October 29, 2017

Mongolia (Men), Australia (Women) win 2017 FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup; India women finish 4th, Men 9th

Basketball's new, short version took another successful step towards its exponential growth this week. In Mongolia, the top 3x3 basketball teams from Asia and Oceania took part in the 2nd FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup in Ulaanbaatar from October 27-29. A total of 27 men and women's teams participated in this quickfire tournament, including teams from India. By the end of Sunday, hosts Mongolia took home the Men's gold in front of their home fans, while Australian women finished atop their division.

In the tournament's previous iteration in Qatar, India's women won the gold medal. This time around, however, they were ousted in the semi-final stage and had to settle for fourth place. India's men's team failed to make it out of the group stage and finished at ninth.

Mongolia met New Zealand in the Men's final and pulled away in the final minutes for a 19-14, thanks to the play-making of MVP Dulguun Enkhbat and the scoring of Tsenguunbayar Gotov.

Australia, in their debut in this tournament, were led by MVP Isabell Bourne en route to a 21-15 victory in the women's final.

China defeated India's women 21-16 to secure third place. Australia won third-place in the men's division, defeating Kazakhstan 21-18.

India's women, a team that featured Shireen Limaye, Jeena Scaria, Raspreet Sidhu, and Grima Merlin Varghese came into the tournament with aspirations to defend their gold medal from Qatar. In the group stage's Pool D, India beat Kyrgyzstan in their first game 20-12, but lost to New Zealand in nail-biter 16-15. India defeated Mongolia in the Quarter-Final 16-14, but their entry to the finale was blocked by Malaysia who defeated them 19-13. India's final game was a third-place matchup against China, which they lost 21-16 and finished fourth.

India's men's team featured Ravi Bhardwaj, Anil Kumar Gowda, Gurvinder Singh Gill, and Jeevanantham Pandi. They had to begin the tournament in the qualifying round. After losing to Chinese Taipei 21-15 in the first game, they defeated Lebanon 21-19 to sneak into the group stage. Here, they lost both of their matchups, first to China 22-15 and then to Kyrgyzstan 21-19, and their hopes of making the knockout rounds were dashed. India finished at 9th place.

India's Women had two scorers in the tournament's top ten, Raspreet Sidhu and Shireen Limaye.

Men's Team of the Tournament: Dulguun Enkhbat (MVP - Mongolia), Alonzo Burton (New Zealand), Lucas Barker (Australia).

Women's Team of the Tournament: Isabella Bourne (MVP - Australia), Fook Ye Yap (Malaysia), Jinxian Wang (China).

Shoot-Out Contest winner: Fook Ye Yap (Malaysia).

Final Standings

  • 1. Mongolia
  • 2. New Zealand
  • 3. Australia
  • 4. Kazakhstan
  • 5. China

  • 1. Australia
  • 2. Malaysia
  • 3. China
  • 4. India
  • 5. Mongolia

Australia win gold at 2017 FIBA U16 Asia Championship for Women in Bengaluru; Team India celebrate Division B victory!

For the second time this year, India played host to one of FIBA Asia's marquee basketball events in the region, with the top youth women from over a dozen Asian nations descending into Bengaluru's Sri Kantaveera Stadium for the 2017 FIBA U16 Asia Championship For Women. As the week-long tournament concluded on Saturday, October 28th, newcomers Australia - playing under the Asian banner for the first time - took the gold medal with a thrilling win over Japan in the final.

India, meanwhile, began the tournament in the lower Division B. With many encouraging performances, India dominated the second-tier of the competition, winning all of their games in comfortable fashion and securing a qualification to Division A in front of their home fans.

The Division A final pitted the two strongest teams of this year's competition - Australia and Japan - against each other. Japan have been to every final of this tournament (five consecutive times), but only won once, back in 2011. Leading 41-32 at halftime on Saturday, it seemed that they would finally add another gold to their tally. But Australia amped up their defense after halftime were able to edge Japan to secure a nail-biting 61-60 win. This was the first time that teams from Oceania (Australia, New Zealand) were playing in this tournament, and Australia celebrated their entry with a debut gold.

Also on Saturday, 2015 champions China defeated New Zealand led by Ming Zheng (20) and Yutong Liu (17) to secure third place.

The top four teams from Division A - Australia, Japan, China, New Zealand - qualified for the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup.

Two years ago, India had a forgettable experience at the FIBA U16 Asia Women in Medan (Indonesia), losing all of their higher division games and getting relegated to Division B. This had been a similar situation with India's senior women's team for this year's FIBA Asia Women's Cup in Bengaluru earlier this year. India's coach - the Serbian Zoran Visic - helped the senior team finish that previous tournament in perfect fashion and regain Division A status. Visic was named head coach of the U16 team by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) to help repeat his achievement for the younger girls.

India started the 2017 U16 championship in Division B's Group A, alongside Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the last-minute addition, Iran. India opened the tournament in dominant fashion with their best offensive performance: led by a dominant all-round performance by Vaishnavi Yadav (23 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 8 steals), India blew past Nepal to a 106-37 win. Captain Pushpa Senthil Kumar added 18 points and 11 rebounds to India's winning effort.

Game 2 against another South Asian competitor Sri Lanka proved to be more of the same. India started the first quarter in style, getting a 30-7 lead, and cruised to a 86-58 victory. Monica Jayakumar had her breakout moment with 19 points and 8 rebounds, while Kumar was unstoppable in the post again (18 points, 19 rebounds).

India's most interesting group opponent was set to be Iran, a late entrant to the women's basketball stage in the continent. After a hesitant start, India took complete charge in the second quarter and dominated on both ends of the floor after halftime for a convincing 97-53 win. Vaishnavi Yadav (29 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) was at the top of her game, leading five Indians in double figure scoring.

India had now earned a qualification straight for the semi-final, where they played a much taller Kazakhstan side. But the height disadvantage didn't stop India, and instead, spurred to the team to a strong defensive effort. Led again by Yadav (21 points, 15 rebounds), India shut down the Kazakhs to win 77-40.

In the senior women's final against Kazakhstan, India had needed a dramatic game-winning shot by Shireen Limaye to secure their Division B victory. In the U16 final against Malaysia, however, no such heroics were necessary. Like they had been all tournament, India were dominant from the star, holding Malaysia to just three points in the first quarter and holding a 32-24 halftime lead. Another spurt in the third and some tenacious defensive work helped India close the game out with a 64-48 win.

India ended the tournament with a perfect 5-0 record, won Division B, and secured their promotion to Division A for the next iteration of this tournament.

The biggest star to emerge for India from this championship was Uttar Pradesh girl Vaishnavi Yadav. After making a name for herself at the Youth Nationals for UP earlier this year, Yadav enjoyed her major international breakthrough in front of an eager home crowd. She finished the tournament as Division B's leader in points (20.4 ppg) and joint leader, with another Indian Neha Karwa, in assists (6.2). Yadav was also India's second-best player on the boards, grabbing 8.8 rebounds per contest. The team's captain Pushpa Senthil Kumar was also a major force in the post, finishing as the division's second-best rebounder (13.2 rpg). Karwa was a steady presence for India all tournament, too, and could be a guard to watch for the future.

Final Standings
  • 1. Australia
  • 2. Japan
  • 3. China
  • 4. New Zealand
  • 5. Korea

October 27, 2017

NBA Legend AC Green joins UBA India as Director of Sport

Through a 16-year career in the NBA, big man AC Green made a reputation for himself as the ultimate 'Ironman' of the league. He played in 1278 out of 1281 games in his career (99.8%) and made the record for most consecutive games played in NBA or ABA history (1,192). His efforts bore him great fruit, as Green won three championships through the course of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers and even made the 1990 All Star Team.

Now, Green will hope that his experience and tenacity will brush off on to a new generation of athletes - all the way in India.

After conducting four iterations of their trail-blazing basketball league in the country, UBA India (United Basketball Alliance) announced on Friday that they will be appointing Green as their Director of Sport. Green will help to continue develop the league with his experience and become the most famous international face attached to UBA's efforts in India.

“Today, we continue our commitment to India and the game of basketball by adding a key member to our team who brings the game’s highest level of professionalism to the UBA," said Tommy Fisher, UBA Chairman. "We’re excited to have A.C. as part of our team and look forward to continued growth of basketball in India.”

Green is no novice to India. He visited the country first in 2009 for grassroots programme and to inaugurate an NBA donated basketball court in Mumbai.

“Basketball is such an important part of my life and I am happy to be heading to India once again to help further the growth and development of the sport I love," said Green. "The UBA has made great strides in the last two years and I look forward to building upon that success.”

Green was drafted by the Lakers in 1985, where he won two championships as part of Magic Johnson's "Showtime" squads as a youngster. In the mid 90s, he played for the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks, before returning to the Lakers for one more championship in 2000 with Shaq and Kobe. He retired after a final season with the Miami Heat in 2001.

The UBA held the first season of the UBA Basketball League in Hyderabad in July 2015. Ever since then, the league has held three more seasons, expanded their events to more cities like Pune, Chennai, and Bengaluru, broadcast games live on Ten Sports, welcomed a number of celebrities to promote the league, and took their elite players for coaching to the United States. This year's Season 4 was UBA's biggest one yet: in addition to incorporating more foreign imports into the league, they were also able to secure the talents of India's best players in their teams, and thus significantly raise the level of the game. Green's involvement adds yet another facet to their development plans for basketball in India.

October 26, 2017

Former NBA player Andre Miller to drop dimes in India next week

They call him "The Professor" in NBA circles. Andre Miller played seventeen years in the NBA and finished his career ranking top-ten in assists in league history. And yet, he never played in an All Star Game, was never considered for an All NBA Team.

Miller's majestic quality to NBA lore came in the form of quiet, efficient leadership. For seventeen years, he played for nine different teams, spreading his wisdom and spreading the offense, helping talented players get open shots, young players learn from his experiences, and when asked to, dropping in a good share of points on his own. Now, the retired NBA player will bring his valuable dimes to basketball's next big market - India - to support the continued growth of basketball in the country.

Miller will travel to Delhi-NCR on October 30th, where he will visit the NBA Basketball School. On October 31st, he will lead a clinic at the NBA Academy India in Greater Noida. During his trip, he will also appear on the 'Around the Hoop' NBA roundtable show on Sony SIX in Mumbai.

"I'm looking forward to my first visit to India to see firsthand how the NBA has been developing basketball in the country," Miller said. ""I understand there's a lot of potential in India, and I'm excited to contribute to the growth of the sport."

Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1999, Miller played arguably the best basketball of his career in a Cavs jersey, highlighted by the 2001-02 season when he finished with 16.5 points per game, a career-high and league-leading 10.9 assists per game, and a career-best 4.7 rebounds per game. From then on, he became a league journeyman, suiting up for the Clippers, Nuggets (twice, and for the longest duration of his career), 76ers, Trail Blazers, Wizards, Kings, Timberwolves, before retiring after a final season with the San Antonio Spurs. His best scoring output was with the 76ers in 2007-08, and he retired with averages of 12.5 points and 6.5 assists per game for the course of his career. Miller only missed three games to injury in his 17-year career. He's the only player in NBA history to have at least 16,000 career points, 8,000 assists and 1,500 steals without making an NBA All-Star Game.

We welcome Professor Saab to India. Hopefully young players here will learn from him, just like some of the NBA's biggest stars have done over the years.

October 24, 2017

India Men and Women gear up for 2017 FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup in Mongolia: Rosters and Preview

India has taken on quicker than most to basketball's newest international format, the 3x3 version of the game. Perhaps its because, while many other countries have saved their top talents for the game's full (5x5) game, India has often sent the best available players to all versions of the game. Without a domestic basketball league, our top players are often ready and eager to play in as many competitions as possible. And it was in this spirit that India's women's senior team famously took home the gold in FIBA's first-ever Asian 3x3 basketball championship, held in Doha, Qatar, in 2013.

Four years later, Indian Women and Men will return to the senior 3x3 Asian stage with expectations to keep shining while the rest of the world has gotten more serious about this format.

The 3x3 FIBA Asia Cup 2017 is set to be held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, from October 27-29. 15 Men's and 12 Women's teams will be taking part in the three-day quick-fire championship.

In the tournament's previous iteration in Doha, the home squad Qatar took the Men's gold with a win in the final against Saudi Arabia. The Women's title was won by India against this year's hosts Mongolia in the final. Playing in a tougher fray, India's men were knocked out in the Quarter-Final stage in 2013.

This year, team's from Oceania will also be taking part in the Asian competition system. Based on recent 3x3 points accumulation rankings, India's outlook is not looking good: we are ranked bottom of all teams in both the Men's and Women's rankings. Japan, New Zealand, and Kazakhstan have been the most favoured Men's squads in the lead up to this tournament; the Women's teams to watch will be Kazakhstan, China, and Turkmenistan.

India's Women are drawn in Group D of the tournament with Kyrgyzstan and New Zealand. India's Men's team will have to first get out of the Qualifying Draw's second group against Chinese Taipei and Lebanon, before being pooled into one of the four Men's groups.

FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup Pools

  • Pool A: Japan, Bahrain, Mongolia.
  • Pool B: New Zealand, Qatar, QD1 Winner.
  • Pool C: Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, QD2 Winner.
  • Pool D: China, Kyrgyzstan, QD Best 2nd.
  • Qualifying Draw 1: Turkmenistan, Australia, Malaysia.
  • Pool D: Chinese Taipei, Lebanon, India.

  • Pool A: Kazakhstan, Chinese Taipei, Australia.
  • Pool B: China, Sri Lanka, Mongolia.
  • Pool C: Turkmenistan, Malaysia, Qatar.
  • Pool D: Kyrgyzstan, New Zealand, India.

India's rosters for FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup
  • Men: Ravi Bhardwaj, Anil Kumar Gowda, Gurvinder Singh Gill, Jeevanantham Pandi.
  • Women: Shireen Limaye, Jeena Scaria, Raspreet Sidhu, Grima Merlin Varghese.

All four members of India's women's squad were in the team that helped the national squad complete a perfect qualifying campaign at the FIBA Asia Women's Cup in Bengaluru earlier this year. This team has a good combination of current stardom (Scaria, Limaye), experience (Sidhu), and youth (Varghese) and could upset some of the higher-ranked teams in their group. The men's team doesn't feature any of India's most-popular players who are all vying for their trades in leagues abroad, but has a good second string of talent that has emerged in the country over the past few years.

The odds are, unfortunately, stacked against India in both the sections. Our women will find it difficult to make it out of the group to the final rounds, and the men's team might struggle even finishing top or second in their qualifying draw. But 3x3 is an unpredictable game, and hopefully, some of the momentum of the past can help India beat the odds and bring home some silverware.

October 23, 2017

Short of NBA opportunities, basketball trail-blazer Satnam Singh returns to India

This article was first published in my blog for The Times of India Sports on October 12, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

In the climactic moment to the documentary about him “One in a Billion”, Satnam Singh is in New York City, being driven to the 2015 NBA Draft. It is a life-changing convention that turns selected amateur athletes into full professionals in the world’s most-prestigious basketball league. Even at 19, Satnam has already lived numerous lifetimes: with the help of basketball, he has gone from a small, nondescript Punjabi village to an American education and world-class basketball training at the IMG Basketball Academy in Florida.

Now, he is en route to discover his destiny, suited in his sharpest gear, but looking as nervous as you would ever see a seven-foot giant. He is about to find out if years of toil and turmoil will lead him to the ultimate glory: a selection in the NBA, making him the first Indian citizen to be drafted into the league in its seven-decade history.

In the car on the way to the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, Satnam talks to the agents and friends and mentions how Yao Ming opened the door for basketball in China. Someone tells him encouragingly, that he, too, has already opened the door. Satnam, in broken English, a language barrier that haunted him in his days at the IMG Academy, responds, “Just opened the lock,” he says with a sly smile. “Not door. Just opened the lock.”

A few hours later, history will be made. The NBA’s Deputy Commissioner will call Satnam’s name on behalf of the Dallas Mavericks with the 52nd pick of the draft. A young man’s life—and an entire country’s basketball expectations—will never be the same again.

Little did Satnam know that, his words on Draft Day would become a self-prophecy. After being drafted, Satnam spent the next two years with the Maverick’s affiliate team in the NBA’s minor basketball league (NBA G-League) team Texas Legends. He played only 7.1 minutes per game in 27 appearances over two years, averaging just 1.6 points and 1.4 rebounds. The NBA dream and those over-enthused Yao Ming comparisons seemed to loom too far in the horizon.

Satnam was right: by getting drafted, he had only unlocked the possibility of an Indian even making it into the conversation of NBA athletes. The door for him still remained shut.

Earlier this week, frustrated with lack of opportunity and playing time, Satnam told gathered reporters at an event organised by the General Nutrition Centre in Mumbai that he had decided to return to India to develop his game.

“I had a big problem with no playing time at NBA,” Satnam said to India Today. “I would lose my mind.”

Now, he is hoping that India, and added opportunity, will help him showcase his skillset again. With additional competitive time on court, he hopes to improve this game as well as attract the attention of scouts again.

“If I play here, I will get more game time and my game will improve,” he said to The Field. “I just want to play and work on my skills and moves. If I want to improve my game, I will need somebody who I can work with.”

His decision is somewhat surprising, considering that Satnam joined fellow Punjabi baller TJ Sahi to comment last month that there was “no future” for basketball in India and aspiring players should look for opportunities abroad.

The lack of elite-level competition and no full-time professional league has hampered the growth and opportunities for numerous Indian basketball stars, which is why, many of our top current players—Amritpal Singh, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amjyot Singh—are looking for professional opportunities abroad. Satnam, who blazed the trail (while still being the youngest of them all) seems to have taken a step back to his roots.

“Now I have come back to India. I will play for the Indian team,” Satnam said to India Today. “I will work on my game as much as I can. I will play for Punjab, any small tournament. I want playing time. The more I play my game will improve.”

Satnam’s last foray with the Indian national team - at the prestigious FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon in August - didn’t go as well as he would have expected. He was not in ideal game shape and was behind Amritpal, Amjyot, and Arvind Annadurai in the big man rotation. He played less than nine minutes per game and couldn’t help India as they lost all three of their preliminary round games.

If he continues to stay fit, however, he should have no trouble eventually getting playing time in India. He will likely play for Punjab in national tournaments and hopefully find a place for himself in the UBA Basketball League. He will have to evolve his style to fit into the faster pace of the game, which was part of his struggle in breaking into the Texas Legends line-up back in the United States, too.

By returning to India for more playing opportunity, Satnam will be sacrificing the exposure, facilities, and competition that was available to him in the US. Could playing without a fully professionalised league, against inferior opponents, with worse coaching and infrastructure, truly help him find future international opportunities?

From farming in the Ballo Ke village in Punjab to rubbing shoulders with the best in the basketball world, Satnam has already taken Indian basketball further than anyone before him. Indeed, he has unlocked the door to the NBA. Hopefully he - or a successor — will kick it wide open very soon.

India's Amjyot Singh and Indian-American Gokul Natesan both selected late in 2017 NBA G-League Draft

The NBA G-League draft is a marathon, including four rounds and over a 100 picks from a selected pool of players who all have the opportunity to taking a small step to their hoop dream through the NBA's minor league. One of the players waiting in this pool was Indian basketball superstar Amjyot Singh, who had tried and failed at last year's G-League draft, and returned to the United States again last month with renewed zest to prove his worth to coaches and scouts.

But on draft day on Saturday, October 21, as time passed, one pick turned to the next, and the final round of selections came close to its conclusion, it seemed that Amjyot was going to be let-down once again

In true clutch fashion, however, Amjyot got a game-winning play just before time expired. With the 103rd pick of the afternoon (the 25th pick of the fourth and final round), the Oklahoma City Blue - an affiliate of the NBA's OKC Thunder - selected Amjyot Singh! With this pick, Amjyot became the second Indian player to be picked by the G-League (after Palpreet Singh last year) and the third Indian to be selected into the NBA universe (after Satnam Singh was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 2015).

If Amjyot passes his physical, he will have the opportunity to join the Blue in their training camp roster. The selection doesn't guarantee that Amjyot will actually play for the team. G-League squads can release their draft picks at any time - last year, Palpreet only lasted with the Long Island Nets for a week before he was released.

Amjyot is one of India's most talented basketball players, one of the national team's "Big Three" along with Amritpal Singh and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi. For the past five years, he has been India's most consistent scorer on the international stage and helped India to many high-profile victories. Amjyot played professionally in Japan's Summer League and Development League a few years ago and is an accomplished international 3x3 basketball star.

Originally from Chandigarh, the 6-foot-8, 25-year-old forward was India's captain and leading scorer at the recently-completed FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon. Amjyot was trained at the Ludhiana Basketball Academy in Punjab and played domestically for IOB (Chennai), Punjab Police, and the Delhi Capitals of the UBA League.

The top pick of the 2017 draft on Saturday was Eric Stuteville, who was picked by the Northern Arizona Suns.

The Indian diaspora have another important reason to celebrate the 2017 G-League draft. Just a few picks before Amjyot, the Canton Charge (affiliated with the Cleveland Cavaliers) selected Indian-American Gokul Natesan with the 97th pick (Round 4, Pick 19), a swingman who had starred for the Colorado School of Mines last season in NCAA Division II. Natesan is from California, and his parents originally immigrated to the United States from Tamil Nadu. He finished 2016-17 season in the All RMAC (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) First Team and as the RMAC Academic Player of the Year. He led his team in minutes, scoring (18.5 ppg), and assists (4.1 apg) while leading the Mines to the NCAA D2 Elite 8 stage for the first time.

The journey forward is still going to be long and arduous for these two players, but their selection shows the continuing improvement and visibility of Indian basketball players from home and abroad. Hopefully, they can carve a path for many more to follow in their footsteps.

October 22, 2017

Hoopdarshan Episode 54: FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship Preview with Zoran Visic

This week, India will host the FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship in Bengaluru. To preview the tournament for the home team, Hoopdarshan invited India's head coach, Zoran Visic for Episode 54, for an illuminating conversation. Visic spoke about India's preparation, our biggest challengers, lessons from coaching India's Senior Women's team, and coping without Serbian food in India.

Hoopdarshan hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok also discussed the beginning of the NBA season, the G-League drafting of Indian basketball star Amjyot Singh, and the conclusion of the Sub-Junior Nationals in this episode.

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...

October 19, 2017

India U16 Women's team ready to host FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship in Bengaluru - Roster, Schedule, and Preview

Three months ago, Bengaluru proved its place as a worthy basketball host city, as the city's iconic Sri Kantaveera Stadium hosted the FIBA Asia Women's Cup. This was the first major FIBA basketball event to be held in India in eight years, and in front of the home fans, Team India finished the tournament in style by winning promotion to Division A.

Now, India's youth squad will be hoping that the same arena, in the same city, can provide them the boost that the country's leading ladies received, too. From October 22-28, India will host the FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship in Bengaluru, featuring the top youth teams from around Asia and Oceania in the youngest FIBA international tournament. India's U16 team, which fell to Division B at the previous iteration of this tournament, will hope to return to the higher stage by the end of next week.

Fifteen teams, divided into two levels of two groups each, will take part in this tournament. In 2015 in Medan (Indonesia), China completed a three-peat at this championship with a win over Japan in the final. India finished the group stage losing all five preliminary round games, and then losing their playoff match against Hong Kong to fall to Division B.

Participating Teams
  • Division A - Group A: Australia, Korea, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand.
  • Division A - Group B: China, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong.
  • Division B - Group A: India, Sri Lanka, Iran Nepal.
  • Division B - Group B: Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Maldives.

Team India will be led by Zoran Visic, the experienced basketball coach from Serbia who also led India's Senior Women's team at the FIBA Asia Women's Cup earlier this year. Visic's assistant coach will be his captain from the senior team - the basketball star Anitha Paul Durai - for whom this will be the first foray into international coaching. The squad is completely changed from the one that played in Medan two years ago. Some of the top players that made a mark in recent Youth and Sub Junior nationals will be featured in this roster, including Vaishnavi Yadav, Ann Mary Zacharaiah, and Elijabet Ekka.

Team India Roster
  • Vaishnavi Yadav
  • Riya Baliyan
  • Ann Mary Zachariah
  • Neha Karwa
  • Khushi Sanjay Dongre
  • Elijabet Ekka
  • Monica Jayakumar
  • Pushpa Senthil Kumar
  • Grishma Niranjan
  • Sreekala Rani
  • Asmat Taunque
  • Sanjana Ramesh
  • Head Coach: Zoran Visic
  • Assistant Coach: Anitha Paul Durai

India will top to top their group in the preliminary round, and then defeat the top squad from Group B of their Division in a playoff, to secure Division A promotion.

India's Preliminary Round Schedule - All timings IST
  • October 22 - India vs. Nepal - 8 PM
  • October 23 - Iran vs. India - 8 PM
  • October 24 - India vs. Sri Lanka - 8 PM

India is the highest ranked team in this group and their entire division. They should be able to cruise past Nepal, although Iran, whose women's teams haven't played in international tournaments for many years, will be the wildcards. Sri Lanka will pose somewhat of a threat, but hopefully, India can propel past them, too. Group B feature two legitimate challenges to India's promotion ambitions: Malaysia and Kazakhstan. The Senior Women's team had to slay the Kazakhs in dramatic fashion in their final game in July; there's a good chance that one of these teams could be testing India to the limit at the FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship, too.

Meanwhile, the Division A matches should add for some intrigue as now Oceania's powerhouse Australia will challenging China and Japan's place at the top of this fray. Korea and Chinese Taipei are two other teams that could make some noise in this tournament. India's demotion to Division B is a pity, but it could give the home fans the opportunity to see India notch up more victories and end up with a good record - even if it only comes against worse teams.

October 16, 2017

Sony plans to broadcast 100 NBA games with Hindi commentary in India this season

After a short, eventful off-season where (thankfully) it felt like the NBA never really went away, the new season is almost here, tipping off on October 17 - or the morning of October 18 if you are watching from India. There are going to be a number of players in new jerseys this season, and many teams literally wearing new jersey designs, and the potential of new legends to be made.

In India, there is also going to be a lot more NBA in Hindi.

With a mission to penetrate the popularity of the game deeper into the Indian market, the NBA and its Indian broadcast partner Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) have decided to air almost a 100 regular season games with Hindi commentary this season. The games will also, of course, continue to be simulcast in English as usual in Sony's other sports channels live.

According to the Economic Times, the move comes on the back of a trial period last season, when fourteen playoff games were broadcast with Hindi commentary on the Ten 1 channel. As per data provided by NBA India, the games with Hindi commentary were viewed on TV by 8.9 million people in India.

Sony SIX and Sony SIX HD, for the last few seasons, have broadcast two live games almost every morning during the NBA season in India in English. Now, two games per week - during the weekends - will be broadcast on Sony Ten 3 and Sony Ten 3 HD in Hindi, along with the Live wraparound show ‘Around the Hoop’

More via The Economic Times:

“India is one of the top 2 priority markets for us,” said NBA India managing director Yannick Colaco. “We want to popularise the game of basketball and NBA in India. That means we should make it more accessible for the audiences. With this move, we will be able to engage with not just existing, but also potential fans.”
Talking about statistics from last season’s trial run, Colaco said in the Hindi-speaking markets (HSM), the viewership of the telecast with Hindi commentary was double of that with English commentary.

A panel of expert commentators has been engaged to deliver analysis in Hindi for each game, said Rajesh Kaul, president of sports and distribution business at SPN.
The commentators have undergone training to fine tune their abilities in presenting NBA games, which included personalised training by long-time Indiana Pacers’ play-by-play announcer Chris Denari.

चलो बहुत अच्छी बात है. अब पहले से और ज़्यादा प्रशानशक NBA बॅस्केटबॉल का आनंद ले सकेंगे. With the Warriors sure to make another deep playoff run, I'm waiting to see who will be the first commentator to call Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson the छिड़कना-वाले भाईलोग #Splash Brothers.

Rajasthan (Boys) and Tamil Nadu (Girls) win 2017 Sub Junior Nationals in Didwana, Rajasthan

The annual gathering of India's finest, youngest national-level basketball players - the 44th Sub Junior National Basketball Championship for Boys and Girls - came to a conclusion in Didwana, Rajasthan, on Saturday, October 14 with some celebrations for the home side. Rajasthan boys got sweet vengeance in the final over Madhya Pradesh, who had defeated them in last year's final. Tamil Nadu girls also upset Chattisgarh's hopes of retaining their 2016 title with a final win earlier in the day.

The Sub-Junior Nationals - also known as the "minis" - featured 30 boys' teams and 24 girls' teams in the U14 age group from various Indian States and Union territories competing from October 8-14 this year at Didwana's Bangour College Stadium. The Championship was organised by the Rajasthan Basketball Association under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

Madhya Pradesh boys, the winners from last year, came into the finals with hopes of adding another jewel in their crown. But backed by an enthusiastic home crowd, Rajasthan came out fired up, taking a 28-17 lead in the first quarter and extending the game to a blowout by the end of the third. Prashant (28) and Lokendra (21) led Rajasthan to an impressive 87-59 win and a gold medal. MP were led by Rishikesh's 16 points.

The girls' final was a close, fast-paced game, where Tamil Nadu's rising star Sathya stole the show, dropping 43 points for her squad. Chattisgarh, looking to repeat their 2017 win, were leading 37-29 at halftime, but a 39-22 third quarter run by TN turned the scores around, and TN held on the final period to win 88-81. Kirti (24) and Ruksar (18) led the way for Chhattisgarh in the loss.

Earlier in the day, Chhattisgarh's boys defeated Uttar Pradesh to secure the bronze medal. The girls' 3rd-place game was won by Maharashtra, who defeated the host team Rajasthan.

Final Scores
  • Boys: Rajasthan (Prashant 28, Lokendra 21) bt Madhya Pradesh (Rishikesh 16, Bhagat 14) 87-59 [28-17, 7-10, 31-18, 21-14].
  • Girls: Tamil Nadu (Sathya 43) bt Chhattisgarh (Kirti 24, Ruksar 18) 88-81 [18-18, 11-19, 39-22, 20-22].

Final Standings

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

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

October 14, 2017

2017 SLAM Top 50: Paul George, No. 9

In a new role on a new team, Paul George is in position to reach his lofty goals.

This article was first published in my #SLAMTop50 contribution for SLAMOnline.com on October 4, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

Four summers ago, I interviewed a 23-year-old Paul George at an NBA carnival in China. It was the ‘NBA Nation’ in Wuhan, a fan-event in the most populous city in central China featuring basketball clinics, Pop-a-Shot games, and the Phoenix Suns Dance Team. The main event, however, was George. Then a rising star for the Indiana Pacers, PG was coming off a breakout 2012-13 season where he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, became an All Star for the first time, and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. But just months before, his magical season had ended in heart-breaking fashion as the Pacers went down to the Heat in a memorable seven-game Eastern Conference Finals.

In going up against the best in the League, George had gotten his first whiff of success, and he sounded confident when he told me that his rise to superstardom was just getting started. “I’m nowhere close to getting what I want to achieve,” he said, reflecting on his NBA journey so far. “But I think I’m taking the right steps and going in the right direction. I can see myself being an MVP in the League. I think, if I’m not in contention for an MVP award, or leading my team to the Championship, then I think I’d be selling myself short as a player. In the near future, I wanna have the MVP award, be on the Olympic team, be a perennial All-Star, hopefully First-Team All-NBA as well.”

But sometimes, even the best laid plans of a super-athletic swingmen can go awry. A year later, George suffered a horrific compound fracture on both bones of his lower right leg during a 2014 FIBA World Cup scrimmage in Las Vegas. The setback virtually cost him an entire season of progress and raised questions if he could ever soar towards greatness again.

It put his ‘Wuhan Checklist’ on hold. MVP award? Nope. Championship? Not close. First Team All NBA? Nah.

But by 2015-16, George bounced back with a bang, playing 81 games and averaging career highs in scoring and assists. Last summer, he fulfilled his wish of playing in the Olympics and helped bring back a Gold medal from Rio. In 2016-17, he continued his rampage and boosted his scoring output to a career-high 23.7 points per game. The ‘perennial All Star’ wish had also been fulfilled. George put up an unstoppable performance in last season’s playoffs with 28 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists over nearly 43 minutes per game. Just like in the old days however, it was that old foe—LeBron James—that proved to be the thorn in PG’s side, and the Cavaliers swept the Pacers in the First Round.

Despite the loss, George’s comeback from the career-threatening leg injury was complete. Even if he doesn’t have quite the athletic hops he did in his younger days, PG has matured into a better scorer and smarter defender.

But with a drastic change of scenery, he will now find himself evolving into an exciting new role: George was traded over the offseason to Oklahoma City to join reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, not long before OKC pulled off another heist and presented Carmelo Anthony to the explosive Thunder mix, too.

He may no longer be the first option, or on many nights, even the second option on offense. But as the ideal two-way player who can be an elite perimeter defender, an offensive threat, and effect the game without the ball in his hands, George could have the Thunder soaring this season. None of that confidence I saw in Wuhan has wavered. George is still gunning for that MVP trophy. With Westbrook and ‘Melo by his side, he has said that the Thunder have the feel “of a championships team.”

Playing in a different NBA jersey for the first time in his career, this isn’t going to be the 2013 “Rising Star” PG, or the 2015 “Hobbled with Injury” PG, or even the 2016-17 “Bounce Back To Scoring Stardom” PG. The OKC version of Paul George will be something we’ve never seen before. Still only 27, we are going to see PG enter his prime years, a superstar in a new role. A man on a mission to complete his checklist.

October 9, 2017

Lt. Col. Makkolath Rajan, legendary former Indian basketball coach, passes away at 83

One of the most successful and distinguished basketball coaches in India, Lt. Col. Makkolath Rajan passed away at age 83 in Kozhikode (Kerala) on Sunday, October 9. Rajan, who made his mark for India on both the national and international stage and coached India's only Olympic basketball team, had been hospitalised with pneumonia symptoms in Kozhikode a few weeks ago.

Rajan was the head coach of Team India's men's national team for the country's most famous international basketball outing: the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. The team lost all seven games they played in Russia but their place in Indian hoops history was secured with this historic accomplishment. Rajan also coached India at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi, plus the FIBA Asia Basketball Championships in 1973 (Manila), 1985 (Kuala Lumpur) and 1989 (Beijing).

Rajan is the winningest coach in India's national basketball championships, with many gold medals collected in the 70s and 80s with Services. He coached Madhya Pradesh and served as Associate Secretary of the Kerala Basketball Association (KBA) from 1976-85. He held several posts with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) over the years.

Rajan was a distinguished medal winner for his role in Indo-Chinese war.

Rajan's wife passed on a message via Rajan's former player in the 1980 Olympics team, Amarnath N Nagarajan. "He was someone we all looked up to and will continue to do so. He is an inspiration to all of us. He always wanted us to be healthy and fit. Let's all remember and follow that in our busy lives. Sports was a way of life for him. He was a celebrated sportsman and brought laurels to the country. His discipline and dedication towards sports and the Army will always be remembered."

October 8, 2017

Hoopdarshan Episode 53: Shooting our shots - 2017-18 NBA Preview with Vince Granata

With the new season on the brink, Hoopdarshan is back with a lengthy discussion on All Things NBA. In Episode 53, co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok are joined by Vince Granata to give thoughts, predictions, and flaming hot takes on the Warriors' chance of a repeat, the future of new-look Cavs and Celtics in the East, player movement around the league, too much Jeff Green, and a Laker family of Balls.

Listen to Episode 53 now! Also included: Our Championship and MVP predictions and some recent news out of Indian basketball like the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, Amrit Pal Singh with the Sydney Kings, and Amjyot Singh's G-League ambitions.

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...

October 7, 2017

2017 Sub Junior National Basketball Championship to tip off in Didwana, Rajasthan

Deep in the heart of the Thar Desert is Didwana, a city known more for it's mandirs and mathhs than its sports. For the next week, however, this Rajasthani town will be the place to get a first glimpse at the future of Indian basketball.

From October 8-14, the 44th Sub Junior National Championship for Boys and Girls - the Sub-Junior Nationals - will be held at Didwana's Bangour College Stadium. The championship will feature 30 boys' teams and 24 girls' teams in the U14 age group from various Indian States and Union territories, and will be played in a league/knockout format. The Championship is being organized by the Rajasthan Basketball Association under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

Madhya Pradesh Boys and Chhattisgarh Girls are the defending champions from the previous edition held in Hyderabad last year, retaining their trophies from previous years.

The opening ceremony will be held on Sunday, 8th October with Yoonus Khan (PWD and Transportation Minister of Rajasthan) as the Chief Guest.

Participating Teams

  • Group A: Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Maharashtra.
  • Group B: Rajasthan, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha.
  • Group C: Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat, Nagaland, Puducherry.
  • Group D: Kerala, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura.
  • Group E: Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand.
  • Group F: Delhi, Assam, Jharkhand, Manipur, West Bengal.

  • Group A: Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi.
  • Group B: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab.
  • Group C: Haryana, Chandigarh, Goa.
  • Group D: Telangana, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Group E: Gujarat, Assam, Jharkhand, West Bengal.
  • Group F: Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand.

The reigning champs MP and Chhattisgarh will hope to stamp their place as dynasties in this format, as MP look for their fourth consecutive title and Chhattisgarh for a three-peat. Last year, Rajasthan's boys squad lost in the finals and the girls finished fifth, and the hosts will have the support of the home crowd to push them forward. Haryana boys will be another contending squad to watch out for. In the girls' bracket, Chhattisgarh are likely to be challenged by the strongest teams from the South: Tamil Nadu and Kerala.