December 31, 2018

2018: The Year in Indian Basketball

India is complicated: that is not breaking news. There are goods and there are bads, there are opportunities and risks, there is optimism in the horizon and pessimism that lurks in the dark corners.

And basketball in India, of course, is a microcosm of the country itself: complicated, topsy-turvy, and often undefinable. Indian basketball in 2018 positive results, negative news, losses (lots of losses), and big wins that signalled bleak hope from the future from alternative sources. Here's a look back at the year's biggest highlights:

- University of Calicut completed an incredible three-peat at India's most prestigious national women's collegiate title - the 2018 All India Inter University Women's Basketball Championship for Women - in Chennai in the beginning of the year.

- A couple of rivalries - some old, some new - were reignited at the biggest stage in domestic Indian basketball during the finals of the 2018 Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. The tournament, featuring the finest teams and players in the country, came to a conclusion with big victories for Indian Railways (Women) and hosts Tamil Nadu (Men), both of whom lifted championship trophies with victories over Chhattisgarh and Services respectively.

- The basketball tournament at the first-ever Khelo India School Games (KISG) in February was won by Kerala (Girls) and Punjab (Boys) at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi.

- Three Indian players - Sejin Mathew, Princepal Singh, and Pushpa Senthil Kumar - were among 43 prospects, ranging in age from 16-18, from 36 countries around the world for the Basketball Without Borders camp at the 2018 NBA All Star Weekend in Los Angeles, USA in mid February.

- And at the 18th Asian Games Invitational Tournament 5x5 Basketball Test Event in Jakarta in mid February, India's Senior Men's team lost in the gold medal game to hosts Indonesia.

- Indian basketball descended into turmoil in late February when an alleged "clerical error" by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) disqualified two of India's top players - Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh - from taking part in FIBA World Cup Qualifiers in Bengaluru, despite both players having returned to India from their pro leagues in the NBA G-League and NBL Australia respectively. Without those two and the injured guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, India lost both games to Jordan and Lebanon at home and fell to 0-4 in the qualifiers.

- Indian basketball stars Amjyot Singh and Jeena Scaria were honoured at the Times of India Sports Awards 2018.

- First-timers in the Asian circuit, Australia, routed hosts China in the final to win gold at the delayed FIBA U16 Asian Championship in Foshan in early April. India finished last among the 13 participating teams.

- Over the weekend on April 14-15, Australia's Women and Men both won their respective finals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games Basketball tournament in impressive fashion at home. India returned from Australia losing all their games in both Men and Women's divisions.

- In early May, former Lakers center (now with the Bucks) Brook Lopez visited India to promote youth basketball development initiatives for the NBA.

- With Lopez in attendance, the youth teams from Bengaluru and Delhi won the girls and boys (respective) Jr. NBA National Finals in Greater Noida to qualify for the Jr. NBA World Championship later in the year.

- In a battle of 3x3 basketball rights, the Basketball Federation of India announced a controversial ban of 3x3 players hoping to participate in national 5x5 basketball events, and vice versa. This was done primarily to thwart the growing clout of the FIBA-approved 3BL basketball league announced earlier in the year.

- Out of a tryout of 50, eight players were chosen to join the existing contingent of the NBA India Academy in Greater Noida

- In the final of the 32nd Federation Cup National Basketball Tournament in Chittoor in early May, 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.

- Rajesh Patel, the most-decorated coach in Indian basketball, passed away in early May. I wrote an obituary on The Times of India Sports.

- In mid May, 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.

- NBA Academy India held a first-ever Women's camp in Greater Noida from May 27-29. Sanjana Ramesh of Bengaluru and Vaishnavi Yadav from Allahabad were named the camp's Co-MVPs.

- The 2018 Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp was held in India for just the second time from May 29-June 1. The fourth and final day of BWB Asia 2018 concluded in thrilling fashion as the 66 campers from 16 countries and territories in Asia-Pacific competed in championship games and a pair of All-Star games. India's Sanjana Ramesh shone among the continent's best and was named women's MVP.

- The BFI made controversy again by banning two of India's star players - Amjyot Singh and Palpreet Singh - from Indian basketball for a year citing "indisciplinary activities".

- Two more games. Two more losses. India's ill-fated road to the 2019 Basketball World Cup ended with road losses to Syria and Jordan. They finished 0-6 in the First Round.

- Khelo India announced in July that 40 young basketball players had been selected for talent development scholarship.

- New Zealand won 2018 William Jones Cup for Women in Chinese Taipei (July 25-29); India (0-5) finished last.

- The inaugural Jr. NBA World Championship was held in Florida, USA, from August 7-12. US Central won both boys and girls divisions. India's junior teams also took part.

- The most talented and dominant team of India's inaugural 3x3BL - Delhi Hoopers - took home the crown after six rounds of the league's first season, displaying their command over opponents and showcasing the exciting rise of 3x3 basketball in the country.

- The first Indian player to ever be drafted into the NBA, Satnam Singh made another first, joining the St. John's Edge of Canada's NBL this season.

- China swept across all categories of basketball at the 2018 Asian Games, winning gold in the Men's, Women's, 3x3 Men's, and 3x3 Women's events in Jakarta. India's women took part and returned winless.

- At the 35th Youth National Basketball Championship for Boys and Girls, held in Udaipur, Rajasthan in the first week of October, Rajasthan (Boys) and Punjab (Girls) emerged as champions.

- Also in October, seven-time NBA champ Robert Horry made his second trip to India to celebrate start of new NBA season.

- India hosted the 2018 FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women in Bengaluru from October 28 - November 3. 16 of the top teams in the Asia and Oceania took part, divided into higher (Division A) and lower (Division B) sections. China's U18 team raced to grab the the gold medals. And for the third time in various women's FIBA Asia events, India - starting in Division B - played a perfect tournament to win promotion to Division A.

- Uttar Pradesh (Boys) and Maharashtra (Girls) win 2018 Sub Junior Nationals in Kangra (Himachal Pradesh) in mid November.

- Undisturbed by the drama back home, Indian star Amjyot Singh returned to OKC Blue of the NBA G-League for second season.

- Mr. UTEP 2-Step Tim Hardaway visited India to promote the growth of basketball and NBA India's recently announced McDonald’s NBA-themed promotion.

- Sanjana Ramesh (17), already enjoying a stellar year, made history by becoming only the second Indian to receive scholarship from NCAA Division 1 programme - Northern Arizona - which she will join in fall 2019.

- Zarkawt BCA won season 5 of Mizoram Super League in Aizawl, making it their second win in two editions of the tournament in the same year. Once again, Mizo basketball legend Lalrina Renthlei was named MVP.

- The year ended on a high: the NBA officially announced that India will host their first-ever preseason games, in Mumbai, in October 2019. The games will feature the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings and are bound to become a flagship moment in the history of basketball/NBA in the country.

The NBA India Games will surely be the most anticipated event for the game in 2019, but there will be FIBA Asia events and more individual achievements for India to look forward to. Hopefully, there is less drama and more focus on the growth of the game to meet India's potential!

Hoopdarshan Episode 72: Sanjana Ramesh on upcoming NCAA D1 journey + next year's NBA India Games

Episode 72 of Hoopdarshan comes around Christmas and New Year's with a double dose of gifts for the holidays. We are joined by Sanjana Ramesh - the Beagles Mamba - who discussed receiving a NCAA D1 scholarship from Northern Arizona, her basketball journey in Bengaluru, and her favourite dosas. Hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok also discuss the impact of the historic first NBA preseason games between the Kings and Pacers coming to Mumbai next year.

Ramesh (17), the youngest guest yet on Hoopdarshan, has joined an exclusive club by becoming only the second Indian to be offered a scholarship by an NCAA D1 team. She will join Northern Arizona next year. Originally from Bengaluru, the talented all rounder has featured in India's U16 Women's team, the senior team for the William Jones Cup, and earlier this year, won the MVP of the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp in Greater Noida.

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...

December 21, 2018

NBA officially announce first-ever preseason games in India: Indiana Pacers vs. Sacramento Kings in October 2019

It's time to finally write that new chapter in basketball history: after much anticipation over the years - including leaked rumours just a few months ago - the NBA has made it official: for the first time in history, India will host two NBA preseason games between the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings next year. This will also be the first time any North American league has staged games in India.

The two matchups of NBA India Games 2019 will be held on October 4-5 at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai. The announcement was made on Thursday by NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum and NBA India Managing Director Yannick Colaco in Mumbai.

"Our inaugural NBA India Games will help further untap the enormous basketball potential in a country with a thriving sports culture and a growing, young and engaged population," said NBA's Commissioner Adam Silver. "We thank the Kings and Pacers organisations for participating in this historic event."

In addition to the games, the league and its partners will conduct interactive fan activities, Jr. NBA youth basketball programming and NBA Cares community outreach events that will bring the NBA experience to fans in Mumbai. The NBA India Games 2019 will be promoted by BookMyShow and AEG and supported by a roster of marketing and merchandising partners. The games will air live in India, and will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories on television, digital and social media.

"We are proud to be the first global sports league to bring games of this scale to India," said Colaco. "The NBA and basketball have never been more popular in India, and fans will get to enjoy world-class showcases for our sport between two exciting teams in the Sacramento Kings and the Indiana Pacers."

The Kings are the first (and only) NBA team with an Indian-born owner, Vivek Ranadive. Ranadive will fulfil his long-running dream of bringing the Kings to India for an exhibition game, and particularly to his hometown of Mumbai. Under Ranadive, the Kings helped Canadian Sim Bhullar become the first player of Indian-origin to play in the NBA. The Kings have the longest current playoff drought in the NBA (12 years) but feature an exciting young team who are finally turning things around this season. Led by guard De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, and featuring this year's No. 2 draft pick Marvin Bagley, they have become one of the top scoring teams in the league and currently hold a 16-15 record.

The Pacers have a much sunnier present-day outlook, as they stand 20-12 and look healthy for a mid-tier playoff spot in the East. They are led by All Star Victor Oladipo, rising Lithuanian forward Domantas Sabonis, Bojan Bogdanovich, and Myles Turner. They have one of the league's best defensive units, and in Oladipo, likely the biggest star at this showcase.

"The Sacramento Kings are proud to be playing in the first NBA games ever held in India," said Ranadive. "As an Indian-American, it is an honour to help bring this historic moment to the country where I was raised. The sport is experiencing tremendous growth in India and we are excited about continuing to expand the NBA’s reach to fans across the globe. The world wants to watch basketball and India is a fast-growing new frontier."

"We are thrilled to be one of the first two teams to play the first-ever game in India and proud to be part of the expanding NBA worldwide footprint of our game of basketball," said Herbert Simon, Pacers' owner.

Tickets to the games will go on sale at a later date. Fans can visit to register interest for information and tickets.

Since 2006, more than 35 current and former NBA and WNBA players have visited India on behalf of the NBA. The NBA office in Mumbai opened in 2011. The NBA Academy India, an elite basketball training center in Delhi National Capital Region (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.

December 15, 2018

Zarkawt BCA win season 5 of Mizoram Super League in Aizawl

2018 was the year of Zarkawt BCA in the Mizoram Super League. Two editions of India's most-fanatically-supported basketball league were held in the calendar year, and both times, it was Zarkawt who emerged as champions. Their most recent victory came as they closed out their opponents Tuikual South BC 2-1 in the three-game Finals series, winning the clincher in Aizawl 82-68 on Friday, December 14 at the Hawla Indoor Stadium. Mizo superstar Lalrina Renthlei was again named leagued MVP.

The MSL Finals were held in Aizawl from December 10-14. Zarkawt dominated Game 1 to win 100-77; Tuikual South bounced back in a close Game 2 finish, 95-93; and Zarkawt clinched the series in Game 3, 82-68.

Season 5 of the MSL tipped off on October 23 this year and featured six teams: Tuikual South BC, Zarkawt BCA, Vikings, Zarkawt Serpents, Khatla TBA Basketball, and Bethlehem Basketball Club.

December 13, 2018

BlueStar Basketball Asia to hold 2-day India Exposure Camp in Bengaluru

The first hurdle to make it big as a basketball player is, of course, to be actually good at basketball. But what happens then? If you're born in the right part of the world, opportunities will find you, and you will get a chance to showcase your skillset, and hopefully, find your track to greatness. But if you didn't win the geographical-lottery - basketball-wise - then the journey can be much harder. For Indian prospects, for example, finding the right opportunity has often been harder than mastering the game itself.

One of those opportunities will be knocking on the door of some players later this month. BlueStar Basketball Asia, in collaboration with Pursuit India, is providing a 2-day India Exposure Camp for select young campers, hosted at Jain International Residential School, Bengaluru on December 22-23.

According to information from Pursuit, players at this camp will get the exclusive opportunity to showcase their abilities in front of international basketball coaches and scouts and undergo fundamental skill development coaching from international coaches, education on basketball pathways to US and UK colleges, personal athletic and skillset evaluations with areas for improvement and level of play rating in line with NCAA College ratings, and the opportunity to be added to college recruiting reports presented to coaches with a view to obtain and secure college scholarships in the USA/UK. The camp will be coached by Renee Allen-Johnson (former NCAA Division 1 and Britain National Team player) and Carlos Iroung (former Cameroon national team player with professional experience in Italy, Slovenia, and Philippines).

Boys and girls between the ages of 13-17 are eligible for this camp, which is set to cost Rs. 7,500 (without accommodation) and Rs. 10,000 (accommodation included). Interested players/parents can register here, or contact Pursuit India for queries and clarifications: +91 9001336535 or

December 11, 2018

Team India head to Hong Kong for 22nd Super Kung Sheung Cup

It's been a barren few months in Indian men's basketball, devoid of international action since the summer. India were knocked out in the first group stage of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, and, as a further insult, weren't supported by our own Olympic Association (IOA) to participate in the 2018 Asian Games. India's lack of success has been glaring for this period - and for much longer - as the team hasn't won a major international game for nearly two years.

This week, India finally has the opportunity to change some of those glaring statistics. Team India has headed to Hong Kong for the 22nd Best Mart 360 Super Kung Sheung Cup International Basketball Invitational Championship, set to be held from December 11-16 in HK's Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai. This competition will be India's chance to improve on their previous showing at the Super Kung Sheung Cup, back in 2016, when they finished at a best-ever third place.

India will be without a handful of talented Punjabi bigs in this tournament. Amjyot Singh and Palpreet Singh Brar are still serving their year-long ban handed by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), but if eligible, Amjyot would have still been unavailable as he continues his second season with the OKC Blue of the NBA G-League. Satnam Singh is playing his first season for the St. John's Edge of Canada's NBL. Amritpal Singh is recovering from an injury.

But there is indeed some good news. After a lengthy injury layover, India's top playmaker Vishesh Bhriguvanshi will return to the national team for this tournament. Much-hyped young star of the NBA Global Academy in Australia, Princepal Singh will make his senior team debut in Hong Kong. Other important players like guard Akilan Pari, athletic forward Sejin Matthew, and big man Arvind Arumugam (captain for this tournament) will also be a part of the squad. The team will be coached by Sat Prakash Yadav.

Team India Roster
  • Jeevanatham Pandi
  • Loveneet Singh Atwal
  • Pratyanshu Tomar
  • Vishesh Bhriguvanshi
  • Jatin Shokhanda
  • Princepal Singh
  • Anil Kumar BK
  • Sejin Matthew
  • Arvind Kumar
  • Akilan Pari
  • Arvind Arumugam - captain
  • Justin Joseph
  • Head Coach: Sat Prakash Yadav
  • Assistant Coach: Aman Sharma
  • Manager: Shafiq Shaikh

India's Preliminary Round Schedule - All timings IST
  • December 12 - HK Eastern Long Lions vs. India - 6:15 PM
  • December 13 - India vs. Thailand - 1:30 PM

Two-time winners from the USA, the Southern California Fukienese Association (SCFA), are likely to be favourites for the tournament again. Hopefully India can snag a couple of morale-improving wins here and give the players much-needed international basketball exposure.

December 10, 2018

Hoopdarshan Episode 71: Mizoram basketball superstar Lalrina Renthlei on the MSL and hoops in the North-East

With the finals of the fifth season of India's most-extra basketball event - the Mizoram Basketball League (MSL) - in our sights, Hoopdarshan welcomes Mizo basketball's biggest star and last season's MVP Lalrina Renthlei as our special guest for Episode 71. In a wide-ranging interview, Renthlei speaks to hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok about the MSL's growth, basketball in the North-East, toggling between pro basketball and snooker, and his ambitions to play for India's national team.

Lalrina Renthlei (27) is the biggest star out of Mizoram basketball. He is the top player of the MSL, and was famously the first Mizo to dunk int he league. Earlier this year, he became only the second Mizo player to make India's national team probables in 13 years. He also played in the 3BL league for Bengaluru and took part in the Hyderabad World Tour Masters. Aside from basketball, Renthlei is an accomplished snooker professional as well.

Episode 71 also rounds up recent Indian basketball news, with shout-outs to Tim Hardaway, Sanjana Ramesh, Amjyot Singh, and the NBA/WNBA inspirations of India's top players.

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...