22-19).
  • Himachal Pradesh (Ananya Sanoria 19) bt Puducherry 47-15 (20-0, 5-2, 9-7, 13-6).

February 1, 2016

Orlando Magic hosted 2016 India Day, featuring Bollywood superstar Madhuri Dixit

They called it 'Jai Ho Magic' as an ode to another recent Indian cliche, and, like other NBA franchises who have understood the importance of reaching out to the Indian diaspora, the Orlando Magic held 'India Day' in their win over the Boston Celtics at Orlando's Amway Center on Sunday, January 31. Bollywood superstar and international humanitarian Madhuri Dixit joined in the full day of cultural festivities for Magic fans.

The Indian American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) led Orlando’s official India Day Celebration in Downtown Orlando on January 31st. The IACC created a full line up of excitement showcasing the Indian culture and community including an Indian Street Festival in front of the Amway Center. Through their ongoing partnership with the Orlando Magic, the IACC featured in-game festivities and several private events at the game. This cultural tradition was officially recognized by the NBA as the “Best Heritage Night in the NBA” in both 2014 and 2015.

The IACC hosted Madhuri Dixit, an award-wining Bollywood actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, who was the guest speaker at the IACC Fireside Chat entitled “Powerful Indian Women.” Madhuri was interviewed center-court at the Amway Center by Beena Parikh earlier in the day. IACC announced a partnership with TV Asia, an information and entertainment channel for the South-Asian community in North America, to produce a segment on India Day as well as to broadcast the “Powerful Indian Women” Fireside Chat with Madhuri Dixit LIVE from the Amway Center to one million US viewers.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer gave his official proclamation as January 31, 2016 at India Day in Orlando. Recognizing the fourth annual India Day event as a celebration of Indian-American heritage, culture and music in Central Florida and in commemoration of India's Republic Day (January 26), which honors the date on which the Constitution of India came into force. The proclamation was delivered by Orlando District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill at the Amway during the India Day celebrations.

“We are proud to partner with the Indian American Chamber of Commerce for the fourth consecutive year to host India Day Presented by Chase,” said Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins. “Sports truly is a rallying point that can bring all people together and speak any language. India Day is just one way for the Magic to show its appreciation to this segment of our fan base for their support and dedication."

A Cultural Street Fest was held pregame in front of the Amway Center, showcasing Indian cultural dancing from various local Indian organizations. Guests enjoyed henna tattoos, sari wrapping, turban tying, free t-shirts and more. Halftime entertainment was provided by the Bollywood Dance Academy.

As for the game itself, the Indian blessings turned out to be fortunate for the home team, as Orlando snapped their eight-game losing streak with a 119-114 win over Boston. Aaron Gordon was the Magic's star of the night with 19 points and 14 rebounds, and a dunk that worth that cliched 'Jai Ho'.