May 31, 2018

Customs (Chennai) and KSEB (Thiruvanathapuram) win 2018 All India Basketball Tournaments in Coimbatore

The five-day invitational basketball tournaments in Coimbatore - Nachimuthu Gounder Cup for Men and 17th CRI Pumps Trophy for Women - came to a conclusion on Thursday, May 31, with victories for Customs (Chennai) and KSEB (Thiruvanathapuram) in the Men's and Women's tournaments respectively.

Top club teams from around India were invited for these prestigious tournaments, featuring eight Men's teams and and eight Women's teams. The tournaments were organised by the Coimbatore District Basketball Association (CBDA).

Customs beat Indian Railways 69-63 in the Men's final of this 53rd All-India Championship, led by Hari Ram (26).

In the women's section, KSEB beat Eastern Railway (Kolkata) 59-43 in the final.

NBA Academy's first-ever Women's Camp concludes in India with MVP awards for Sanjana Ramesh and Vaishnavi Yadav

Last year, the NBA launched its first-ever elite basketball Academy in India - at the Jaypee Greens Integrated Sports Complex in Greater Noida - with the mission to train and educate the top young prospects from the country. The first year of the Academy housed a few dozen players in the facility, who received world-class coaching and took part in several major basketball tournaments. But all these players were young boys, while their female counterparts still waited for their opportunity.

This week, the Academy took a major step forward with a programme for some of the best young female prospects in India. The first-ever NBA Academy Women’s camp was held at the facility in Greater Noida from May 27-29, featuring international women's basketball legends, coaches, and Indian basketball stars in attendance. The camp concluded on Tuesday, May 29 with a championship game between 'Team Liberty' and 'Team Sparks', won by Liberty 18-8.

After the game, Sanjana Ramesh of Bengaluru and Vaishnavi Yadav from Allahabad were named the camp's Co-MVPs. Other award-winners included Siya Deodhar (Most Improved Player), Grishma Niranjan (Sharp Shooter), Rajvi Desai (Defensive Player), Pushpa Senthil Award (Sportsmanship and Leadership Skills) and Khushi Dongre (Best Teammate).

For the past three days, the 18 top female prospects from across India received training from 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame member Jennifer Azzi, 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist and two-time WNBA Champion Ruth Riley, former WNBA player Ebony Hoffman and former college coach Blair Hardiek, along with former Indian women’s basketball team captain Divya Singh.

"These three days have been the best of my life," said Ramesh. "Honestly, every player here is an MVP. We all have improved and I am really grateful to win this award. The camp has taught us so much about team spirit and unity and that’s something that I am going to take back from here."

"It’s a dream come true to win this award, especially in a camp organised by the NBA," said Yadav. "The three days here have taught me so much more than I have learnt in past. I am pretty sure I will only improve as a player from here on."

Starting on Wednesday, the Academy will host the 2018 Basketball Without Borders Asia camp for 66 participants from 16 countries across Asia. A number of former NBA/WNBA players, international coaches, and Indian basketball stars will assist with this event. The 18 prospects from the Women's camp are also set to remain at the Academy to take part in BWB 2018.

May 30, 2018

Hoopdarshan Episode 63: Warriors-Cavaliers Part IV Preview with Thejas Balaraman

The entire lifetime of Hoopdarshan - India's top basketball podcast - has had a singular inevitability: Warriors vs. Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. For the fourth consecutive time, the two franchises meet again, meaning more Steph, more LeBron, more Durant, and Klay and Green(s), and Love and even JR & Swaggy P! Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok invite Episode 63 guest Thejas Balaraman to wrap-up the Conference Finals & make our predictions for the Finals ahead!

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...

May 24, 2018

NBA/WNBA players and coaches will lead camp 2018 Basketball Without Borders Asia camp in Delhi-NCR. 25 Indian youngsters to take part

The National Basketball Association (NBA), International Basketball Federation (FIBA), and Basketball Federation of India (BFI) recently joined hands to announce that the 2018 Basketball Without Borders Asia camp is set to be held in the Delhi-NCR region from May 30-June 2, 2018. On Thursday, the NBA announced a list of six NBA/WNBA players, additional professional coaches, and 66 participating players from 16 countries across Asia - including 25 Indian boys and girls - who will take part in this prestigious camp, set to be held in the NBA Academy India in Greater Noida.

This is the second time - after 2008 - that the BWB Asia camp is being held in India, and it's the 10th overall BWB Asia camp. Nike will serve as the official partner of the camp.

Corey Brewer (Oklahoma City Thunder), Caris LeVert (Brooklyn Nets), Kelly Olynyk, (Miami Heat), Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks), two-time WNBA Champion Ruth Riley, and former WNBA player Ebony Hoffman will coach the top high-school age campers from throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

BWB Asia 2018 will feature two current prospects from NBA Academies, the league’s signature elite player development initiative that consists of a network of elite basketball training centers around the world for top male and female prospects from outside the USA. Since October 2016, NBA Academies have been launched in Canberra, Australia; Jinan, Urumqi and Zhuji, China; Delhi NCR, India; Mexico City, Mexico; and Thies, Senegal.

Players and coaches will lead the campers through a variety of activities on and off the court, including movement efficiency, positional skill development, shooting and skills competitions, 5-on-5 games, and daily life skills seminars focusing on health, leadership and communication. One boy and one girl will be named BWB Asia 2018 MVPs at the conclusion of the four-day camp. In the 2008 camp in Delhi, the boy's MVP was India's Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, who has since become one of India's most important players and has captained the senior squad in numerous international tournaments.

BWB Asia 2018 will be preceded by a basketball development camp May 27 – 29 for the 18 female prospects from throughout India as part of The NBA Academies Women’s Program. 1996 Olympic Gold Medallist and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame member Jennifer Azzi, Riley and former college coach Blair Hardiek – the global technical directors for women’s programming across the league’s seven
academies – will oversee the camp.

BWB Asia 2018 and The NBA Academies Women’s Programme camp will also include a variety of NBA Cares and Jr. NBA community outreach efforts with youth in New Delhi in partnership with local community organisations, including basketball clinics for more than 150 youth from the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program and the NBA Basketball Schools in New Delhi. These programmes will highlight the power of sport to promote cultural understanding while teaching the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle and the values of the game, including teamwork, respect, determination and community.

Current NBA assistant coaches Bret Brielmaier (Nets), Darvin Ham (Atlanta Hawks), Ryan Saunders (Minnesota Timberwolves), and Mike Wells (Utah Jazz) will also serve as BWB Asia 2018 coaches. Patrick Hunt (President of the World Association of Basketball Coaches; Australia) will be the camp director. Casey Smith (Mavericks) will serve as the camp’s athletic trainer.

The NBA revealed the list of 66 players from 16 countries in Asia/Oceania - 40 boys and 26 girls - who have been invited to the camp next week. The participating Indian players are:

  • Girls: Khushi Ahlawat, Riya Baliyan, Priyanka Behal, Siya Deodhar, Rajvai Desai, Khushi Dongre, Monica Jayakumar, Annmariya Johny, Sunishka Kartik, Neha Karva, Grishma Niranjan, Sanjana Ramesh, Radha Rani, Sreekala Rani, Pushpa Senthil Kumar, Asmat Taunque, Vaishnavi Yadav, Ann Mary Zacariah.
  • Boys: Princepal Singh, Amaan Sandhu, Prashant Tomar, Harpreet Singh, Priyanshu, Harshwardhan Tomar, Pritish Kokate.

All of the Indian girls in the programme are also participants in the NBA Academies Women's Programme. Many of these young women have already made a mark for India in the youth stage, such as Pushpa Senthil Kumar who captained the national squad in the U16 FIBA Asia Championship for Women last year and Vaishnavi Yadav, who was the MVP of the recent Junior Nationals in Ludhiana. In the boys' fray, Princepal Singh and Amaan Sandhu are both NBA Academy India prospects. Princepal, Prashant Tomar, Harshwardhan Tomar, Priyanshu, and Kokate have all represented India in junior/youth international competitions.

Other BWB camps are planned this year in Serbia and South Africa.

May 23, 2018

Hoopdarshan Episode 62: Satnam Singh returns to Indian Basketball

Indian basketball star Satnam Singh makes his 3rd appearance on the Hoopdarshan podcast, joining hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok to talk about his return to India, experiences of playing in the NBA G-League, and future ambitions for an NBA return. Satnam was the first NBA draft pick from India, played for the Texas Legends for two years, was the subject of the documentary 'One in a Billion', and is now preparing to help India in the Asian Games later this year.

Kaushik and Karan also discussed the passing of Indian basketball coaching legend Rajesh Patel, the results of the Junior Nationals, and broke down some of the most-compelling story-lines from the NBA Conference Finals

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...

May 18, 2018

Rajesh Patel, the most-decorated basketball coach in India, passes away at 62

This article was first published in my column for The Times of India Sports on May 8, 2018. Read the original piece here.

I vividly remember one of the first times I saw Rajesh Patel—coach and spearheading force of Chhattisgarh basketball—in action on the side-lines of a basketball court. It was the 2010 Junior National Basketball Championship in Vashi, Maharashtra, the annual tournament featuring the top under-18 players in the nation. By then, Patel had already turned Chhattisgarh’s junior, youth, and sub-junior level girls into the most successful programme of the decade, winning dozens of medals across the various competitions. He was Chhattisgarh basketball secretary, its chief talent scout and recruiter, it’s media relations-person, and on this day in Vashi in a preliminary round game against Delhi, he was there in his favourite role: head coach.

Chhattisgarh had begun the game in a blitz, leading 25-2 after the first quarter. But as the girls walked back to the bench, Patel still seemed unhappy.

“You slowed down in the end,” he told them. “This is a 40-minute game, and we have only played 10. We lead by 20 now, I want us to lead by 50 by the time the game's over.”

With ruthless efficiency, they followed his command, and by the game ended, Chhattisgarh had secured a 69-48 victory. Not quite the margin he had envisioned, but it would be good enough.

Ironically, the 2010 Junior Nationals were one of the few years when Chhattisgarh’s girls didn’t win a medal. For Patel, such failure was a rare, almost alien occurrence. For 33 years, he dedicated his life to coaching the game to youngsters from Chhattisgarh’s rural, tribal, and other nearby regions. As head coach of Chhattisgarh since 2001, he delivered 104 medals, including 69 gold medals, to the state in the 17-year stretch in National Basketball Championships, National Games, and the Federation Cup. In 2015, he was named India’s Most Successful Basketball Coach by the Limca Book of Records.

It was en route to another Junior National Championship—the 2018 Junior Nationals in Ludhiana, Punjab—that he breathed his last. Patel got a sudden cardiac arrest during the train journey on Monday, May 7, and passed away in Panipat. He was 62-years-old, and was reportedly diabetic and suffering from kidney issues.

Patel will be remembered as one of the most dedicated and hard-working leaders in Indian basketball. In his youth, he played for Madhya Pradesh and joined the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) in 1980. By 1985, he turned all of his efforts into coaching the basketball recruits at Bhilai.

In 2000, Chhattisgarh gained independent statehood from Madhya Pradesh and Patel became the state’s basketball secretary the following year. He set up a residential basketball academy in Bhilai and recruited dozens of players from nearby regions—many of whom were from tribal or underprivileged backgrounds—to teach them the game. His mission was simple: to help these young girls earn employment through the sports quota.

He found astonishing success. Patel’s Chhattisgarh teams were renowned for their speed and efficiency, running lesser prepared opponents off the floor with ease. They won or were in the mix of winning every under-age championship in Indian domestic basketball for nearly two decades, and it was only when his top players were successfully recruited by units like the Indian Railways that the senior level Chhattisgarh teams saw a dip in results.

Over the years, he helped 85 young women secure jobs under the sports quota at the Indian Railways. 41 of his alumni have represented the Indian national team at various age levels, and seven have been Indian national team captains. Some of the top players to have risen under Patel’s tutelage include Anju Lakra, Bharti Netam, Seema Singh, Poonam Chaturvedi, Kavita Akula, Akanksha Singh, Maddu Pushpa and many more. Several male players like Ajay Pratap Singh also credit Patel and the BSP for their rise to prominence.

Notable stories among these players include that of Poonam Chaturvedi, originally from Kanpur, was discovered by Patel and grew to be the tallest woman basketball player in India at 6-foot-11. Chaturvedi was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2014 but made a comeback to the game and continued to be a major part of Patel’s Chhattisgarh state team. On the other side of the “height” spectrum is 22-year-old Kavita Akula, a five-foot-six point guard who earned scholarship to the IMG Academy in Florida at 14 and, last year, became the first Indian to be offered a full basketball scholarship in an NCAA Division 1 university, the Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.

For his contributions to grassroots basketball in India, Patel was felicitated at the FICCI sports summit in 2010.

Twice during his tenure, Chhattisgarh’s Senior teams reached the finals of the prestigious National Championship. In 2014, Chhattisgarh pulled off a stunning upset of Railways in the final of the National Championship in New Delhi, ending Railways’ ten-year winning streak. The victory inspired Bollywood, too, and a production team led by Lara Dutta and Mahesh Bhupathi has since shown interest in making a film about Patel and his squad.

Patel continued to lead and coach until his last days, and his sudden death on Monday brought an outpouring of respect an emotion from Indian basketball veterans on social media and in the news.

The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) wrote in a statement: “The Indian Basketball family lost a legend today as former Indian team Head Coach and current Chhattisgarh team Head Coach Mr. Rajesh Patel passed away. Coach Rajesh Patel was one of the best Basketball Coaches in India and was a true gem of a person. May his soul rest in peace.”

“His dedication to basketball is beyond everything,” wrote India’s veteran coach, former player, and referee Shiba Maggon. “His life is a complete journey of basketball. His efforts gave hundreds of families food in the house, jobs to the girls. He raised hopes for the girls to make something out of life.”

Anju Lakra, one of the many success stories of Patel’s programme, summed up the coach’s extraordinary influence: “He helped us break free.”

Patel will always be synonymous with Chhattisgarh Basketball, and will particularly be remembered for leading the charge to help female athletes in a culture where their efforts are often undermined and their opportunities few and far between. He exemplified the potential of the sport, it’s power to provide both excellence on the court and hope off of it.

On the way to the Junior Nationals, Patel passed away doing what he loved best, leading a group of young women to more basketball opportunities. His legacy will now be carried forward by the athletes whose lives he transformed.

Brook Lopez Talks Trip To India, Lakers, NBA Avengers And More

This article was first published on on May 7, 2018. Read my original feature here.

He saw the Taj Mahal, one of the true wonders of the modern world, the majestic ivory-white marble mausoleum that has been standing for nearly 400 years. He took in an IPL Cricket game among cheering crowds in Mumbai. He found himself on national Indian television, covering the playoffs and connecting with local fans.

But Brook Lopez found his real passion when he got down to a familiar space: the basketball court.

This week, the Lakers center flew over to India for a short trip, on a mission to support youth basketball initiatives. Lopez spent the majority of his time at the NBA Academy India – located in Greater Noida near the capital New Delhi – to witness and train the best young players from around the country.

“There’s so much positive momentum around basketball in India and I’m glad to play a part in the growth of the game,” he said.

The NBA Academy India – an elite basketball training center connected to similar NBA Academies around the world – opened last May, with a goal to provide promising young players with what the League has called a “holistic, 360-degree approach to player development with focuses on education, leadership, character development and life skills.” The Academy has had a few dozen players admitted permanently over the past year and welcomed Kevin Durant last summer for a special development program.

At the Academy, Lopez attended the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA National Finals to see the boys and girls competing for the opportunity to represent India in the first Jr. NBA World Championship in August. Over the next few days, he was also present at the ACG-NBA Jump Finals to help identify the top prospects who will receive scholarships to attend the Academy. Indian basketball star Amjyot Singh – who played for the G League squad OKC Blue last season – also took part in the event along with Lopez.

Brook was not the first of the Lopez Twins to make India a part of his summer itinerary. Two years ago, his brother Robin took the same trip, where he trained young players, visited the Taj, and more. Upon returning, Robin advised his slightly elder brother to follow his footsteps to witness the rise of Indian basketball.

In the midst of his travels, SLAM caught up with Brook to discuss the passion and potential of young Indian players, training the youth in India between post and perimeter play, NBA Avengers, and considering a Bollywood role with his twin.

SLAM: How has your time in India been so far? I know that it can be a sensory overdose at first, but what was the thing that surprised you the most?

BL: It’s been great. I’ve met a lot of very special people, people who have made my time here very enjoyable. A lot of the good that I’ve experienced has had to do with basketball. There are so many unique young players who have made it to the Academy here. What has surprised me most is the talent level and the passion that the young players have for the game. I was glad to witness it in person among the youngsters in the junior NBA boys’ and girls’ championship. I could see their passion and excitement as they cheered for each other off the bench!

I really enjoy travelling, so I was super excited to come here. It’s normal to have some expectations when you come to a new place, but this country has surpassed all the expectations I had! My trip to Taj Mahal was great. You’ve seen pictures and videos of the Taj Mahal, but to see it in person was inspiring and humbling. It’s hard to put into words. It was gorgeous and pristine, and there were so many people around to share this experience that made it really overwhelming and beautiful.

SLAM: You witnessed a lot of young Indian basketball players at the Jr. NBA Finals and ACG-NBA Jump program. What has been your takeaway from seeing the players in action here?

BL: It was really surprising to see how many talented kids there were here. The Academy gives the kids of this age a chance to grow their game, learn from their coaches, learn what they need to do, and continue to achieve their goals.

SLAM: Of course, it is often said that India’s large population is a great opportunity. But where else do you see potential for Indian basketball players to join the ranks of the top players in the NBA?

BL: I think that something big for India, besides having so many people, is the diversity of the people itself. You see all kinds of kids coming into the camp, from so many different backgrounds from vastly different regions. It’s cool to see their differences. They have different body types, different characteristics, and all with passion for the game.

SLAM: What would be your advice to young players and scouts on how to develop their skill-sets going forward as the game changes?

BL: I just tell them to work on the entirety of their game. Don’t focus on just one thing, but be the best player they can be overall. They have to be as smart as possible, develop a high basketball IQ, and not limit themselves to certain traits of “center” or “point guard.” Work on everything.

SLAM: That said, do you think post-play and under the basket offense is becoming a lost art among the young players? What did you see among the players in India?

BL: I definitely saw some flashes of [post-play]. I look at the way the game is going, and it’s becoming more “small ball.” But post-play still has a place. There were great examples of it at the camp. I saw many players at the Jr. NBA Championship that had a great instinct of the game. They just need to keep working at it.

SLAM: To shift away from basketball a little: I know you are famously a big comic-book fan – but I hope you got a chance to watch ‘Infinity War’ before you travelled?

BL: Oh yes, I did!

SLAM: Who would you say are the Avengers equivalents of NBA players in the Playoffs? I like to think of LeBron James as the Iron Man and KD as Captain America. Any other comparisons that you can think of?

BL: Well, I think of someone like Steph Curry as the Hawkeye, the sharpshooter. My brother is a huge Thor fan – I think that typifies him well! My favorite Avengers growing up were Black Panther and Hawkeye.

SLAM: Your brother has obviously been here before and experienced Indian basketball and the Taj Mahal. What did he tell you about India before you came?

BL: He told me that he just loved it. He had a great time. But he only brought back a small gift for me when he came back!

SLAM: In India, there are a lot of Bollywood films with a “double role” storyline, where the same actor plays two estranged twin brothers. Would you and Robin consider a ‘twins’ version of your own Bollywood film?

BL: Oh, we would absolutely, 100 percent, be down for that!

SLAM: Let’s talk about the Lakers a little. This upcoming offseason, it seems like everyone is rumored to join the team: LeBron, Paul George, Kawhi, etc. Do you think about these rumors?

BL: I mean there’s a lot going on. There are a lot of different options, and clearly, they all can’t happen. It’s definitely going to be an exciting offseason. But I wanna focus on what I can control. The one thing I can guarantee is that we are going to put in a lot of work in the gym.

SLAM: You’ve been a pro for almost a decade now, but this was your first time on a new team. How do you handle the off-court distractions of being on a new team, the midseason trade for Isaiah Thomas, stuff like that?

BL: Yes, there was a lot of change and transition this season. But we are a great group of guys – my teammates, the coaching staff, people in the training room, and all the way up. They made the transition as easy as possible for me. They were no qualms. It’s a great group of people and we were out there playing for the right reasons.

SLAM: The Lakers have so much young talent: Ingram, Randle, Ball, Kuzma… What do you think is the ceiling for this team?

BL: I think we have an opportunity to do great things. You look at what a team like the Warriors did by keeping their young core together and improving that way. There’s a lot to be said about their continuity. I think we want to have a solid foundation and build on it for a few years, continue to grow that way.

May 15, 2018

Tamil Nadu Women and Kerala Men win 2018 Junior Nationals in Ludhiana

India's biggest festival of junior (under-18) basketball concluded on Monday, May 14th in spectacular fashion with a couple of southern teams stomping their dominance in a northern stronghold. At the 69th Junior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women in Ludhiana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu (Women) and Kerala (Men) celebrated with the title, after impressive victories in their respective finales.

Organised by the Punjab Basketball Association (PBA) under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the 'Junior Nationals' tipped off at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana on Monday, May 7. 28 Men's teams and 24 Women's teams took part in the tournament.

In the Women's final, Tamil Nadu got off to a fast start against their neighbours Kerala, leading by double digits in the first quarter. Another spurt after halftime secured a 77-58 win for TN, helping them retain their title after last year's victory. Aishwary scored 17 for TN in the win.

The men's final was a high-octane, close affair, pitting together Kerala and Rajasthan, last year's silver and bronze medallists respectively, against each other. Rajasthan got off to a fast start and led 52-49 at halftime. Kerala made up for the difference in the third quarter and then stretched their lead to win the game 108-101. Shanazil (29) and Chacko (26) led Kerala's winning efforts, while Rajasthan's young star Rajeev Singh had 40 in the loss and Sumeet added 16.

Hosts Punjab Men got some taste of success on the final day as they grazed by Delhi 97-44 to win the bronze medal, led by Rajan (39) and Jagshanbir (19). Aditya had 27 for Delhi in the loss. Uttar Pradesh Women blew out Karnataka 72-32 to win third place, led by their one-woman wrecking crew Vaishnavi Yadav (53).

Vaishnavi Yadav of UP, who earlier in the tournament had a record 71-point game, was given the women's MVP award. The men's MVP was Rajeev Singh of Rajasthan.

Final Scores
  • Women: Tamil Nadu (Aishwary 17, Pratibha 15, Pushpa 14) bt. Kerala(Sreekala 14) 77-58 [21-10, 24-20, 22-14, 10-14].
  • Men: Kerala (Shaznil 29, Chacko 26) bt. Rajasthan(Rajeev Singh 40, Sumeet 16) 108-101 [22-28, 27-24, 28-22, 31-27].

Third/Fourth Place
  • Women: Uttar Pradesh (Vaishnavi Yadav 53, Kavya 13) bt. Karnataka 72-32 [14-10, 19-7, 17-10, 22-5].
  • Men: Punjab (Rajan 39, Jagshanbir 19) bt Delhi (Aditya 27) 97-44 [16-11, 25-11, 29-17, 27-8].

Final Standings

  • 1. Tamil Nadu
  • 2. Kerala
  • 3. Uttar Pradesh
  • 4. Karnataka
  • 5. Maharashtra

  • 1. Kerala
  • 2. Rajasthan
  • 3. Punjab
  • 4. Delhi
  • 5. Uttar Pradesh

May 11, 2018

NBA, FIBA, and the BFI to host second-ever Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp In India

A decade ago, the NBA took its first major chance in India, allowing the country to host the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp - a prestigious event to scout and develop the best youth players in the continent - in New Delhi. The camp was a success, showcasing India's growing basketball prowess. The top players from 2008 emerged to be camp MVP Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, a guard from Varanasi who went on to carve a place for himself among Indian basketball greats and captain the national team. The NBA accelerated their devotion to India right after, hosting massive grassroots development programmes, elite national camps, a world-class academy, and involving the assistance of some of the league's top players to promote basketball in India.

10 years later, India gets a chance to start a new cycle of potential success.

On Friday, May 11, the NBA joined hands with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) to announced that Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Asia 2018 will be held May 30 – June 2 at The NBA Academy India in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR), marking the second time that the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach programme will be held in India.

"Ten years ago, India hosted its first-ever Basketball Without Borders Asia camp in New Delhi,” said FIBA National Federations and Sport Director Zoran Radovic. "We’re excited to return to the world’s second-most populous country where basketball has really taken off over the past decade. The sport is growing extremely fast and there are great development opportunities for boys and girls. We look forward to teaming up with the Basketball Federation of India and the sport’s wider community in India so that basketball can achieve its full potential in the country."

BWB Asia 2018 will bring together the top male and female players ages 17 and under from throughout the Asia-Pacific region to learn directly from NBA and FIBA players, legends and coaches and to compete against the best young players from the region.

As a new addition to the programme, the NBA and the BFI also today announced that from May 27 – 29, The NBA Academy India will host a basketball development camp for top female prospects from throughout India as part of The NBA Academies Women’s Programme. The NBA and the BFI will identify 20-25 female prospects ages 17 and under to attend the camp. 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame member Jennifer Azzi, two-time WNBA Champion Ruth Riley and former college coach Blair Hardiek – the global technical directors for women’s programming across the league’s seven academies – will oversee the camp.

"It is a great pleasure for the Basketball Federation of India to get the opportunity to host another BWB camp in India," said BFI President K. Govindaraj. "This will be a great learning experience for all the young and talented players from India as they will be under the guidance of few of the best basketball trainers in the world, which will help them grow as basketball players and make their country proud in the future. Another outstanding effort put in by the NBA Academy that is really appreciated by the Basketball Federation of India is the development camp for the top female prospects in the country, as it will help not only grow the players but also women’s basketball in India. We are already seeing the development of the sport here since the beginning of the NBA Academy in India and the Basketball Federation of India is ready to support the NBA as much as we can."

BWB Asia 2018 and The NBA Academies Women’s Program camp will also include a variety of NBA Cares and Jr. NBA community outreach efforts with youth in New Delhi in partnership with local community organisations. These programs will highlight the power of sport to promote cultural understanding while teaching the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle and the values of the game, including teamwork, integrity and respect. Nike, a BWB global partner since 2002, will outfit the campers and coaches with Nike apparel and footwear.

"It has been an exciting year for our youth basketball development programs in India, including the expansion of The Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Program, the launch of The NBA Academy India, the opening of NBA Basketball Schools and now the return of Basketball Without Borders to India for the first time since 2008," said NBA India Managing Director Yannick Colaco. “We’re looking forward to hosting talented male and female players from throughout India and the Asia-Pacific region this May as part of Basketball Without Borders and The NBA Academies Women’s Program, and we thank FIBA and the BFI for supporting our continued efforts to grow basketball across the country."

BWB has reached more than 3,190 participants from 127 countries and territories since 2001, with more than 50 former campers drafted into the NBA or signed as free agents. A record 24 former BWB campers were on opening-night rosters for the 2017-18 season. The NBA and FIBA have staged 53 BWB camps in 33 cities across 27 countries on six continents. More than 250 current and former NBA, WNBA and FIBA players have joined more than 200 NBA team personnel from all 30 NBA teams to support BWB across the world.

The NBA Academy India, an elite basketball training center in Delhi NCR for the top male and female prospects from throughout India and the first of its kind in the country, officially opened in May 2017 and builds on the NBA’s existing basketball and youth development initiatives in India. 

BWB Asia 2018 campers and coaches will be announced prior to the camp. Last year, two young Indian basketball players - Priyanka Prabharaka and Aashay Verma - were among the 67 boys and girls from 32 countries and territories to attend BWB's Global Camp held during the NBA All-Star Weekend in the United States.

May 8, 2018

2018 Junior National Basketball Championship tips off in Ludhiana, Punjab

They are on the cusp of greatness, one more level away from entering the biggest stage. These are the India's best Junior (under-18) basketball players, and for a week-long festival of hoops at the famous grounds of the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, Punjab, they will feature among their competitors from around the nation in the 69th Junior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women.

Organised by the Punjab Basketball Association (PBA) under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the 'Junior Nationals' tipped off in Ludhiana on Monday, May 7. 28 Men's teams and 24 Women's teams are scheduled to participate in the tournament.

The Men's team for hosts Punjab will probably start the tournament as favourites, featuring a number of exciting young players, a passionate home fan-base offering them support, and the experience of being reigning champs after winning the same tournament in Greater Noida last year. Last year's medallists Kerala and Rajasthan will hope to do one better and challenge the hosts for the title. In the Women's division, 2017 winners Tamil Nadu will hope to continue their positive run, facing contenders like the improving Uttar Pradesh side and the always dangerous squad from Kerala.

The Junior Nationals began under a dark cloud, however. On his way to the tournament with his Chhattisgarh state team, India's most-decorated basketball coach Rajesh Patel died of a cardiac arrest. Patel has had a dominant record with Chhattisgarh's Women's team in the Junior Nationals and his presence will be missed on the sidelines.

Participating Teams

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

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

Punjab dominated the first day of action. The men's squad defeated Uttar Pradesh in a 107-49 washout led by rising young star Princepal Singh (32). The women defeated Rajasthan 74-56 despite 27 points by Ishika of the Rajasthani squad. Tamil Nadu Wome got their title defence to a good start with a 71-46 win over Gujarat. Kerala's Men's squad won a high-scoring matchup against Madhya Pradesh 103-86 led by Shanazil (25) and Chacko (22), overcoming MP's Udayveer who had a game-high 34 in the loss.

May 7, 2018

IOB (Men) and Kerala (Women) win 32nd Federation Cup in Chittoor

One of the most prestigious tournaments in Indian basketball concluded in Chittor, Andhra Pradesh yesterday with a story of redemption. In the final of the 32nd Federation Cup National Basketball Tournament on Sunday, IOB (Chennai) exorcised years of demons against the dominant ONGC squad to win a memorable title, ending ONGC's five-year run at the top. In the women's final, Kerala's young squad added another feather to their cap, defeating neighbours Tamil Nadu in the final.

Organised by the Andhra Pradesh Basketball Association under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the Federation Cup brought together the best club/state teams from the top 8 states in both the Men’s and Women’s categories from around the country to Chittoor from May 1-6, 2018.

In the Men's final, Chennai's Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) finally ended ONGC's (Dehradun) reign at the top, winning 62-43 to win the gold. IOB shifted to high gear on the defensive end after halftime and were able to run away to the comfortable victory. The IOB squad featured several top names in the national basketball circuit, including Prasanna Venkatesh, Gnanasekaran Sivabalan, and Rikin Pethani, who led all scorers with 17 in the final. ONGC can find silver lining in their loss thanks to positive performances by experienced forward Yadwinder Singh and a return to basketball by star player Vishesh Bhriguvanshi after a 9-month lay-off to his torn ACL.

Kerala's Women were led by Neenumol PS (22) and national team star Jeena Scaria (20) for their victory over TN, 66-50. Kerala's captain Anjana PG added 14 in the final.

Hoopdarshan Episode 61: India Women's Basketball Captain Shireen "Big Shot" Limaye

For Episode 61, Shireen Limaye - the most recent captain of India's Women's basketball team - joins Hoopdarshan to talk about India's performances at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, the basketball scene in her hometown Pune, and hitting THAT shot to help India win Division B of the FIBA Asia Cup last year.

In this episode, co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok also discuss a variety of topics in Indian basketball like the 3BL League, the BFI's competing 3x3 Tour, Federation Cup, NBA Academy India events, Brook Lopez's visit to India, and reflect on the second round of the NBA Playoffs so far.

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...

May 4, 2018

8 winners of ACG-NBA Jump programme set to join NBA Academy India

Earlier this week, 50 of the best young basketball players from around the country were invited from a national talent-search programme - the ACG-NBA Jump - to take part in the ACG-NBA Jump National Finals at the NBA Academy India in Greater Noida. After two days of rigorous training, scouting, and tryouts, the NBA has chosen eight winners from around the country. These eight young players will join the ranks of other prospects at the NBA Academy India and be at the forefront to receive what the NBA has called a "holistic, 360-degree approach to player development with focuses on education, leadership, character development and life skills."

After the finals on May 3-4, the ACG-NBA Jump winners are:
  • Harsh Dagar (13) - Haryana
  • Lokendra Singh (13) - Rajasthan
  • Pranav Prince (15) - Kerala
  • Lalhnepuia Chhakchuak (16) - Mizoram
  • Abhi Joshi (14) - Punjab
  • Aryan Kumar (14) - Delhi
  • Harshwardhan Tomar (17) - Madhya Pradesh
  • Pritish Kokate (16) - Maharashtra

17-year-old Tomar is the most experienced member of this group, after having represented and captained India in FIBA U16 Asia Championship and previously played at Italy's Stellazura Academy. Pune's Kokate has also played at a high level in the past, including an U15 international camp in Qatar.

NBA center Brook Lopez of the Los Angeles Lakers was in attendance for the National Finals of the ACG-NBA Jump as well as the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Finals at the Academy this week. Indian basketball star and recently a player for the NBA G-League's OKC Blue Amjyot Singh also attended the programme.

The NBA Academy India - an elite basketball training centre connected to similar NBA Academies around the world - opened at the Jaypee Greens Integrated Sports Complex in May 2017. Read more about how the Academy hopes to help realise India's basketball potential in my feature for SLAM Magazine.

May 3, 2018

BFI plans a 3x3 Basketball India tour; bans 3x3 players of opposing league in 5x5 events and vice versa

It's 3x3 basketball season in India, and everyone is about to get the fever.

On April 25, YKBK Enterprise announced the launch of the first-ever 3x3 basketball league in India, the 3BL. Although this league was being organised by an independent company, they reached out to the international basketball federation - FIBA - to win 3x3 exclusive rights contract for South Asia. The opening ceremony featured many of India's top players like Amjyot Singh, Amritpal Singh, and Satnam Singh. Over the past few days, 3BL announced the names of 12 city teams to take part in the first season of the league, which is set to begin in Delhi from June 9.

But YKBK's effort and FIBA rights came at the expense of India's official governing body of basketball, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). On the same day as the 3BL announcement, April 25, the BFI sent out a memo to the secretaries of all of India's affiliated units giving an update of their own 3x3 event. The letter detailed that a BFI 3x3 India Tour will be launched "soon" (details to be shared later in May) with the aim of building teams for India's participation in international FIBA 3x3 competitions, including the Olympics, which will feature 3x3 Basketball for the first time in 2020.

So far, so good. But the BFI's memo, signed by General Secretary Chander Mukhi Sharma, went on to detail that, in their Annual General Meeting in Chennai on January 23rd, the federation had come to a decision that no 5x5 basketball player would be allowed to play 3x3 basketball, and no player that takes part in the 3x3 competitions (which means, the 3BL, and perhaps the BFI's own 3x3 tour) would be allowed to participate in any state, national, or international championship. The message was sent, presumably, so that the state/district secretaries can warn their players with 5x5 ambitions against taking part in the 3BL.

For those of us long familiar with the BFI's tactics to control/smother Indian basketball talent, this seems like another absurd decision, following other recent head-scratching moments like the ban on players taking part in the UBA League in 2016 and the ineligibility of stars Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh in February's FIBA World Cup Qualifiers. The BFI missed out on their chance to get FIBA's 3x3 rights to the 3BL and have reacted by making life difficult for any player that now opts for the exciting new league.

BFI's decision is directly against the FIBA guidelines. Both BFI and 3BL have FIBA affiliation, and it is unlikely that FIBA will allow the BFI to continue this "ban" on a league that it has affiliated with. But if the ruling stands, a number of players with ambitions to star in the 3BL as well as contend for a spot in the national team could be potentially affected.

The good news is that there will be competing 3x3 basketball leagues in India soon, and although 3x3 isn't a platform as prestigious as the full-form of the game, the opportunity it presents in India will help so many more players gain hoops experience, draw fans to the sport, and hopefully help India's overall performances overseas in both versions of the game. The bad news is that, instead of believing in growing together, the BFI is again trying to block basketball opportunities for Indian athletes. There will be a lot more to this story in the coming weeks - so stay tuned!

Youth teams from Bengaluru and Delhi win Jr. NBA National Finals and will represent India at Jr. NBA World Championship

An NBA star was in the audience. A state-of-the-art facility was available for their use. And a shot to represent the country in a major international basketball event was at the offering. And it was under these exciting circumstances that two young teams stepped up to claim victory and their chance to further glory.

The Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA National Finals, a competition that featured the best boys' and girls' teams from the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme this season, took place at the NBA Academy India in Greater Noida from April 29 - May 2. On the final on Wednesday, while visiting NBA star Brook Lopez in attendance, Bengaluru Girls and Delhi Boys made the biggest impact and walked away with a victory. Their wins secured them a ticket to play in the first-ever Jr. NBA World Championship set to be held in the USA later this year.

In the girls' final, Bengaluru squeaked past Chennai 41-38 to secure a win. Delhi's boys beat Kolkata 81-71 in the boys' finale right after. The two sides received their winner's trophy from Lopez, the Los Angeles Lakers' center who is visiting India to promote youth basketball development this week.

The Jr. NBA National Finals has brought together eight boys and eight girls teams, comprising top 10 players from each Junior NBA city tournament in Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kerala, Kolkata, Mumbai and Punjab.

The two winning Indian teams will now advance to the Jr. NBA World Championship from Aug. 7-12, 2018 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. This tournament will bring together elite 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls teams from around the world in round-robin competition followed by single-elimination tournaments. The teams will be chosen from winners from eight newly-created USA regional tournaments (Central, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southeast and West) and international regions (Africa, Middle East, Asia Pacific, Canada, China, Europe, India, Mexico and South America). Winners of the USA and international brackets will play in the World Championship game on Aug. 12.

May 1, 2018

Lakers Center Brook Lopez comes to India this week to support youth development initiatives

Two years ago, Robin Lopez took a memorable trip to India, hung out at the Taj Mahal, ate some Indian food, and showed up on Indian television to talk about the NBA. Two years later, Robin's older twin brother (by a few minutes, at least) Brook Lopez will follow on his footsteps. Now with the Los Angeles Lakers, the elder Lopez twin will take part in a number of NBA-organised activities in India during his trip from May 2-6 and continue to support the league's efforts to grow basketball in the country.

Lopez will first stop in the Delhi-NCR region on May 2, where he will attend the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA National Finals at the NBA Academy India to interact with the boys and girls competing for the opportunity to represent India in the first Jr. NBA World Championship later this year. Lopez will also attend the ACG-NBA Jump Finals at the Academy on May 4 to help identify the top prospects who will receive scholarships and training to attend the NBA’s elite basketball training centre. On May 5, Lopez will travel to Mumbai for a live television appearance on Sony Six’s NBA wraparound show “Around the Hoop” to serve as a guest analyst to provide his insights on the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

"My brother Robin (Lopez of the Chicago Bulls) was in India not long ago and had an unforgettable experience," said Lopez. "There’s so much positive momentum around basketball in India and I’m glad to play a part in the growth of the game."

Lopez, a 7’0” center from Stanford University, was selected 10th overall by the New Jersey Nets in the 2008 NBA Draft, and played for New Jersey/Brooklyn for the first nine years of his NBA career. He became an All Star in 2013. He was traded to the Lakers last season, where he averaged 13 points per game.