March 24, 2016

Former NBA player Joe Courtney is in Hyderabad broadcasting the UBA Basketball League

The 'About' section of his website describes him as "a seasoned businessman, Motivational and Transformational Speaker, Best Selling Author and Success Consultant." But to our specific purposes, the most note-worthy words come a line later. NBA. Michael Jordan. Charles Barkley. Chicago Bulls.

Joe Courtney played nearly a decade of professional basketball around the world in the 90s, including featuring in backup roles around the NBA. An undrafted player, the 6-foot-9 power forward played for the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, and San Antonio Spurs. Courtney's hoops career also took him to the CBA, France, Spain, Venezuela, Japan, and Slovenia.

Now, the global-hoops-traveller-slash-author-motivational-speaker brings his experience and talents to India. Courtney's new career move has brought him to Hyderabad, where he is one part of the broadcast team - along with Paul Crane - covering and commentating at the UBA Basketball League in the city's Gachibowli Stadium. Courtney will cover the league in Hyderabad until April 3rd, which will be the league's season 2 finale.

While young Indian players at the UBA Basketball League try out this interesting new opportunity in their careers, having Courtney in the periphery should be a lesson that basketball can open various doors into their future. Additionally, Courtney should bring a further dash of professionalism and legitimacy to this upstart league as it fights for its place within Indian basketball.

March 23, 2016


Stephen Curry and the NBA’s three-point explosion is evolving basketball across the globe

This feature was first published in my column for on March 13, 2016. You can find the original article here.

Whenever I play basketball at my favourite court – the ‘Benares Club’ in my hometown Varanasi – my friends feature among them the usual gang of universal pick-up hoops personalities: the slow, lumbering, but effective post-player; the mid-range wizard; the pesky little ball-hawker; the fast-break specialist; the veteran who gives sage advice about passing first and shooting second; the one player only on court to intimidate and collect fouls; the fearless athlete driving into the basket; the indiscriminate chucker.

Now, anyone who has played basketball in India – especially in pick-up games – would’ve noticed how much the game relies on fast-breaks. Too often, one player of the defensive team doesn’t really play defence and instead, waits out on the wings. If a defensive rebound is secured, a teammate pitches the ball forward (Kevin Love / Wes Unseld inspired) to the player who sprints down the length of the court, making a beeline to be positioned right below the opposing basket for an easy layup before the opponents can catch up. This play is risky because it puts extra pressure on defensive possessions, but when it works, the faster/fitter team can pile up points in a hurry.

This ‘technique’ has been used by many in my friends circle, too, but recently, I let my imagination think ahead of itself, and imagine a slightly different, future scenario. In this imaginary scene, there’s a fast-break opportunity, but the player who had sprinted down to the other end of the floor didn’t wait for the ball below the opposing basket. Instead, he took a sharp left turn to the corner of the court to place himself an inch outside the three-point line. Milliseconds later, another teammate on offense turned right to position himself on the other end. The defensive players who made it back in time had to spread in two directions too, leaving the middle wide open. The ball moved around from one corner to a player in the middle to the other corner before it was shot.


And just then, we were introduced to another important pick-up personality on the court, a character that hadn’t been valued or trusted too much in our parts in the past because, well, his speciality used to seem too damn unlikely to become a regular weapon in our offense. He was the three-point sniper.

He used to be just the shorter guy who had developed an outside shot as a survival instinct, his way of staying relevant on the court if he didn’t have the size, strength, or athleticism to bang down in the post or the handle to move with the ball and create his own shot. But now, he began to appear everywhere and was emulated by everyone else. The fearless athlete was shooting threes, the mid-range wizard was stepping out, the indiscriminate chucker didn’t need to be told twice, the foul-collector joined into the fun, and even the lumbering post-man got himself some range.

Basketball had changed. Outside had become the new inside. Threes were the new dunks.

And the root cause of this metamorphosis was this little, scrawny guard causing havoc thousands of kilometres away in California.


Basketball has a certain set of rules, and to a first-timer, remembering them all can seem tiresome. But the beauty of the game is that most of the rules are quite intuitive, and where basketball truly leaps into greatness is within the gaps between the rules. It is these gaps that bring in the creativity, the style, and the personality to the game. Everyone approaches the game differently, every unstoppable style is countered by a defence to stop it, and that defence evokes a new offensive style, calling the need for a new defence scheme, and so on and so forth. Basketball becomes a chess match, with each manoeuvre further evolving and developing the game.

And it is the NBA – the finest basketball league in the world – that is the forefront of the game’s evolution and its changing styles. Since it is the gold standard of basketball that young players aspire for, aesthetics and tactics adopted by the best players and teams in the NBA eventually trickle down to young players in NCAA Division 1, High School, and grassroots basketball around the world. Soon, it is not just the players, but many coaches and trainers who begin to adopt those tactics in their teaching of the game.

Basketball is a team game, but NBA history has been defined by game-changing individuals who have crashed the party with their own unique style of dominance and nudged a shift in the game’s philosophy over the years. Last month, the 99% Invisible podcast went into great detail in explaining how the game shifted from the biggest men to the smallest ever since its inception. When basketball was grounded in the NBA’s earliest years, players like George Mikan used their size and passing ability to become the best and stand tall over their competitors. Soon, the likes of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain added a breath-taking athletic ability to that size, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dominated college ball with his size so much that they had to ban dunking for a decade, and big men like Shaquille O’Neal became unstoppable all the way into the 90s because no one could match their combination of size, strength, and skill. Of course, mirroring the NBA, ‘taller’ was considered ‘better’ in basketball in the rest of the world, too. The ball went in to the big men first, who would scope out the defensive schemes and decide the best mode of offense for himself or his teammates.

But slowly, the perimeter player began to take over. It started in earnest with Magic and Bird, and then, the era of the swingman launched the NBA into a new direction with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and into the 2000s, LeBron James. Instead of playing inside-out, many of these teams centred around talented swingman used these perimeter stars to have the ball in their hands a lot and creating plays for themselves and for others. These players were faster than the big men and had a better ability to create their own shot and beat opponents off the dribble. Since they were smaller, more fans around the world related to these players, and the Jordanesque “Hero Ball” was born.

Which brings us to current day. The three-point shot was introduced in the ABA and later in the NBA in the 70s, and its ascent over the next few decades was slow and steady. But in the last few years, the numbers have skyrocketed. From 2.77 threes per attempted per game in 1980, NBA teams are now attempting nearly 24 threes a game. At the top of this revolution are players like Damian Lillard, James Harden, Klay Thompson, and Paul George.

And the three-point King – in every sense of the word – Stephen Curry.


Curry – the reigning MVP who is in line to become the MVP again – is having a season that is shattering NBA history. Apart from leading the league in scoring (30.7 ppg) and an All Time best Player Efficiency Rating (32.99), Curry has made more threes already in a season than anyone in history with over a month left in the season, (he’s number 2 and number 3 on that list), made 300 threes in a season, has broken the streak of most games with at least one three made, and is making over 5.1 threes per game, by far the best rate in NBA history. In a league that has featured Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, and more, Curry is already the greatest shooter of All Time – and he’s still only 27!

More than the numbers however, are the emotions that Curry has evoked in the basketball world. He has made the three-pointer the sexiest thing in the game. Curry’s range continues to get farther and farther away from the basket. He is making 25 to 30 footers with ease, and that game-winning shot over the Thunder a few weeks ago – his casual confidence to even try that shot and then make it – disoriented the world’s understanding of how even to play defence against someone that skilled. Just like Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, and Shaquille O’Neal in the past, he has become an offensive problem that will need a creative, evolved defensive solution.

Curry is also the most popular player in the NBA: his jersey sells more than any other and he would’ve been the leading All Star vote-getter had it not been Kobe Bryant’s last season. Many players have been compared to Michael Jordan over the last 15 years, but Curry’s level of night-to-night dominance and the circus that follows his greatness makes him in many ways the closest one (for a short term). The Warriors, gunning for Jordan’s Bulls record of 72 wins in a season, have become the league’s most fascinating traveling bandwagon. Decades from now, we’ll see young players in remote parts of Earth wearing ‘Warriors # 30’ jerseys the way we see ‘Bulls # 23’ today.

Curry isn’t the only one, but he has been the front-runner of the three-point revolution, and the NBA’s smartest analytic minds will tell you that if a good shooter takes (and makes) a high percentage of their threes, it is far more effective than the same shooter making a higher percentage of their twos (and particularly, the less effective long-twos). Even the maths is now telling us that if you can shoot above a certain percentage from behind the arc, then shoot away.

Of course, no revolution comes without its complaints. A few months ago, Curry’s former coach Mark Jackson mentioned that, despite his talents, Curry was ‘hurting the game’. “What I mean by that is that I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids, and the first thing they do is they run to the 3-point line,” Jackson said, “You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of the game.”

Curry’s (and others’) penchant for the three-point line seems to have put the mid-range game on life-support, and even many of today’s talented bigger players (DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl Towns) are moving further and further away from the basket on offense. No wonder Brian Shaw – former Laker player and Nuggets coach – in India last week complained that the Warriors’ success was only due to a lack of good Bigs in today’s game.

Some NBA circles are even considering tweaking with the three-point line and moving it back to make the shot tougher and bring back attention to mastering the inside game.


Mark Jackson is right in some ways, and wrong in many others. Sure, none of us are Steph Curry, but then again, none of us have been Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, or LeBron James either. Those athletic, talent, or size limitations haven’t stopped young players from around the world emulating their favourite stars. Big guys want to flex and bang inside like Shaq, bring some finesse to the game like Garnett, or copy Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky-hook. Wingmen want to dominate from the perimeter through scoring like Jordan or Kobe or by running the floor as All-Round players like Magic or LeBron. The smallest guys on the court relied on their speed like Iverson or Isiah Thomas. These models of excellence seem practically unachievable, but if we’re not going to try and be like the best, why even try?

And now, there’s Steph Curry, who is the Abdul-Jabbar of perimeter players, making a three-pointer look as easy as the big man’s traditional sky-hook. Because of Curry’s size – or lack thereof – he has further democratised basketball, making excellence look like a tangible, achievable goal, even for those without otherworldly genetic blessings.

But, hey, Mark Jackson is right: None of us are actually Steph Curry, who is a once-in-a-generational talent. He is blessed with speed, genius, and puts in more hard-work into perfecting his art than most beings on Earth. He is transforming the game as we speak, in real time, hitting his sixth and seventh three while we’re still tweeting about his third and fourth.

Curry’s exploits are changing the approach to the three-point-line, and thus, the entire approach to attacking and defending in the game of basketball. There will soon come a time among the younger generation of ballers where a three-point shot becomes a bigger weapon even in the arsenal of pick-up games than the humble two-pointer.


Out on our court in Varanasi, my imagination is suddenly crashed by reality. Sure, the players on offense are spreading wide instead of running into the basket, but their efforts are coming up short. None of us have close to the speed, release, accuracy, form, and perfection to our shot that Curry has.

Instead of expecting a splash, there is a whole lot more dry clangs off the rim.

The ball is rebounded by the defensive side, who throw it forward for a quick, fast-break possession, too. But this team stays within their limits, and goes for the easiest, most reliable scoring opportunity: a bee-line to the basket and an easy lay-up. Maths always wins, and until we can shoot threes with the accuracy of the NBA’s new greats, the easiest shot in the game is still the best shot in the game!

Ten Sports to broadcast five seasons of the UBA Basketball League in India

Good news for Indian basketball fans who are tired of never seeing Indians playing basketball on TV.

Last year, Ten Sports, and its affiliate channels Ten HD and Ten Action, began to show tape delay matches of the experimental first season of the UBA Basketball League. As the league grew bigger in the second season, so did its relationship with its broadcast partner - this season, the league is being held over the course of several months in two different cities, and as a bonus, all of its matches are being shown live on the Ten Sports Network Channels. This is the first time that domestic basketball is being shown on privately-owned TV channels in India.

Turns out, there is a lot more basketball to bounce into our eyeballs in the near future.

UBA India - the organizers of the UBA Basketball League - and the Ten Network recently announced that the two have signed an incredible five-year broadcast partnership deal. Season 2 - currently in progress - will have a minimum of 36 live matches with international quality HD production. Broadcast veterans Paul Crane and Victor Howell will lead the broadcast coverage for Season 2 on Ten Sports.

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Announcing the deal, Rajesh Sethi, Global CEO of Ten Sports, said, "We are delighted to partner with UBA for India’s first Professional Basketball League. I am confident that UBA will change the face of Indian Professional Basketball forever. There is a lot of participation in basketball among younger audiences and through the UBA, Ten Sports will offer the best of Indian basketball to our viewers. With increased opportunity to take up the sport professionally and with the training camps, we will see more talent coming through the ranks which will enhance the quality of play. Ten Sports will offer the best of programming on UBA through live broadcasts, studio and wrap-around shows and other educational content."

"The players were trained just as pro athletes train in the US, every day with very little time off. The first week they struggled, but in the second week, their strength and ability saw significant increases. We know with continued programmes, the players can reach elite levels," said Jody Basye, US Coaching Sr. Manager.
A documentary titled ‘Inside the UBA’ on the rigorous training camp and the life of the to-be stars was filmed and is airing on Ten Sports Network channels. The UBA plans to make these training camps for the best players an annual affair and provide them the much-needed exposure to improve the standard of the game in India.
UBA Season 1 saw celebrities like Abhishek Bachchan and Evelyn Sharma attend matches, while Union minister of state for parliamentary affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Telangana State’s sports minister, T. Padma Rao, were special guests. The UBA will continue working towards involving celebrities in the game and the league.
Tommy Fisher, President of Fisher Industries and CEO of UBA, said, "The response of Bollywood, local and central government agencies has been extremely positive. In the weeks, months and years ahead, we plan on working hand in hand to help develop basketball as a superior sport and form of entertainment in India."

The UBA League has brought an exciting new avenue for Indian Basketball. The first season of the league was held in summer 2015. The UBA brought together teams representing eight different Indian regions – Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Pune – to Hyderabad for a two-week long competition. The team colours, logos, jerseys, and names added an exciting new dimension to Indian basketball like never before. The league was short, and there was no ‘home-and-away’ format, but it was an encouraging start.

This year, the UBA Basketball League has doubled its efforts for the second season. After selection tryouts among hundreds of players in Bengaluru, the league launched Season 2 in two phases in two different cities – Pune and Hyderabad – last month and stretched out the schedule of games to nearly seven weeks. The first phase of games have already been held in Pune; the second phase is set to begin in Hyderabad.

This season, matches are broadcast live on Ten Action and Ten HD on two primetime slots, at 4.30 PM and 7 PM, to ensure maximum coverage and reach for the UBA Pro League.

You can find the full schedule of games on the Ten Network this season on UBA India's website.

This is an extremely encouraging development. I became a huge NBA fan primarily because, growing up, I had an opportunity to see the best NBA players perform live in TV while sitting a world away from them, or watch shows about their lifestyle, their mentality, their preparation, and more. As I grew up and began to dive my interest into Indian basketball, I was sad to see that there was very little available for easy and mainstream consumption for fans. Without that fan reach, young Indians haven't been able to idolise or be inspired by India's top players. This new Ten Sports deal has the potential to change that. Many more Indian fans of all ages will be able to tune in and catch top Indian players in action or learn about them in UBA's off-court programming. While the league still doesn't feature many of the Indian national team's trademark names, national TV visibility will create names out of the new faces, and perhaps, urge some of those trademark names to be swayed towards the UBA, too. Hopefully, we will see a day when the next generation of Indian basketball fans are able to learn about their domestic players as well as they know the NBA stars tens of thousands of kilometers away.

March 19, 2016

Restart Game: The UBA League brings an exciting new avenue for Indian Basketball

Without a professional basketball league, basketball hasn’t received the media and mainstream visibility it deserves, and the financial growth of the sport has suffered as a result. But perhaps, there is a chance to try again, to give the sport the boost it needs from a different angle. And through the early steps of their basketball league, the Universal Basketball Alliance (UBA India) is trying to do just that.

Click here to read my full feature on SportsKeeda!

March 16, 2016

Two Indian basketball starlets get scholarships to play in Japan

Last summer, the basketball relationship between India and Japan strengthened when two of the Indian national squad's finest players - Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh - received offers to play in Japan's BJ Summer League. Amrit Pal and Amjyot's performances were so dominant that they left Japanese scouts impressed and, by the time the Summer League ended, both tall Punjabis found themselves receiving contracts to play for Tokyo Excellence of the Japanese D-League. Starring over in the land of the rising sun, the two big men raised awareness of the potentially deep pool of basketball talent back in India.

Pallavi Sharma
Earlier this month, the seeds that Amrit Pal and Amjyot planted have started to bear fruit. But as a pleasant surprise, instead of chasing top level professional talents from India, some Japanese basketball minds have decided to start younger - and start with women.

Two young Indian starlets - Delhi's Pallavi Sharma and Punjab's Anmolpreet Kaur Pannu - have received scholarship offers to head to Japan as student-athletes this year. This is a wonderful opportunity for both young women as they hope to stay on track with their education while furthering their hoop dreams under a better structure in one of Asia's basketball powerhouses. Basketball is the third rank Women's basketball team in Asia and rank second in the continent in the youth division. Learning the game alongside a higher talent pool should help both Sharma and Pannu realise their full potential.

The 6-foot-8 Sharma, 17, is currently an 11th grade student at the Modern School (Barakhamba) in New Delhi. She has won a five-year all-paid scholarship from Hakuoh School and University in Japan. She helped Modern School win the National School Games title and was also part of the Delhi women’s team. She has trained under Coach Shiba Maggon (former Indian captain) at the SM Cagers Academy in Delhi. "I saw great potential in Pallavi three years ago in an under-16 national training camp in Gandhinagar," Maggon told The Hindu. After an accident that resulted in three major surgeries, Sharma was able to recover, restart her basketball training, and eventually secure this scholarship.

Anmolpreet Kaur Pannu
6-foot-1 Pannu, 16, is in in the 11th grade at the Malwa Khalsa Senior Secondary Girls School in Ludhiana, Punjab. She has been selected for a three-year scholarship at the Toagaukuen High School in Tokyo, which is an elite basketball academy. Pannu improved her basketball skills when she joined the legendary Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA) two years ago under the training of Teja Singh Dhaliwal. Dhaliwal ensured to get her to the trial for the three-year basketball scholarship in Noida back in September, which she cleared. She hails from Rountan village in Shahpur Nakodar, Jalandhar. In an interview with The Times of India, Pannu declared that this scholarship was a "dream come true".

Congratulations to both these young women, and hopefully they will be able to hone their skills in the new environment to become better players. Any improvement will help them in their own future professional careers and hopefully aid the rise of India's basketball teams whenever they return home.

And in the case of homesickness, at least they'll have each other in the same time-zone. Plus, a couple of superstar big brothers - Amrit Pal and Amjyot - will be around too, proudly waving the Indian national flag at basketball games in Japan!

March 14, 2016

2016 Federation Cup: Kerala Women rise to the top; ONGC Men make it a four-peat

At Goa, the best in Indian basketball clashed against the best. The top performing state/unit teams from around the country came together for the competition of the elites, the 30th Federation Cup Basketball Championship for Men and Women. After six daysT of high-quality basketball performances, age-old rivals met up in Finals on Monday, March 14, at the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium at Goa University in Teleigao. The two finals were settled when the young Kerala Women's squad leaped up to defeat Chhattisgarh and Dehradun's ONGC made it four gold medals in a row with a defeat of IOB.

The 2016 Federation Cup was organized by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Goa Basketball Association (GBA) from March 9-14. The annual tournament generally features the Champion District/Unit/Club from the top eight teams of the previous year's Senior National Championship in the Men's section, and the top eight state teams from the previous Senior National Championship in the Women's section. This year, hosts Goa added their units/state teams to the competition fray as well.

Old foes ONGC (Dehradun) and Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai (IOB) met once again in a final at the national stage. The two best Men's club teams in India have been sharing honours for the past several years, and defending champs ONGC were now looking for their fourth final win in a row following last year's gold medal in Pune. ONGC blazed ahead to an unbelievably hot start, leading IOB 27-5 after the first quarter alone. The quarter break provided the perfect tonic to IOB's woes, who stormed back to make the game competitive again at halftime, with ONGC leading just 31-26. With the game hanging in the balance until the final period, ONGC blew the game wide open by capitalizing on their opponent's offensive struggles to secure a 73-57 win. Team India veterans Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (20) and Yadwinder Singh (17) led the way for the winning side. International star Pratham Singh scored 25 for IOB in the loss.

The Women's final was also a captivating affair, featuring the young and star-studded Kerala squad taking on the current established powers of Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh's biggest strength was in Poonam Chaturvedi, their 6-foot-9 center who is India's tallest female basketball player. Chaturvedi had been unstoppable throughout the course of the tournament, and continued her dominant streak with 33 points and 11 rebounds in the final. But Kerala's speed and hot shooting had brought them this far, and gave them confidence to take an early lead in the final. At halftime, Kerala led 43-41, but it was their big third-quarter push that finally settled the game. Kerala outscored Chhattisgarh 22-15 in the third, and were able to maintain their advantage through the final period to secure a 80-71 win. The talented Keralite trio of Stephy Nixon (26), Jeena PS (22), and Neenumol PS (21) led the way in the win. Sharanjeet Kaur of Chhattisgarh added 21 in her team's losing effort.

ONGC's Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Chhattisgarh's Poonam Chaturvedi were named MVPs of the tournament.

The BFI also befittingly chose the finale of the Federation Cup to felicitate yesteryear Senior India basketball legends. The players felicitated were Hanuman Singh (Arjuna Awardee), Hanif Patel, Mohammed Rizwan, Dilip Murthy, Siraj Ahmed (all former India men's players), Ajay Sud (Vice President-BFI), K Govindaraj (President-BFI), SK Kataria, Abbas Moontasir (both Arjuna Awardees), Sat Prakash Yadav (current head coach of the Indian men's team and former India men's player), Reginald Rajan (former India player) and Parminder Singh (Arjuna Awardee).

Earlier in the day, Telangana won third place defeating the South-Eastern Central Railways (SECR) Bilaspur Women 65-56. Telangana were led by M. Gayathri’s 20 points and P. Divya’s 18 points, while Seema Singh scored 26 points to go with 15 rebounds for SECR. In the men’s third place match, Army Red edged past Vijaya Bank, Bengaluru to clinch the bronze medal. Karnataka guard Mayur Bhat had 23 points and Jai Ram Jat added 16 in Army’s victory, while Vijaya Bank forward Arvind Arumugam had 25 points in the losing effort.

Final Scores
  • Women: Kerala (Stephy Nixon 26, Jeena PS 22, Neenumol PS 21) bt Chhattisgarh (Poonam Chaturvedi 33, Sharanjeet Kaur 21) 80-71 (23-17, 20-24, 22-15, 15-15).
  • Men: ONGC (Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi 20, Yadwinder Singh 17, Trideep Rai 15) bt. IOB (Pratham Singh 25, Aravind Annadurai 13) 73-57 (27-5, 4-21, 20-21, 22-10).

Bronze Medal Matches
  • Telangana (M. Gayathri 20, P. Divya 18) bt SECR (Seema Singh 26) 65-56 (11-10, 22-8, 20-17, 12-21).
  • Army Red (Mayur Bhat 23, Jai Ram Jat 16, Vivekananda Das 14) bt Vijaya Bank (Arvind Arumugam 25, Rajesh Uppar 14, M. Navin 13pts) 76-66 (22-19, 17-16, 15-15, 22-16)

Final Standings

  • 1. Kerala
  • 2. Chhattisgarh
  • 3. Telangana

  • 1. ONGC
  • 2. IOB
  • 3. Army Red

March 8, 2016

India's top basketball teams head to Goa for 2016 Federation Cup

Two years ago, the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium at Goa University in Teleigao hosted one of the contemporary high-points of Indian basketball. The 2014 Lusofonia Games were being held in Goa, and it was at this stadium where Head Coach Scott Flemming led the Indian national Men's squad to a memorable basketball gold medal victory in the tournament. While Goa has never been known to flaunt much basketball structure or associate positive history with the sport, this was a moment that generated real excitement for the sport among local fans.

This week, the same indoor stadium will get a chance to take a step further. The 30th Federation Cup All India Basketball Tournament for Men and Women - organized by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Goa Basketball Association (GBA) - is set to be held in Goa from March 9-14. A tournament among only the elite teams in the sport in both men's and women's division, the Goa University will once again play host to some of the most talented players in Indian Basketball starting tip off on Wednesday, March 9.

The Federation Cup is held annually and is one of the most coveted tournament's for basketball clubs/state teams throughout India. Generally speaking, in the men’s section, the top eight state teams from the previous year’s Senior National Championship send the Champion District/Unit/Club of the State Championship/Inter-district/Inter-Unit. Counting a team from hosts' Goa, this year's Men's competition will feature nine teams. In the women’s section, the top eight state teams from the previous year’s Senior National Championship are eligible to participate, along with the Champion team of the Indian Railways Unit. Another significance of the Federation Cup is that it serves as the qualifying tournament for the FIBA Asia Champions Cup for Men, which pits the top clubs in the continent against each other. The winning men’s team from the Federation Cup qualifies to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, which is set to be held in October this year.

The Federation Cup will seek to bounce back after the fiasco surrounding the tournament a year ago. Last year's Federation Cup was held in Pune (Maharashtra) around the same time that the BFI broke apart into two separate executive committees, with meeting one in Bengaluru, one in Pune. The Pune committee - led by Poonam Mahajan - organised the 2015 Federation Cup, but it is the Bengaluru committee - led by K. Govindraj - that now has control over the BFI and is organizing the 2016 Federation Cup. ONGC (Men) and Southern Railway (Women) were crowned champions in Pune and will return this year to defend their title in Goa as well. ONGC have won the last three gold medals at the Federation Cup and will be seeking a four-peat.

Teams participating in the 2016 Federation Cup are:

  • Group A: ONGC (Uttarakhand), Bhiwani Club (Haryana), Vijaya Bank (Karnataka), Ludhiana Basketball Academy (Punjab).
  • Group B: Indian Overseas Bank (Tamil Nadu), Army Red (Services), Kerala Police (Kerala), North Western Railway (Rajasthan), Don Bosco Oratory (Goa).

  • Group A: Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Goa.
  • Group B: Delhi, South East Central Railway (Chhattisgarh), Karnataka, Telangana.

You can find a detailed schedule of matches via the BFI here.

"The six-day tournament will be played on league cum knock out basis which will feature champion club from the top eight states of the previous year’s Senior National Championship", Goa Basketball Association secretary Ashley Rosario told reporters in Goa. Goacom reported that DD Sports will telecast the tournament's semi-finals, finals, and closing ceremony live nationally. Amita Mascarenhas and Suzeth Durate will be Goa’s flag bearer for the opening and closing ceremony.

March 3, 2016

Hoopdarshan Episode 27: Basketball Legend Jayasankar Menon and the Indian Basketball Players Association

On Episode 27 of the Indian basketball podcast Hoopdarshan, hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok are blessed to welcome Jayasankar Menon, a retired legend of the game and the Secretary-General of the Indian Basketball Players Association (IBPA). In a candid and entertaining chat, Menon discusses the IBPA's efforts to save basketball from its conflicts in India, his glory days as Indian captain and Asian All Star, future direction of Indian hoops, and why we should thank a reckless Auto-Richshaw wallah for his success.

Menon was the captain of the Indian National basketball team in the 90s. Originally from Kerala and honed further in Tamil Nadu, Menon played power forward for India in his hayday, and rose to become of the country's top players. He was the first Indian to be chosen for an Asian All Star team in 1997, was nominated for the Arjuna Award, won 2 gold medals for India in the South Asian Games, and won 5 senior national gold medals for Railways and Tamil Nadu. Now, he's the director of Chennai's Professional Basketball Academy and Secretary-General of the IBPA, which was launched last year.

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.

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