September 30, 2017

Al Riyadi win 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in China; India's ONGC return winless

For Lebanon's Al Riyadi, the final of the 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup presented a familiar challenge. It was the same competition, the same time of the year, the same arena, the same city, and the same opponent: China Kashgar. But after losing in a close battle in last year's final, the Lebanese squad bounced back in style to get their revenge. On Saturday, September 30, at the 2017 final of Asia's premier club basketball tournament, Al Riyadi blew out China Kashgar in their homeland to clinch the gold medal at the Chenzhou Sports Center in Chenzhou, China.

Ten of the top club teams from different countries in Asia took part in this championship, held from September 22-30. India's representative at the FIBA Asia CC was once again Dehradun's squad ONGC - champions of the Federation Cup. But missing a couple of their key players to injury or other professional duties, ONGC lost all of their preliminary round games to return winless from Chenzhou - just like last year.

In the rematch of the 2016 final, Al Riyadi and China Kashgar set up a battle of the titans. But from the tip-off, Al Riyadi were immediately the hungrier of the two squads. Al Riyadi jumped up to an easy lead in the first quarter and extended their advantage to a 20-point lead, 46-26 by halftime. Kashgar had no answers for Al Riyadi's imports Robert Daniels (21) and Quincy Douby (17) who led the way to an easy 88-59 victory. This is Al Riyadi’s second overall Champions Cup title after first winning the plum in 2011. They also gave Lebanon their fifth Champions Cup crown overall, tying Iran for the most titles in the tournament’s history.

Earlier in the day, Kazakhstan's BC Astana edged Iran's Petrochimi 81-78 in an entertaining, back-and-forth battle to secure 3rd place at the competition. Anthony Clemmons (22) and Justin Carter (19) led the way for Astana, while Behnam Yakhchali paced Petrochimi with 18 in the loss.

China Kashgar's guard Darius Adams was named MVP of the tournament.

Once again, India's representative at this tournament were ONGC from Dehradun. But while the club side is dominant in domestic tournaments, they had a difficult time keeping pace with most of the talented squads at the FIBA Asia CC. ONGC were led by former India captain Trideep Rai in his first major stint as coach, and relied on the likes Anoop Mukkanniyil, Yadwinder Singh, and Riyazuddin to marshal them forward. But the squad had to survive without the services of two of their (and India's) best talents: captain Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi, who was on the team list but couldn't play due to injury, and Amritpal Singh, who has recently signed a contract with the NBL's Sydney Kings in Australia. ONGC were placed in Group B of the preliminary round stage along with Shabab Al Ahli (Dubai), Al Riyadi (Lebanon), Dacin Tigers (Chinese Taipei), and China Kashgar (China).

From the very first game against Dacin Tigers, ONGC were given a rude wake-up call. Featuring Indian-American former NBA player Sim Bhullar, Dacin raced to a 28-9 lead in the first quarter and didn't let their foot off the accelerator until they were leading comfortably in the final quarter. Led by Chia-Jung Chang (22) and Tzu-Kang Wang (17) Dacin won the game 94-62.

ONGC's tournament didn't get any easier, as, two days later, their next challengers were hosts and reigning champs China Kashgar. ONGC had no answers for Darius Adams, who led a balanced Kashgar attack with 25 to help his side to a 92-47 victory. ONGC struggled offensively except for a decent scoring night by guard Arjun Singh (17).

ONGC's worst performance came the next day against the eventual winners, Al Riyadi. The Lebanese side showed no mercy from the tip-off, taking advantage of ONGC's careless errors (31 turnovers) and soft defense to drop over 30 points in the first three quarters of the game. Al Riyadi's offensive explosion led them to a 127-51 victory, led by Quincy Douby (22), Amir Saoud (21), Jean Abd El Nour (18) and Wael Arakji (17).

ONGC still had an opportunity to make it out of the group stage against their closest opponents in the group, Dubai's Shabab Al Ahli, in their last preliminary stage game. ONGC stayed neck-to-neck with Shabab throughout, trailing only 39-36 in halftime. But a scoring drought in the third quarter cost ONGC some momentum, and despite an exciting late charge, they couldn't stop Shabab from surviving with a 72-71 victory. Qais Omar Alshabebi led all scorers with 26 for Shabab while Khalifa Salem added 16. Veteran ONGC guard exploded for 20 points while Arjun Singh pitched in with 17 and 10 rebounds in the loss.

The loss left ONGC at the bottom of Group B with a 0-4 record and knocked them out of qualification for the knockout stage.

Without Bhriguvanshi and Amritpal, there were no individual superstars to rescue ONGC in crucial stretches, but the team featured a balance of players who all averaged around 10 points per game, including Mukkanniyil, Riyazuddin, Arjun Singh, and Yadwinder Singh. Mukkanniyil and Yadwinder each averaged 9 rebounds per game, too. Much of the responsibility for carrying this squad came on the shoulders of veteran (over 30) players, and despite their best efforts, they simply didn't have enough in the gas to eke out a victory.

Final Standings
  • 1. Al Riyadi (Lebanon)
  • 2. China Kashgar (China)
  • 3. BC Astana (Kazakhstan)
  • 4. Petrochimi (Iran)
  • 5. Chooks-To-Go (Philippines)

All Tournament Team
  • Darius Adams (China Kashgar) - MVP
  • Robert Daniels (Al Riyadi)
  • Quincy Douby (Al Riyadi)
  • Arsalan Kazemi (Petrochimi)
  • Justin Carter (BC Astana)

September 27, 2017

Indian multi-sport (including basketball) youth championship 'Sports For All' to be held in Hyderabad and Mumbai

Think of it as India's own domestic youth Olympics, a version of our National Games for the youth, but with more bombast and interaction than ever before. This is the mission with which that 'Sports For All' (SFA), India's first professional multi-sporting championship for the youth, will return with championship series in dozens of sports - including basketball! - in Hyderabad and Mumbai this year.

In Hyderabad, the SFA Championship will be held for the first time from November 4-17 at the Gachibowli Stadium and LB Stadium for school level athletes. In Mumbai, where the SFA Championship is returning for the third year, it will be held from December 6-17 at the city's DY Patil Sports Stadium.

2017 SFA Championship Sports
  • Hyderabad: Basketball, Handball, Volleyball, Throwball, Hockey, Kabaddi, Football, Water Polo, Kho Kho, Badminton, Table Tennis, Tennis, Athletics, Shooting, Archery, Carrom, Swimming, Chess, Judo, Takewondo, Boxing, Fencing, and Karate.

  • Mumbai: Basketball, Football, Handball, Hockey, Kabaddi, Kho Kho, Throwball, Volleyball, Water Polo, Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Carrom, Chess, Shooting, Squash, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Boxing, Fencing, Judo, Karate, Sport MMA, Taekwondo and Wrestling.

  • Through these events, the SFA claims that athletes will get benefits like digital profile recording of their statistics, HD video recording of their performances, facilities on-par with international tournaments, and governance from nationally and internationally certified officials.

    Interested athletes and schools can learn more about SFA by logging on to their website, where you can find links to register for Hyderabad school, Mumbai schools, and Mumbai colleges.

    September 25, 2017

    Australian basketball team Ringwood Hawks to tour Kerala for International Hoopathon in November

    Ringwood Hawks, the women's basketball team who play in the BigV league in Australia, will visit India in early November to take part in five matches against Kerala's All Star Women's team in five cities around the state for the International Hoopathon Series 2017. A number of local schools and colleges in each city of this tour will be invited to take part in skills and entertainment competitions.

    The tour is being organised by Kerala's Team Rebound, the auspices of the Kerala Basketball Association and approval of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). This is the first time that Kerala is hosting an international women's basketball event.

    "It is our endeavor to organise this International Hoopathon Series as the beginning of the Roadmap for Team India to improve its standing at the Asian level" said Mohammed Iqbal, the president of Team Rebound.

    The Hawks already have a close relationship with India - and Kerala in particular. Ten years ago, India and Kerala basketball legend Geethu Anna Rahul played for Ringwood in Australia, becoming the first Indian women to play professionally abroad, and won MVP of the BigV division.

    Ringwood Hawks schedule in Kerala - November 5-12, 2017
    • November 5: Regional Sports Centre - Kochi
    • November 7: VKK Menon Indoor Stadium - Trichur
    • November 9: Indoor Stadium - Kottayam
    • November 11: Jimmy George Indoor Stadium - Thiruvanathapuram
    • November 12: VKN Menon Indoor Stadium - Calicut

    PJ Sunny, President of the Kerala Basketball Association said "Such international matches will help the women's basketball to grow further in Kerala and KBA is extremely happy to be joining hands with Team Rebound."

    During the 125th birthday of World Basketball last year, Team Rebound & KBA joined hands to organise the Kerala Hoopathon, where basketball was introduced to 12,500 kids between the ages of 10-12 across 125 schools in all districts of the state.

    September 24, 2017

    Indian basketball role models Satnam Singh and TJ Sahi told the youth there is no hope in the country. Were they wrong?

    This article was first published in my blog for The Times of India Sports on September 14, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

    Talwinderjit Singh “TJ” Sahi and Satnam Singh both started on the bench for the Indian national team in summer, as the squad played—and failed—at the prestigious FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon. India lost all three of their preliminary round games and returned home disappointed. An injury to one of India’s most important players—Vishesh Bhriguvanshi—forced Sahi to play a slightly larger role than expected; Satnam, however, played less than ten minutes per game and his contributions were almost insignificant.

    Sahi (33) and Satnam (21), two of India’s most-popular basketball players, are on opposing stages of their respective careers. Sahi, an uber-athletic 6-foot-1 point guard from Punjab, has been in and out of India’s national system for a decade. Over a colourful career, he has had serious clashes with basketball and government authority in his state and the country, found himself embroiled in multiple controversies, and faced expulsion from the national squad because of those controversial stands. Nevertheless, his offensive talent and India’s shortage of star perimeter players ensured his return to national colours over the past few years.

    Satnam, meanwhile, is Indian basketball’s golden boy. At 9, he was a farmer’s son in a small Punjabi village. By 14, he was recruited into the world-class IMG Academy in the United States to hone his basketball skills. By 19, he made history by becoming the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA. This summer, after spending the last two years playing for the NBA G-League squad Texas Legends, Satnam returned to the Indian national team for the first time since 2013.

    And despite these differences in career trajectories, both players came together earlier this week to create new controversy. Speaking to a national daily in Ludhiana, Sahi and Satnam told the youth that there was no hope for basketball in the country and that aspiring players should head abroad to create a name for themselves in the sport.

    “After I was selected for the NBA league, I was given an amount of Rs 11,000 by former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal,” said Satnam. “The central government did not give me anything.”

    Sahi said: “I have been playing since the age of 10. I have given more than 20 years of my life to basketball. But I have got nothing in return. In the past eight years, I have met Badal at least 20 times at his residence to request him for a job but to no avail.”

    On motivating the youth, Sahi added: “How can we motivate young players towards a game, which we know has no future in India? So I tell students to study hard, go abroad and fulfil their dreams.”

    Based on the early reactions to their comments, a number of young Indian players have begun to share this sentiment. Basketball in India, frankly, has been a mess for decades and even big moments of success and development have come as patronising consolation prizes for a country that has potential for so much more. India has the world’s largest youth population with a theoretically sound structure in sports, from the Ministry of Youth and Sport Affairs, the Sport Authority of India, the Indian Olympic Association, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), and the smaller federations in each state to oversee the game’s growth. But these systems rarely perform their function like they are supposed to, and the mismanagement of the authorities often leave players facing an uphill struggle.

    There is no full-time professional basketball league in India and most of the top players have to rely on jobs in various service units like ONGC or Punjab Police and play the game as semi-pros. Veterans, like Sahi, are right to complain that work opportunities begin to dry up for some retired or close-to-retirement players.

    Younger players face a different problem: cases like Satnam—where a player is given scholarship to learn the game abroad—are rare. There are many other younger players in the country whose potential is being wasted because of lack of youth coaching and scouting facilities.

    Over the past few years alone, Indian basketball faced a major crisis as the BFI broke up into two competing factions. Each faction pressured state federations to support them and keep the player’s availability exclusive to their respective sides. Players were punished for reporting for national tournaments or international camps and briefly barred in taking part in the short UBA Basketball League. Last year, basketball was de-recognised entirely from the South Asian Games and the players in the men’s and women’s national teams couldn’t earn credit for their participation. In all these cases, it has been the players who have almost always been the victims of the political tug-of-war.

    The BFI crisis seems to have resolved somewhat this year, but its sour aftertaste remains, and in individual cases like Sahi and Satnam, a reminder that there are many more battles to be win. From Jayasankar Menon to Sozhasingarayer Robinson, there are dozens of precursors to Sahi to have clashed with authority and seen their career stumble. Last month, Prashanti Singh joined the rare club of basketball players to win an Arjuna Award, yet her nomination wasn’t filed through the federation and the BFI has yet to acknowledge her remarkable feat.

    In Indian basketball, most of the success has come due to individual breakout talents rather than the system, and like Sahi suggested, has often happened abroad. This year, Punjab’s Amritpal Singh and Varanasi’s Vishesh Bhriguvanshi took a major leap by signing contracts in Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL). Amjyot and Amritpal both played professionally in Japan in the past. Palpreet Singh Brar won the ACG-NBA Jump programme and was drafted by the NBA G-League last year. And of course, there’s Satnam, whose IMG Academy training led him to the NBA Draft.

    But, despite there being some truth to their statements, Sahi and Satnam weren’t completely accurate in their assessment. Only the smallest percentage of players will have the fortune of winning a once-in-a-lifetime scholarship like the IMG Academy, or get recruited into the NBA’s own elite basketball academy (launched in Greater Noida earlier this year). For the rest, climbing the rungs of the Indian basketball ladder is often the best option.

    Take India’s best three players—Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh—for example. If it wasn’t for their performances at the Indian national team, neither would have been considered by scouts abroad. Bhriguvanshi, Amjyot, and Amritpal have faced struggles because of the system’s ineptitude too, but they worked hard nevertheless, became star players for the country, and their reward is the opportunities they are now getting abroad.

    The ‘system’ should be blamed for its inadequacies when appropriate, but it can’t be the scapegoat for every failure. In the interview, Sahi and Satnam blamed the federation selectors and inexperienced younger players for India’s poor performances in Lebanon. “The young players lacked experience,” they said, while Sahi later added India’s loss to Jordan was partially the fault of “selection of team by the Federation.”

    But in the run-up to the tournament, team selection was the least of India’s problems. Featuring the best available players and a necessary mix of veterans and youth, many believed the Asia Cup squad to be one of the strongest Indian rosters ever assembled. Plus, team selection doesn’t answer for Sahi and Satnam’s limited roles. Many younger players were in better shape at camp and more eager to be a better fit for the national side. A share of the blame lies with the two players themselves.

    If there are any real excuses for India’s poor performance, it came from the head coach Phil Weber, whom I interviewed for Scroll last month: health and lack-of-preparation. Several of our top players (including Satnam) were unavailable in the early few weeks of the camp, and many others (like Sahi) were still hampered by injury. The most damaging of these injuries was the one to Bhriguvanshi, without whom India had no organiser in the backcourt when the going got tough.

    The problems that Sahi and Satnam have shed light on will continue to persist, however, until a full-time basketball league allows players to become exclusively basketball professionals and continue to have employment opportunities in the game once they retire. On the other end of the spectrum, better coaching and infrastructure is needed at the grassroots level to properly nurture and support young players.

    As for the current debate between staying in India or going abroad, it all boils down to the priority of the individual player—whether it is focusing on one’s own career or hoping to improve the larger system—and there is no wrong answer. Players with ambition have every right to make the most of outside opportunities—if they are lucky enough to have such opportunities available—to make a name for themselves. But if they really want to bring change and “hope” into Indian basketball, they can make the most of their expertise and influence to aid the development of youth basketball back home.

    September 21, 2017

    2017 SLAM Top 50: Al Horford, No. 41

    Al Horford is poised to play a pivotal role for the new-look Celtics.

    This article was first published in my #SLAMTop50 contribution for on September 11, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

    This time last year, Al Horford was the new face in an established franchise, the big-name All-Star recruit to a young squad, where the rest of the pieces had already begun to fit. His role in Boston, after years of success in Atlanta, was to provide veteran savvy and star power to help the Celtics mature into true contenders.

    A year later, as the Celtics made dramatic changes this past summer, Horford has quickly become one of the only enduring major pieces of the recent past, ready to adopt—and thrive in—yet another new role.

    When Boston begins the new season against the Cavaliers in mid-October, Horford is likely to be the only regular starter from last year still in this season’s starting five. Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Amir Johnson—all of whom formed the framework of the Celtics’ starting unit last season—are gone. In come Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, and the rookie Jayson Tatum, who join second-year swingman Jaylen Brown.

    And then there’s Horford, Boston’s highest-paid player last season. Despite his credentials in Atlanta that included deep playoff runs and four All-Star appearances, Horford took a backseat while Thomas became the heartbeat and engine of the franchise. The duo—aided by a deep rotation of talented role-players—helped the Celtics to the best regular-season record in the conference.

    Now, with the new arrivals to boost up the backcourt, Horford is likely to become the third option on offense for the Celtics. For a player who has been a multiple-time All-Star despite career scoring averages of “just” 14.3 points per game, the new role will suit him just fine. In Irving and Hayward, the Celtics have brought in two dynamic scorers that could become one of the League’s most dangerous offensive duos and score upwards of 50 points together per contest. With more tick, expect Brown to take a major leap this season, and rookie Tatum is already being compared to Boston’s last great swingman scorer, Paul Pierce. Under Brad Stevens’ leadership, the Celtics had a top ten offensive rating in the League last season. It might take a few months for Irving and Hayward to find their fit, but rest assured, scoring is not going to be their problem.

    This is where Horford fits in. At 31, he is already the second-oldest Celtic, just behind the high-flying Gerald Green, and his experience will carry Boston while the youth come of age. Even though he has the potential to be get buckets for himself (he was the team’s third-leading scorer last season), Horford’s best basketball talents are more altruistic in nature. On the court, he is likely to be the Celtics’ most consistent performer even without taking a shot: grabbing boards, setting screens, finding the open man, and continuing to defend at a high level in the post. The best Horford teams—like the 2014-15 Hawks—operate with quick pacing, spacing, and ball-movement, with Horford serving as the big fulcrum that keeps the offense moving.

    Indeed, Horford’s “fall” from 27 to 41 in the SLAM rankings is a serious demotion, and so is his role in the Celtics’ hierarchy for 2017-18. But if a player with his sense of leadership, poise, and multi-skilled talents is your squad’s third-best player, your squad is in good shape.

    September 20, 2017

    The Subramanian School of Punjabi Basketball Excellence: An Update

    Amritpal Singh’s latest achievement adds to the long list of successes of the Ludhiana Basketball Academy

    This article was first published in my column for on September 10, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

    Photo collage courtesy:

    In the early 2000s, a diminutive basketball coach from Tamil Nadu worked his way up north the country, thousands of kilometres away, and found career nirvana in Punjab. It was here that the legendary coach Dr Sankaran Subramanian began to lead the Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA), recruiting talented but raw young athletes from big cities and tiny villages in Punjab. By the time he passed away in 2013, Subramanian had had an imprint in the rise of some of India’s most successful young basketball players.

    And the feathers in the cap of the LBA’s alumni, just like the swishes in the basket of a sharp-shooter, continue to add up even a decade and a half since Subramanian’s first foray into Punjabi basketball.

    This week, Punjabi seven-footer Amritpal Singh, one of the linchpins of India’s national basketball team, made history by becoming the first Indian-born player to join the roster of an Australian National Basketball League (NBL) squad. After years of success in Indian basketball and playing professionally in Japan, Amritpal got the biggest boost of his career when he was signed by the Sydney Kings, with whom he is guaranteed to play the 2017-18 NBL season.

    It’s hard to imagine what the state of Indian basketball would be without the influence of its LBA alumni. The Academy has produced important international stars, NBA and NBA G-League draftees, professional players at home and abroad, and cult heroes. Here is a list of some of the biggest names to hone their craft at the famed indoor Guru Nanak Court of the Ludhiana Academy.

    Amritpal Singh

    Why not start with the man of the moment himself? Amritpal was born in the village of Fattuwal in Punjab, the son of a farmer, and used most of his athletic gifts ploughing the field or playing Kabaddi. At 19, he was finally introduced recruited to the LBA to be trained under Subramanian. Once he took to the game, Amritpal improved rapidly, graduated to the Indian national team, and has been a centrepiece of the national squad for the past six years, a stretch that has included India's historic wins over China at the FIBA Asia Challenge and the most recent appearance at the FIBA Asia Cup. 

    The 26-year-old has played professionally in Japan in the BJ Summer League and for the Tokyo Excellence in the Japanese D-League in the past. After impressing the Sydney Kings in the NBL Draft Combine and with their invitational squad at the Atlas Cup in China, Amritpal was signed to the team to become the first Indian to be in the top-level NBL roster in Australia.

    Satnam Singh

    No doubt the most-popular name in Indian basketball internationally, Satnam’s well-documented “One in a Billion” story saw him rise from the unknown farming village of Ballo Ke in Punjab to become the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA. Satnam discovered basketball at age 10 and became a star for Punjab at the junior level soon after joining the LBA as an adolescent. The Academy gave him his early lessons in the game, and at 14, the teenage giant was recruited to play for the IMG Basketball Academy in Florida, USA.

    After five years at IMG, Satnam, a 7-foot-2 center, declared for the NBA Draft in 2015 and was picked 52nd by the Dallas Mavericks. Since then, he has played bit minutes for the Mavericks’ G-League squad Texas Legends and for the Mavericks’ Summer League teams. The 21-year-old returned to the Indian national team for the first time since 2013 for the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon this year.

    Yadwinder Singh

    “Yadu”, the son of a farmer from the small Punjabi village called Rasulpur Khurd, started his athletic career as a serious Discus thrower in school, before joining the LBA at age 16 as one of its first batch of recruits. Within a few years, he improved dramatically and found a place for himself in the Indian national side in the early 2000. The 6-foot-6 forward became an important role player for India with his famous bursts of energy and effort on court.

    Yadwinder now plays for ONGC in Uttarakhand and for the Haryana Gold squad in the UBA league. He was one of the four Indian players to take part in the NBL Draft Combine earlier this year. Although a back injury kept him out of India’s most recent international outing, he is the team’s most consistent veteran presence.

    Jagdeep Singh Bains

    Jagdeep was the other athletic forward to form the first batch of recruits with Yadwinder. Originally born in Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan, “Jaggu” was first a part of the Rajasthani junior state team before Subramanian recruited him to the LBA in 2002. An unstoppable scorer, Jagdeep played in many international tournaments for India and domestically for Punjab Police, before suffering a career-threatening injury in 2012. Fortunately, he made a glorious comeback to the game with the UBA League’s Mumbai Challengers in 2016.

    Amjyot Singh

    Chandigarh born Amjyot Singh’s first athletic obsession was cricket, but a High-School injury kept him out of the game for three months. During this time, his interest in basketball grew, and when he returned to fitness, he tried out for the school team. By 2008, Amjyot’s exceptional gifts in the game were clear: he was soon promoted to the national U16 team and recruited to the LBA. Now, he is India’s best offensive player and has been the team’s leading scorer in most of the international competitions over the last few years.

    The 6-foot-8 25-year-old forward was besides Amritpal in their experiences in the Japanese Summer League, D-League, and at the NBL camps in Australia. Furthermore, Amjyot developed into one of the top-ranked Asian 3x3 basketball players in the world with his success for the Japanese Team Hamamatsu. Last year, Amjyot declared for the NBA’s G-League draft and will hope for another opportunity at the stage in the near future. At the domestic stage, he has represented IOB (Chennai) and the UBA’s Delhi Capitals.

    Talwinderjit Singh “TJ” Sahi

    Known affectionately to fans as “Air India”, TJ Sahi is one of the most athletic players that Indian basketball has ever produced. The 31-year-old point guard from Ludhiana comes from a family of athletes: his father is a Decathlon national record holder and his mother played hockey. Sahi, however, chose basketball, and in his journey of learning the game home and abroad, his paths crossed with the LBA, too.

    Sahi has been in an out of the Indian national line-up for a dozen years, and is as popular for his dominant international scoring spurts as he is for his YouTube-breaking dunks. Currently, he plays for the Bengaluru Beast squad in the UBA League and was India’s lead guard (because of injury to Vishesh Bhriguvanshi) in last month’s FIBA Asia Cup.

    Palpreet Singh Brar

    Palpreet, a menacing, 6-foot-9 power forward from the village Doda in Punjab’s Sri Mukhtar Sahib district, studied under Subramanian in the LBA and secured his place behind Amjyot and Amritpal as yet another Punjabi post presence. 2016 was a big year for Palpreet, as he won the ACG-NBA Jump challenge to receive the opportunity to prepare and fly to the United States for the NBA G-League tryouts. He impressed several teams in the process, and became the first Indian to be drafted into the G-League when the Long Island Nets picked him 80th overall last October.

    Palpreet was eventually cut from the team before training camp, but he is continuing his international basketball hustle, finding success in the international FIBA 3x3 state with Team Hamamatsu of Japan.

    Kiranjit Kaur

    Originally from Ludhiana, Kiranjit Kaur, is one of the most successful women players to have honed her skills at the LBA. Kiranjit, 29, played for India at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and various FIBA Asia Championships before switching sports to become an international netball player for the country.

    Harjeet Kaur

    Another success story from the LBA’s women’s coaching programme has been Patiala’s Harjeet Kaur. The 6-foot-2, 29-year-old forward represented India in various international competitions including the FIBA Asia Championship for Women in 2009 and currently works with the Punjab Police.

    Loveneet Singh Atwal

    Despite usually being one of the smallest players on court, 5’11” guard Loveneet Singh used his speed and energy to become a regular feature for India’s junior teams and make his senior debut, too.  The 21-year-old from Ludhiana was one of the finalists of the ACG-NBA Jump last year and credited the LBA for helping him develop his game despite not being gifted with size like some of the other top players out of Punjab.

    Prince Pal Singh       

    For a hint of the future talent coming out of the LBA basketball nursery, look no further than Prince Pal Singh. The 6-foot-8 teenager, the son of an electrician from Gurdaspur in Punjab, was discovered by the LBA at age 14. A year later, he excelled at an open trial event in Chhattisgarh to secure a $75,000 USD scholarship to the Spire Institute in Ohio, USA.

    Now 16, Prince Pal continues to make rapid improvements in his game. He has joined the NBA Academy India, was recently selected for an elite camp in China, and was Punjab’s top starring player in their triumph at the Youth Nationals earlier this year.

    September 19, 2017

    ONGC to represent India at 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in China: Roster, Schedule, and Preview

    Asia's premier club basketball tournament - the FIBA Asia Champions Cup - will return this year for to be held in Chenzhou, China, from September 22-30, 2017. This is the second consecutive year that Chenzhou will host this tournament. Ten of the top club teams from different countries in Asia will take part in this championship. All matches will be held in the city's Chenzhou Sports Center.

    China's CBA squad Kashgar - otherwise known as the Xinjiang Flying Tigers - will return to the tournament to defend their title from last year. Once again, India will be represented by Dehradun's squad ONGC, who won their fifth-straight title at the Federation Cup earlier this year. Despite featuring some top Indian talent, ONGC were ousted from the Preliminary Round stage without a win last year and finished tied for 9/10th place in the ten-team fray. ONGC have been drawn in the tournament's Group B.

    FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2017 Groups
    • Group A: BC Astana (Kazakhstan), Mono Vampire Basketball Club (Thailand), Petrochimi (Iran), Sareyyet Ramallah (Palestine), Chooks-To-Go (Philippines).
    • Group B: Shabab Al Ahli (Dubai), ONGC (India), Al Riyadi (Lebanon), Dacin Tigers (Chinese Taipei), China Kashgar (China).

    ONGC have finalised their roster, coached by their former star and former India captain Trideep Rai. The team is set to have serious cause for concern this year: their marquee talent Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, recovering from a serious knee injury from the BRICS Games earlier this year, hurt himself again at the '3x3 Road to Mexico' basketball event in Gurugram a few days ago. Big man Yadwinder Singh is back in action after an injury, while guard Arjun Singh will be another important player to watch. The squad's superstar big man - Amritpal Singh - has left the team to join the Sydney Kings of Australia's NBL.

    ONGC roster for FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2017
    • Abhishek Rai
    • Mohit Bhandari
    • Vinay Dabas
    • Anoop Mukkanniyil
    • Riyazuddin
    • Arjun Singh
    • Vishesh Bhriguvanshi
    • Muralikrishna Ravindran
    • Udai Bhan Singh Rawat
    • Yadwinder Singh
    • Head Coach: Trideep Rai
    • Assistant Coach: Dinesh Kumar

    The tournament will be held in league-cum-knockout format, with the top four teams of each group of five qualifying for the quarter-final stage after the preliminary round of round-robin games.

    ONGC's Preliminary Round schedule - all timings IST
    • September 22 - Dacin Tigers vs. ONGC - 12 PM
    • September 24 - ONGC vs. China Kashgar - 5 PM
    • September 25 - Al Riyadi vs. ONGC - 7:15 PM
    • September 26 - ONGC vs. Shabab Al Ahli - 12 PM

    Without Amritpal and with a Bhriguvanshi not at full strength, ONGC will find it difficult to compete against the more stacked squads from Chinese Taipei, China, and Lebanon. Their best chance at a victory, and a potential quarter-final spot, could be in their final game against Dubai's Shabab Al Ahli.

    China Kashgar will once again be favourites to win gold this year, while Lebanon's Al Riyadi and Iran's Petrochimi could both pose serious threats to their crown.

    September 18, 2017

    Hamamtsu win inaugural '3x3 Road to Mexico' basketball event in Gurugram

    Over the past few years, as 3x3 basketball has risen in stature, Team Hamamatsu have strongly established themselves as the most dangerous Asian squad in this shorter format of the game, and as one of the top teams around the world, too. Although they officially represent the Japanese city of Hamamatsu, the team is a collection of top desi talents of Indian, American, and Canadian origins. So, when India hosted their own major showcase of high-level 3x3 basketball, it was no surprise that the star-studded Hamamatsu squad once again rose to the top.

    Last month, the first-ever international professional 3x3 basketball league was announced in India by YKBK Enterprise Pvt Ltd, a company who have won the exclusive rights from FIBA to hold the event in the Indian subcontinent. Although the league itself won't be held till next year, a special two-day 3x3 showcase event called the ‘3x3 Road to Mexico’ was conducted on September 16-17 at the Ambience Mall, Gurugram. Featuring 12 top teams from India, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Maldives, this fast-paced tournament featured marquee national basketball stars like Amjyot Singh, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Satnam Singh, TJ Sahi, Palpreet Singh Brar, and more.

    In the tournament's final game, Hamamatsu won in an exciting back-and-forth battle against another Japanese squad, Yokohama, 20-19 on the back of strong efforts by Palpreet Singh Brar, Kiran Shastri, and Bikramjit Gill. As winners, they were awarded a cash prize of INR 4,00,000/- and an all-expenses-paid trip to participate in the FIBA 3×3 World Tour in Mexico City from September 30 to October 1, 2017.

    The final round of the dunk contest was also held on Sunday, which was won by Ukraine's Dmitry ‘Smoove’ Krivenko.

    Earlier in the semi-finals, Hamamatsu defeated Japan's Tsukuba 21-16 while Yokohama bested the Indian Ludhiana Basketball Academy 21-14 to enter the tournament's finale.

    September 15, 2017

    Sacramento Kings unveil Hindi logo with new alternative court

    Ever since they finally cut ties with All Star DeMarcus Cousins in February, the Sacramento Kings have ushered in rapid changes to their roster. Out went Cousins, Rudy Gay, and Ben McLemore. In came new VP Scott Perry, Buddy Hield, and a fascinating mix of rookie talent and veterans, including De'Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, George Hill, Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and Bogdan Bogdanovich. For a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 11 years, it was yet another attempt at a complete do-over. Over the off-season, the team introduced a new look: new logos, new jerseys, all new everything.

    But the very help of the team - majority owner Vivek Ranadive - remains the same. Ranadive, famously, is the first Indian-born owner of an NBA team, and despite his best intentions to make the Kings into a global brand by being leaders in the a high-tech push, the team's on-court failures have cast a dark cloud over all other promotional efforts. Over the years, Ranadive has made a major push in trying to lure the Indian and Indian-origin fan-base to his team, including Bollywood Nights, the team's Hindi-language website, live-streaming a game on Facebook in India, and even signing the first Indian-origin player - Sim Bhullar- to play in the NBA for his fifteen seconds of fame.

    This week, the team debuted their latest plans to reach out to India and China for their hope of global fan outreach. The Kings unveiled an alternative court design for the 2017-18 season. "The new black court," says the team's official website, "reflects the design elements of the team’s global marks, including new logos specific to India and China. As part of the franchise’s mission, the team strives to make basketball the premier sport of the 21st century beyond traditional borders."

    Look closely at the court, and if you aren't yet distracted by the Lannisters-like new logo in the center, you will notice two smaller logos on each end of the court inside the three-point lines with the words 'राजा' (Raja), the Hindi word for 'King'. The Kings unveiled a similar logo in Chinese characters 国王 which is pronounced as 'Guówáng'.

    The team will use these alternative court designs during the games when they wear their new 'global uniforms' at home at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. More details via their official website:

    The team will use this customizable floor through the season when wearing the Global Uniform at home. Building a brand that connects with fans around the world will help create an authentic connection with emerging international basketball audiences, from the court up through jerseys, apparel and more.
    International elements are present throughout the new design. For the team’s biggest global celebrations, Bollywood and Lunar New Year theme nights, interchangeable panels featuring a new regional logo – a Kings crown featuring the team’s name in Hindi or Mandarin – will be added to the floor. The Kings will use these marks, in addition to the primary logo in future India and China endeavors.

    The team will utilize three courts this season – the purple hardwood design from the 2017-18 season will return when the team wears the Association and Icon Edition uniforms, the new black court will be in place during games with global themes and when the team suits up in the Global uniform, and a third court will debut during the season when the team’s fourth uniform is announced.

    This is a cool idea I guess, although, once again, I don't see many Indian fans paying attention to the team just because they occasionally have a Hindi word on the floor of a (likely) League Pass game. The Kings have to start succeeding. In their new backcourt of Fox and Hield, they may actually have the start of a wonderful young tandem. It's a pity that they will be playing in the cut-throat Western Conference, because despite their improvements, it seems like it's going to be yet another season outside the playoff picture in Sacramento.

    September 13, 2017

    Hoopdarshan Episode 52: Amjyot Singh reflects on India's performance at 2017 FIBA Asia Cup

    Last month, India sent a stacked roster to the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon but returned disappointed, losing all three first round games. In Episode 52 of Hoopdarshan, one of India's finest basketball players and the team's recent captain - Amjyot Singh - joins hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok to talk about India's performances at the tournament, playing with Phil Weber evolving his individual game, Satnam Singh's role off the bench, and fired some shots at Chennai cuisine!

    Kaushik and Karan also catch up on other news around the Indian basketball and NBA universe, such as India's U16 SABA victory, Prashanti Singh's Arjuna Award, Amritpal Singh's signing by an NBL team, and reflect on the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade.

    Hoopdarshan is the truest 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...

    September 9, 2017

    India crowned youth South Asian Basketball Champions & qualify for 2017 FIBA Asia U16 Championship

    With clinical brilliance, India's under-16 men's squad made no mistake as they blew past their opponents to win the 2nd South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) Championship in Kathmandu, Nepal, held from September 5-9. The triumph helped India showcase several of the country's exciting new basketball talents and secured the team's qualification for the larger challenge ahead: The FIBA Asia U16 Championship.

    Held at Kathmandu's Dashrath Rangshala Stadium, the tournament was organised by the Nepal Basketball Association and included hosts Nepal, India, Maldives, Bangladesh, and Bhutan. India sent out a strong 12-man roster, coached by Vibhor Bhriguvanshi, of young players out of whom many had recently impressed at the Youth National championship in July.

    India started the tournament in the most dominant fashion possible, demolishing the Maldives squad 152-17. India led 67-9 at halftime, went on a 49-2 run in the third quarter, and finished off the game with a 135 point victory. Rising stars Prince Pal Singh (31), Harshwardhan Tomar (20), and Binod Rajak (20) all contributed in this unreal scoreline.

    India continued their hot streak on Day 2 against Bangladesh. Four Indian players scored in double-digits, led by Priyanshu's 32, in a comfortable 83-64 win. This was India's closest-margin of victory, and Bangladesh showed real life in the first half, but the Indian continent proved to be too strong after the break.

    India faced hosts Nepal next, and were unstoppable once again, mostly because Nepal had no answer for the post-dominance of 6-foot-8 center Prince Pal Singh. Prince Pal dropped 45 points on the day to help India to a 106-39 victory. Abhisekh Singh scored 20 for Nepal in the loss.

    On Saturday, India put on the finishing touches to their campaign, blowing past Bhutan to a 131-50 victory. Seven Indians scored in double digits include Prince Pal (20), Rajak (20), and Prashant Tomar (16).

    Prince Pal Singh, one of the rising stars in Indian basketball, was named the tournament's MVP. India won every game by an average margin of over 75 points each. Players like Binod Rajak and Priyanshu also showed their potential. While Varanasi-born coach Vibhor Bhriguvanshi - elder brother of national team star Vishesh Bhriguvanshi - will be overjoyed with his first major international coaching experience.

    India will now prepare for the FIBA Asia U16 Championship, set to be held in Malaysia later this year. Korea won the 2015 edition of this tournament in Indonesia, while India dropped to 13th place.

    September 6, 2017

    Prashanti Singh joins the very short list of women’s basketball players with an Arjuna Award

    This article was first published in my blog for The Times of India Sports on August 27, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

    The Arjuna Award is named after perhaps one the greatest sharpshooters in human mythology. Arjun, the great protagonists of The Mahabharat, was a famed archer and marksmen, and the modern Arjuna Award—instituted by the Indian government—has adopted a bronze statuette of Arjun in a pose of brief meditation before he readies to release the arrow off his bowstring.
    This week, another phenomenal marksmen in a completely different field of sport will be getting her dues. Prashanti Singh, the former captain of India’s basketball team, will join the short list of Indian basketball players to win the prestigious Arjuna Award after over a decade of basketball excellence domestically and service to the national team. The 33-year-old shooting guard from Varanasi will become just the third women in history to win an Arjuna Award for basketball.
    Singh comes from a family of basketball royalty, even though this royalty originated in a small town with a more strenuous path to climb the ladder of athletic success. Despite the odds, Singh and her sisters battled the traditional patriarchal society to produce an array of basketball stars for the country. Three of her sisters—Divya, Akanksha, and Pratima—joined Prashanti to star for Delhi at the domestic stage and play for India in international tournaments. Her eldest sister Priyanka played domestically and has been a NIS coach. The “Singh Sisters” of Varanasi remain some of the most popular and influential faces in Indian Basketball.
    Prashanti Singh, also known by her nickname ‘Boskey’, is now the most decorated women basketball player in India, holding the national record for most number of medals (23) in national championships, most of which came for Delhi while she was an employee for MTNL.  She has represented the national team in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games, and six FIBA Asia Women’s Championships (2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013), plus one more at the junior level.
    Singh has had several memorable moments in the India jersey abroad. At the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship in Japan, she helped India defeat Malaysia to qualify for Level 1 of the tournament. Her personal highlight was the 35-point performance in India’s upset victory over Korea Samsung at the 2011 William Jones Cup in Taiwan. She also played a role in India’s best-ever FIBA ABC finish – fifth place at the ABC in Thailand in 2014 – in an overtime win over Kazakhstan.
    With this honour, Singh becomes just the 20th basketball player in the country to receive the Arjuna Award over the past 56 years. What is more startling, however, is that she is only the third women to be bestowed this honour. In 1983, former national captain Suman Sharma became the first Indian women to win an Arjuna Award for basketball. Three years ago, Indian hoops legend Geethu Anna Rahul (formerly Jose) became the second.
    Singh’s award, however, makes her the second basketball player in succession to get the Arjuna, and it sure to motivate young women around the country—no matter what their background and launch-pad might be—to pursue greater things in the sport. And she will surely not be the last. Already, the campaign has begun to consider the Indian basketball team’s current captain—Tamil Nadu born Anitha Paul Durai—to be the next player in consideration. Paul Durai has played in eight FIBA Asia Championships, played professionally in Thailand, and won medals for India in international 3×3 championships.
    With the sport beginning to get more recognition in the country, there are a number of male players waiting in the flank for their name to be called, too. The current “Big Three” of stars in the Men’s national team—Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amjyot Singh, and Amritpal Singh—have been centrepieces for a relatively strong stretch in Indian basketball over the past few years. Another player to consider will be Satnam Singh, who became the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA in 2015.
    Currently, Basketball lacks far behind Hockey, Cricket, and Football when it comes to the prestigious national honour, but as the sport continues to grow in India, look for more Prashantis to be in line for the future.

    September 5, 2017

    Team India heads to Nepal for 2nd South Asia U16 Basketball Championship

    This week, the youngest players to sport an Indian national basketball jersey will get their first opportunity to represent the country at the international stage. The 2nd U16 South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) Basketball Championship will be held in Kathmandu, Nepal, from September 5-9, 2017. India will be among five teams from the South Asian region to take part in this tournament, which will serve as a qualifier for the upcoming FIBA Asia U16 Championship later this year.

    Organised by the Nepal Basketball Association, the tournament will feature hosts Nepal, India, Maldives, Bangladesh, and Bhutan. Sri Lanka withdrew from participation before the beginning of the tournament, so instead of a group stage followed by knockouts, the entire tournament will be held in round robin formats for the five teams, and the top finishing team will be declared champion. India will start as favourites, even though we did not participate in the previous (2015) edition of this tournament.

    Recent youth standouts and big man duo of Punjab's Prince Pal Singh and Madhya Pradesh's Harshwardhan Tomar are likely to be India's leading performers at this event. India will be coached Vibhor Bhriguvanshi, the experienced coach of the Uttar Pradesh and Varanasi teams. He will be assisted by Babu Davis and accompanied to Nepal with manager Kulvinder Gill.

    Team India for 2nd SABA U16 Championship
    • Prince Pal Singh
    • Binod Rajak
    • Harshwardhan Tomar
    • Mani Thakur
    • Ajmer Singh
    • Gaurav Sheoran
    • Priyanshu
    • Jerom Prince George
    • Prashant Tomar
    • Nitish Beniwal
    • Vigneshwar Upadhyay
    • Rajveer Singh Bhati
    • Head Coach: Vibhor Bhriguvanshi
    • Assistant Coach: Babu Davis
    • Manager: Kulwinder Gill

    India's Schedule for the 2nd SABA U16 Championship - all timings IST
    • September 5 - India vs. Maldives - 1:15 PM
    • September 6 - Bangladesh vs. India - 12:45 PM
    • September 8 - Nepal vs. India - 1:15 PM
    • September 9 - India vs. Bhutan - 10:45 AM

    The FIBA Asia U16 Championship will be held in Malaysia later this year. Korea won the 2015 edition of this tournament in Indonesia, while India dropped to 13th place.

    September 3, 2017

    BIPA president Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is one of nine new ministers in cabinet reshuffle

    Gajendra Singh Shekhawat grew up around basketball, playing the game at the Inter-University and National stage in his youth. As he became a prominent politician in the country, he continued to have close ties to the game and this year was officially named as the President of the Basketball India Players Association (BIPA).

    Now, the former baller is in the news again: Shekawat was among the nine new faces that took oath on Sunday during the third reshuffle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new cabinet. A technology-savvy farmer, Shekhawat has been made the Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

    Shekhawat is a Lok Sabha MP for the BJP from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. He is a Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance and Chairperson of the Fellowship Committee. Apart from being the BIPA president, he is also currently is a Member of the All India Council of Sports.

    The BIPA was officially launched earlier this year, uniting several Indian basketball legends with the mission to promote the game, support former players, and start a nationwide school league in India.