January 31, 2019

Hoopdarshan Episode 73: NBA Midterms with Nikhila Makker

With the season right around its midway point, Hoopdarshan returns with an All-NBA special episode. Joined by special guest and freelance sports journalist Nikhila Makker, co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok talk about the Warriors' dominance, James Harden pros/cons, Kyrie's worth, Pacers vs. Kings in India, and the quality (or lack thereof) of NBA beards.

Additionally in Episode 73, Kaushik and Karan also discussed Jeena Skaria's professional turn to Australia, winners of the recently-concluded Senior Nationals in Bhavnagar, and much more!

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!

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January 27, 2019

Prashanti Singh becomes the first basketball player to receive the prestigious Padma Shri award

Just when it seemed unlikely that her brilliant career could be exalted even higher, former Indian basketball captain Prashanti Singh from Varanasi has become the first basketball player in history to be handed the Padma Shri award! The Padma Shri is the fourth-highest civilian honour for Indian citizens and is handed annually on the Republic Day celebrations.

94 individuals from the fields of arts, medicine, science, sports, social work, social sciences, and more were conferred this year's Padma Shri on Saturday, January 26, 2019. Prashanti, who last year became only the third women to win the Arjuna Award in basketball two years ago, was among the eight sports stars named in this year's Padma Shri list. The rest included World Cup-winning cricketer Gautam Gambhir, India football captain Sunil Chhetri, World Championship silver medallist wrestler Bajrang Punia, Dronavalli Harika (Chess), Sharath Kamal (Table Tennis), Bombayla Devi Laishram (Archery), and Ajay Thakur (Kabaddi).

Singh, a 34-year-old former shooting guard for India's national team, is the most decorated women basketball player in India, holding the national record for most number of medals (22) in national championships for Delhi while she was an employee for MTNL. She has represented the national team in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games, and six FIBA Asia Women’s Championships (2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013), plus one more at the junior level.

Prashanti Singh is among the star-studded "Singh Sisters" of Varanasi, four of whom have represented India's national team and brought home numerous international and domestic honours.

Singh's Padma Shri award is a pleasant surprise, especially considering that there have been several great basketball players throughout Indian history in both Men's and Women's divisions - including Khushi Ram, Abbas Moontasir, Ajmer Singh, Geethu Anna Rahul, and many more who are still active - who have been deserving, but were never conferred this honour.

January 22, 2019

Former NBA champion and All Star Rashard Lewis will visit India from Jan 26-29

For most of his 16-year career, Rashard Lewis was a pure, unadulterated, scoring machine. He could make three-pointers look as easy as layups, and he had the ability to put the ball down and actually lay it up with ease, too. He spent time as his team's first option, and then found success as a role player. He earned All Star accolades, and - in a limited role - even won an NBA championship.

Now, the former star will become the latest NBA player to visit India, with an eye at promoting the growth of basketball in the country.

The NBA recently announced that Lewis will visit India from Republic Day (January 26) till January 29 this month. He will be here primarily to meet the participants of the Reliance Jr. NBA programme in Bengaluru.

"The NBA's contribution to the growth of basketball in India has been amazing," said Lewis. "There's a lot more in store for NBA fans in India this year, and I'm excited to be part of the celebration of the game."

Lewis was drafted straight out of high school by the Seattle Supersonics in the second round of the 1998 NBA Draft. While it took a couple years for his career to gain momentum, he soon found his stride and became a star for Seattle, making many teams regret overlooking him in his draft class. The nine Sonics' years were the most dominant of his individual career, playing besides great guards like Gary Payton and Ray Allen. He was named an All Star in 2005 and averaged a career-best 22.4 ppg in 2006-07. Lewis joined the Orlando Magic in a lucrative sign-and-trade in 2007, and in 2009 was an All Star and made it to the NBA Finals with Orlando. After a brief stopover with the Wizards, Lewis ended his career with the Miami Heat, where he played a small role in the 2013 NBA championship squad led by LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh.

In 2017, Lewis joined the 3 Headed Monsters of the BIG3 basketball league. Lewis was awarded MVP of the season, but the Monsters lost in the Finals to the Trilogy.

January 20, 2019

Khelo India Youth Games 2019: Tamil Nadu and Punjab share basketball honours

If the history of recent basketball successes in India are starting to sound repetitive, it's because a couple of the country's strongest hubs seem to have gotten even stronger, fortifying their defences, and now, securing their future. At the Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG) 2019 in Pune - a showcase of the best young talent in different age group and gendered events from around the country - Tamil Nadu and Punjab teams qualified for three of the four finals each in the basketball tournament. And after the clinching games at the TT Hall Courts on Saturday, Tamil Nadu won both the U21 golds, while Punjab scored top-place in both the U17 events.

Earlier this month, India's top senior basketball teams took part in the National Championship in Gujarat. In a showcase of the best talent in the country, Punjab won the men's gold medal, while Tamil Nadu took bronze. In the women's event Indian Railways (based in TN) beat the TN state team in the final.

But if the 'Senior Nationals' were a showcase of the present of Indian basketball, the second KIYG were a nod towards its future. In an extended basketball fray to include teams of both U21 and U17 categories, it was the young talent from the same states that showcased that they are ready to stretch this North-South rivalry for many more years.

TN and Punjab faced-off in perhaps the most anticipated of the games on Saturday, the Boys U21 final. Led by Hariram Raghupathy (19) and Arvind Kumar (18), TN turned around a 20-12 first quarter deficit with a dominating second period, and never let their foot off the gas pedal to win 70-59. Ajay Kumar had 21 for Punjab in the loss.

TN's U21 girls repeated the boys' success against Karnataka. While it was a close 45-43 game at halftime TN were able to get into their groove in the second period to win 82-68. Pushpa Senthil Kumar, who was recently named MVP of the Senior Nationals, led all scorers with 27 for TN in the final, while her teammate Dharshani Thirunavukkarasu added 18. Bhandavya Hemmige led Karnataka with 21 and Lopamudra Thimmayam K added 17.

Punjab had the run of the U17 basketball events. In a high-scoring boys' final, Navkaman Singh (28), Rajan (22), Avinder Singh (20) all pitched in to a 91-78 win over Rajasthan. Rajasthan trailed 55-29 at halftime and were able to make up some of their deficit thanks to efforts of Rishab Mathur (30) and Rajveer Bhati (21), but in the end, it wasn't enough.

U17 girls was, once again, Punjab against Tamil Nadu. In a tightly-contested game, Punjab held the advantage but TN remained close on their heels throughout. It was a heroic finale for Punjab's Harsimran Dhami, who exploded for 45 points to keep her squad racing ahead towards a 76-71 win. Sathiya was TN's high scorer with 23

The bronze medal games were also played on Saturday, and in what seemed like almost a coordinated effort, the teams from Kerala swept all four divisions. In the U21 section, high-flyer Sejin Mathew (28) and Muhammed Noushad (22) led the way to a close 79-73 win over hosts Maharashtra. Sameer Qureshi had a team-high 18 for Maharashtra in the loss. Kerala's U21 girls easily beat Uttar Pradesh 60-34 in the women's bronze-medal game, led by Jayalaxmi VJ (27).

Kerala's U17 boys relied on the trio of Aaron Blessen (20), Niyath (17), and Jeoram George (17) to blow past Haryana (Vikrany 21) 71-59 in their bronze medal triumph. Kerala's U17 girls defeated hosts Maharashtra 79-68 to finish third. Akshaya Philip led all scorers with 34 for Kerala while Ann Mary Zachariah added 17. Maharashtra were led by Suzzane Pinto's 21 in the loss.

Final Standings

U21 Men
  • 1. Tamil Nadu
  • 2. Punjab
  • 3. Kerala

U21 Women
  • 1. Tamil Nadu
  • 2. Karnataka
  • 3. Kerala

U17 Men
  • 1. Punjab
  • 2. Rajasthan
  • 3. Kerala

U17 Women
  • 1. Punjab
  • 2. Tamil Nadu
  • 3. Kerala

January 19, 2019

NBA Academy India to host second Women's programme next week

In 2017, the NBA opened doors to its first-ever elite India basketball Academy in Greater Noida, inviting dozens of the top young men from around the country to practice, study, breathe, and live basketball. While the boys have been lodged as permanent boarders at the Academy itself, the NBA extended its reach last year to invite talented young women, too, for a first-time women's programme, featuring international basketball trainers to conduct the camp. The programme was a huge success, shifting the spotlight towards the top young female players in India, and famously, allowing the opportunity for Bengaluru's Sanjana Ramesh to be singled out and earn an NCAA D1 scholarship to Northern Arizona.

Now, less than eight months after the first camp, the NBA will host the second NBA Academy India Women's Programme, at the Jaypee Greens Integrated Sports Complex in Greater Noida from January 22-25, 2019. 24 female prospects aged 17-and-under have been invited from across the country to participate in this camp. 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame member Jennifer Azzi and former college coach Blair Hardiek – the global technical directors for women’s programming across the league’s seven academies – will oversee this year’s camp.

Last year, Sanjana Ramesh and Vaishnavi Yadav were named camp co-MVPs.

January 17, 2019

India's basketball captain Jeena Skaria signs with Ringwood Hawks of Australia's "Big V" League

Kerala-born Jeena Skaria, the captain of India's women's basketball team and arguably the most-talented women's player in the country right now, has taken the biggest leap of her career. Skaria (25) has been signed by the Ringwood Hawks, a professional basketball team in the "Big V" League of Australia and based in Melbourne. Skaria has become the second Indian woman to sign for an Australian league, following in the footsteps of her fellow Keralite Geethu Anna Rahul (formerly Jose) who did it for the same team - the Hawks - thirteen years ago.

Skaria had been in talks with the Hawks ever since their Kerala tour, during the 'International Hoopathon' event, in late 2017, where she impressed the coaches and management. But it wasn't until Wednesday this week that Ringwood officially announced that they will be bringing Skaria over.

"We are very appreciative of the assistance we have received from the Basketball Federation of India and the great people of Team Rebound, the Kerala Basketball Association and Jeena’s employer the Kerala State Electricity Board," said the "Lady Hawks" head coach Tim Mottin. "We can’t wait to have Jeena here on court and see what impact she can have for us on and off the court."

The 5'10" forward Skaria has been the captain of India's Women's national team for the last few years, including the squad that won Division B of the FIBA Asia Women's Championship in Bengaluru two years ago. She also led her state team Kerala to a national championship at the Senior Nationals earlier that year. She has been India's top performer through a string of major international tournaments ever since breaking into the senior team. Last year, she was named Basketball Player of the Year by popular choice by the Times of India Sports Awards.

Skaria's predecessor, Rahul, played for the Hawks from 2006-2008, becoming the first Indian woman to ever play professional basketball abroad. She was dominant in her stint in the league, and won the "Big V" league MVP award in 2008.

January 13, 2019

Punjab (Men) and Indian Railways (Women) are India's 2019 National Basketball Champions!

After eight days of the highest-level of basketball India had to offer, the last teams standings offered some familiar faces. Held in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, the 69th National Basketball Championship for Men and Women concluded on Saturday, January 12 with the finales. Indian Railways, the reigning women's champions, repeated their triumph again this year with a 88-71 victory over Tamil Nadu. The star-studded Punjab Men squad crept pass Services 74-65 to win the gold in their division.

The 'Senior Nationals', organised by the Gujarat State Basketball Association and the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), featured 32 Men's and 27 Women's squads from state and units across India. The tournament was held at Bhavnagar's Sisdar Sports Complex and tipped off on January 5.

At the finals on Sunday, Railways started a little slow against the talented TN squad, but turned things around after the first quarter. Leading 42-40 at halftime, Railways kicked into top gear in the third with a 27-15 run that essentially pulled the game away for good. International stars Rajapriyadarshani Rajaganapathi (23) and Navaneetha PU (16) led the way to a 88-71 Indian Railways triumph. Sathya scored 21 for TN in the loss.

The Men's finale was a closer affair most of the way, featuring two strong and gritty squads, Punjab and Services. Both teams remained neck to neck most of the way, with Punjab holding only a slim 53-51 lead after three quarters. Punjab, who had shocked holders TN in overtime on Friday, found their extra surge in the fourth quarter at the final. The duo of Arshpreet Singh Bhullar (24) and Jagdeep Singh Bains (19) helped see them through to the 74-65 win. India's international point guard Joginder Singh led Services with 26.

Punjab's Amritpal Singh, the international star who recovered from a serious injury to star in this tournament, was named the Men's MVP. The Women's MVP award went to Tamil Nadu's unstoppable post-threat Pushpa Senthil Kumar.

This was Indian Railways' incredible 29th title in the Nationals, while Punjab won theirs for the seventh time - and the first since Chennai 2011.

Tamil Nadu finished third in the Men's division with a 84-65 with over Karnataka, led by Muin Bek Hafeez (20), Justin Joseph (19), and Hariram Ragupathy (17). Jitender scored 17 for Karnataka while Rahul Sarathy added 16. The Women's third place was a high-octane matchup between Kerala and Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh's giant player Poonam Chaturvedi dropped 41 points, but Kerala survived to a 7--73 win led by their national team veterans Jeena Scaria (21) and Poojamol Kochuparambu (18).

Final Scores
  • Women: Indian Railways (Rajapriyadarshani Rajaganapathi 23, Navaneetha PU 16, Ramya 13) bt. Tamil Nadu (Sathya 21) 88-71 [18-23, 24-17, 27-15, 19-16].
  • Men: Punjab (Arshpreet Singh Bhullar 24, Jagdeep Singh Bains 19, Amritpal Singh 15) bt. Services (Joginder Singh 26) 74-65 [22-19, 15-14, 17-18, 20-14].

Final Standings

  • 1. Indian Railways
  • 2. Tamil Nadu
  • 3. Kerala
  • 4. Chhattisgarh
  • 5. Telangana

  • 1. Punjab
  • 2. Services
  • 3. Tamil Nadu
  • 4. Karnataka
  • 5. Uttarakhand

January 9, 2019

2nd Khelo India Youth Games to tip off in Pune, Maharashtra

For the second-straight year, the Khelo India programme of the government's Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports will organise a massive, nationwide gathering of the best young athletes in dozens of sporting disciplines from across the country. The 2019 Khelo India Youth Games (formerly Khelo India School Games) will be held in Pune, Maharashtra this year, starting on Wednesday. The Games are scheduled from January 9-20, 2019.

Ranging from ages 10-21, this year's KIYG are expected to host over 6,000 athletes between the ages of 10-21 in 18 different sporting disciplines. Expanded divisions of sports will mean that young Youth Olympic champions, World Cadet Wrestling gold medallists, Olympian athletes and medal-winning shooters will be among the participating athletes this year.

The KIYG's basketball tournament is set to begin at the TT Hall Courts from January 15. The Basketball fray will be extended from last year and will be held in four different sub-categories: Under 21 boys, Under 21 girls, Under 17 boys, Under 17 girls. At the KISG in Delhi last year, Kerala (Girls) and Punjab (Boys) emerged as champions. With a overall tally of 38 gold medals, Haryana were crowned overall champions of the KISG 2018.

The Star Sports Network will broadcast KIYG 2019.

January 5, 2019

Indian basketball's biggest domestic tournament - the Senior Nationals - begin in Bhavnagar, Gujarat

You would've seen the anticipation building over the past few days. Inter-state events around the country. Each state/unit team lining up for the long road trip. Blessings and wishes on social media. Nerves. Stress. Anticipation. Hope.

Today, the biggest festival of domestic hoops in India - the 69th National Basketball Championship for Men and Women - will tip off in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. The 'Senior Nationals', organised by the Gujarat State Basketball Association and the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), will feature dozens of the top state and unit teams from January 5-12, 2019 at the city's Sisdar Sports Complex.

69th Senior Nationals Participating Teams

  • Level 1, Group A: Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat.
  • Level 1, Group B: Services, Indian Railways, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand, Kerala.
  • Level 2, Group C: Telangana, Delhi, Goa, Meghalaya, Mizoram.
  • Level 2, Group D: Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland.
  • Level 2, Group E: Haryana, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Puducherry, West Bengal.
  • Level 2, Group F: Odisha, Assam, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh.

  • Level 1, Group A: Indian Railways, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, West Bengal.
  • Level 1, Group B: Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana.
  • Level 2, Group C: Punjab, Goa, Gujarat, Puducherry, Uttarakhand.
  • Level 2, Group D: Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Haryana, Odisha.
  • Level 2, Group E: Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya.
  • Level 2, Group F: Rajasthan, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand.

Last year's Senior Nationals were held in Chennai, and the host Men's team - Tamil Nadu - took home the gold medal in a final win over Services. The women's tournament was won by Indian Railways in a blowout over Chhattisgarh. All four of these teams will again be among the favourites for the title at Bhavnagar, as well as Punjab and Indian Railways (Men) and Karnataka and Kerala (Women).