June 25, 2019

Ram Kumar: Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy: Punjabbasketball.org
For some, basketball just flows in the genes, giving them a natural magnetism towards the game, a magnetism that could potentially become a reality with hard work and persistence. One of India's most-respected coaches and accomplished former players, Ram Kumar is one such individuals, carrying on his father's legacy with the game, winning the Dhyan Chand Award, and now, landing up in the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Ram Kumar was born in Delhi in 1964, the son of basketball great and Arjuna Awardee Khushi Ram, who was added to the Hall of Fame last month. Kumar's own basketball career began in 1983, when he played his first Nationals in Calicut. He moved to Income Tax and then joined Indian Railways in the mid-80s, which became his professional home. Representing the Railways, Kumar - an extraordinary shooting-guard - won eight gold, three silver, and three bronze medals over the next decade and a half.

Ram represented India's national basketball team from 1991-1996, and served as the captain from 1991-1995. During his peak years, he stood out as India's top scorer at many international events, including the 1995 FIBA ABC in Seoul. He played in several international Railway Games, test matches in the USA, and more.

After his retirement from playing in 2003, Kumar was appointed the coach of Indian Railways basketball squad, whom he has since shepherded to many more honours. He has served as coach of India's junior basketball team and continues to be a part of India's national coaching system, contributing to the training and scouting of players hopeful of breaking into the senior teams. Kumar is currently working as a Senior Sports Officer at Rail Coach Factory at Kapurthala.

A highlight of Kumar's career was winning the Dhyan Chand Award in 2003 for lifetime contribution to sports, becoming one of only two Indian basketball players to receive this prestigious honour. Kumar was also handed the Maharana Pratap Award in 1989 and the Rail Minister Award in 1994. His illustrious family also included another former India basketball captain and his brother, Asok Kumar.

Click here for more of the Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

June 23, 2019

Hoopdarshan Episode 79: NBA Finals and India's 3x3 topper Dhruv Barman

Episode 79 of Hoopdarshan accomplishes two agendas: our reaction to the Toronto Raptors becoming the weirdest NBA champions in years... and the rise of 3x3 basketball in India. Co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok are joined by India's top-ranked FIBA 3x3 player Dhruv Barman who tells us about his unlikely journey into a basketball career and why India's 3x3 can make waves at the Olympics.

Barman honed his basketball skills in Gurgaon and Canada, before returning home two years ago to play for Hyderabad and then Team Delhi in the 3BL league. He played in the recent RedBull Reign finals in Mumbai, which we discussed in Episode 79. The new Hoopdarshan also features Kaushik and Karan's thoughts on the Federation Cup, Yao Ming's visit to India, Anthony Davis' trade to the Lakers, the NBA Draft, free agency, and 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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June 20, 2019

Manmohan Singh: Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy: punjabbasketball.org
A stalwart of Indian basketball in the early days of the 1960s and an Arjuna Awardee, Manmohan Singh - no relation to the former Prime Minister! - is today's addition to the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Singh was born in May 1946 in Lahore and was brought over to India during the post-independence partition. Eventually settling in Ludhiana, Punjab, Singh played for Punjab and Services for his domestic career from 1960-1980. He especially starred for Services in their dominant run of the National Championship in the 60s.

He became a part of India's senior men's team in the mid 1960s and appeared for India in their first-ever appearance at the FIBA Asia Championship in Kuala Lumpur in 1965. His other major international appearances included the 1962 Pakistan tour, the 1967 Kuala Lumpur Tour, the 10th anniversary tournament in Manila in 1970, the FIBA ABC in Tokyo in 1971, and the Manila All Stars event in 1973.

Singh was honoured with the Arjuna Award in basketball by the Sports Ministry in 1971. In 2015, Singh was nominated as vice-chairperson of the Indian Basketball Players Association (IBPA).

Click here for more of the Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

June 17, 2019

Punjab Police (Men) and Eastern Railway (Women) lift 2019 Federation Cup trophies in Greater Noida

Sometimes, basketball can be completely uncomplicated, when the most basic of tenets of the game shine brighter than all the rest: size and talent. At the 33rd Federation Cup Basketball Championship for Men and Women held over the past week in Greater Noida, these were the tenets that made the difference, as the best squads separated themselves from the rest. At the tournaments finals on Sunday, June 16, the two biggest and deepest teams - Punjab Police (Men) and Eastern Railway (Women) - rose to the challenge and secured the prestigious gold medals.

Organised by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Uttar Pradesh Basketball Association (UPBA), the Federation Cup was held from June 12-16, 2019 at the Gautam Buddha University in Greater Noida, featuring 9 teams from top men's units and 8 of the women's top state teams from around India taking part.

On the final day, Eastern Railway Women were led by Libina MJ (28) and India's tallest women basketball player Poonam Chaturvedi (26) to an easy victory over Tamil Nadu, 86-67. Eastern Railway got off to a sensational 29-15 start and road the momentum towards their victory. TN's rising young star Dharshini Thirunavukkarasu had 19 for her side in the losing effort.

The Men's final saw the tournament's most impressive team - Punjab Police - complete their rout to secure this championship. Featuring two international professional players Amritpal Singh and late-addition Amjyot Singh, Punjab Police had been stellar all week, and capped off their run with a 91-71 win over the physical Indian Army squad. Arsh Preet Bhullar led the Punjabis with 24 points and Amjyot added 20. For Army, Sunil Rathee (18) and Gopal Ram (16) were the top scorers in the loss.

Earlier on Sunday, Gnanasekaran Sivabalan scored 34 for Income Tax (Chennai) to help them secure third place with a blowout win - 96-70 - over Chandigarh's Shri Guru Gobind Singh College. P. Jeevananthan added 17 for IT's win. Mithun Das (21) and P. Pandey (17) were Shri Guru Gobind Singh's leading scorers. In the women's bronze medal game, last year's champs Kerala survived a one-woman show by Maharashtra's Shruthi Aravind to win 91-70. Aravind's game-high 41 points were enough to lead the charge against a balanced Kerala squad, who were led by Anjanna PG (26), Poojamol Kochuparambu (16) and others.

Newly-minted Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju was present on Sunday to felicitate the medalists at the Cup. The top three teams received Rs. 1 lakh, Rs. 50,000, and Rs. 25,000 respectively.

Arsh Preet Bhullar (Punjab Police) and Libina MJ (Eastern Railway) were named Men and Women's MVP respectively at the tournament.

Final Scores
  • Women: Eastern Railway (Libina MJ 28, Poonam Chaturvedi 26, Sitamani Tudu 13) bt. Tamil Nadu (Dharshini Thirunavukkarasu 19, M Nishanthi 13) 86-67 [29-15,17-22,21-13,19-12].
  • Men: Punjab Police (Arsh Preet Bhullar 24, Amjyot Singh 20, Ranbir Singh 18) bt. Indian Army (Sunil Rathee 18, Gopal Ram 16) 91-71.
Final Standings

  1. Eastern Railway
  2. Tamil Nadu
  3. Kerala
  1. Punjab Police
  2. Indian Army
  3. Income Tax

June 15, 2019

Prashanti Singh: Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

A national captain. A veteran of countless major international events. The most-decorated domestic player in India. An Arjuna Awardee. And Indian Basketball's only Padma Shri winner. With her glittering list of accolades, Prashanti Singh now easily carves her name into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born in Varanasi, Singh quickly rose the ranks for the Uttar Pradesh junior teams before finding her footing in college and MTNL for the Delhi state team. Is was with Delhi that she became the most-decorated basketball player in the country, winning 23 medals in various national championships.

The shooting guard first joined India's junior national team in 2002 at age 18. She soon graduated to feature and captain the senior squad, and went on to represent Team India at 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. Some of her career highlights include a dominant performance against Korea Samsung that handed India an unlikely victory at the 2011 William Jones Cup and being part of India's 2013 FIBA Asia Championship squad that finished at a best-ever fifth place in the tournament.

Over the years, Singh has garnered various honours for her service to the country and to the game, including the Padma Shri in 2019 (the first and only Indian basketball player to receive this award), the 2017 Arjuna Award (only the third women to receive it in basketball), and the 2016-17 Rani Laxmi Bai Bravery Award. Prashanti is one of the five of Varanasi's "Singh Sisters", four of whom have represented India's national women's team.

Click here for more of the Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

June 13, 2019

33rd Federation Cup National Basketball Tournament tips off in Greater Noida

If you wish to find the best basketball players in India this week, take the long route out to the Yamuna Expressway, in the barren lands of Greater Noida, far away from the crowds and infrastructure of urban Delhi, and you'll find a basketball court somewhere in this middle-of-nowhere, an oasis of hoops, a relief of slam dunks, slick passes, and big jump-shots.

This is where the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) in association with the Uttar Pradesh Basketball Association (UPBA) is hosting the 33rd Federation Cup Basketball Championship for Men and Women. The tournament tipped off on Wednesday, June 12 and is scheduled until June 16 at the Indoor Stadium of the Gautam Buddha University in Greater Noida's Gautam Budhh Nagar. 17 combined teams of the Men and Women's divisions are taking part in this year's event.

The Federation Cup fray consists of the top teams 8 from last year's Senior Nationals, plus the host state for this year's event. In the Men's division, the top ranking states send their best clubs/units. In the Women's divisions, the state teams themselves take part. Last year's Federation Cup was held in Chittoor (Andhra Pradesh) and won by IOB (Men) and Kerala (Women).

33rd Federation Cup Participating Teams

  • Pool A: Income Tax (Chennai), Punjab Police, ASC Centre (Bengaluru), BSF (Jodhpur), RDSO (Lucknow).
  • Pool B: Indian Army, Central Railway, Shri Guru Gobind Singh College (Chandigarh), BEG (Roorkee)

  • Pool A: Eastern Railway, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi.
  • Pool B: Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh.

Kerala's women began their title defense in style, blowing past hosts UP 62-43 in their opening game, led by their experienced leader Anjana PG (18). Eastern Railway defeated Delhi 97-62 behind big scoring outings by Poonam Chaturvedi (27) and Anjamma Daisy (18).

Indian Army defeated Central Railway 90-77 in one of the Men's games, led by Gopal Ram (23) and Suresh Kumar (19). Loveneet Singh had 21 for Central Railway in the loss. In a highly-anticipated contest, Punjab Police cruised past Income Tax 66-52. Returning Punjabi international Amritpal Singh led all scorers with 21 in the win. Gnanasekaran Sivabalan scored 20 for Income Tax.

The championship was officially inaugurated on Wednesday by Mahesh Sharma, current MLA from Noida.

June 11, 2019

Northern Spartans from Amritsar triumph in the first ever India Finals of RedBull Reign

Indian Gymkhana, Matunga in Mumbai hosted the first ever India Finals of Red Bull Reign - a unique global 3 on 3 basketball tournament on 8th June 2019. With 16 teams (the winners of the respective 12 city qualifiers and 4 wildcard teams) the national finals witnessed high paced basketball across 39 matches. Amritsar's Northern Spartans defeated Team Drop Step from Goa 17-11 in the final to secure the title, and win their ticket to the RedBull Reign World Championship in Toronto later this year.

The winning team were led by the consistent dominance of India's recent national captain Amritpal Singh. He received ample support from Arshpreet Singh Bhullar, Rajvir Singh, and Israel Fernando en route to the title. Northern Spartans had defeated Tune Squad (Delhi-Chandigarh) in the semi-finals 21-14. While on the other side, Team Drop Step reached the final with a tightly-contested win over Income Tax from Ahmedabad, 16-14.

The Red Bull Reign tournaments have been held in over a dozen countries this year. The winners of the Toronto Finals will have a shot at 10,000 USD prize money.

Starting in April 7, Red Bull Reign’s 3x3 was held across 12 cities: Chennai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Goa, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, Aizawl, Guwahati, Delhi, Ludhiana and Jaipur. The city winners from each event came to Mumbai on June 8 to battle it out for the national championship. Four ‘wildcard’ teams, featuring some of the top players in India, were also added to the finals fray. A number of India's other top players took part in the finals in Mumbai, including India’s number 1 ranked 3x3 player Dhruv Barman, Mizoram’s star guard Lalrina Renthelei, Sowkin Shetty, Pratyanshu Tomar, Vinay Kaushik, and more.

June 10, 2019

FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Draw completed in Bengaluru - with a visit from NBA Hall of Famer Yao Ming

The Asian basketball world descended to Bengaluru - the new hoops capital of India - on Saturday, for the group stage draws of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021. India were of course one of the teams drawn into the qualifying draw. A number of great Asian basketball players were present for this event, including Basketball Hall of Famer Yao Ming, who made his third visit to India.

India were drawn in Group D alongside Bahrain, Lebanon, and Iraq.

2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier Groups
  • Group A: Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea.
  • Group B: Chinese Taipei, Japan, Malaysia, China.
  • Group C: Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Guam.
  • Group D: Bahrain, Lebanon, India, Iraq.
  • Group E: Saudi Arabia, Syria, Qatar, Iran.
  • Group F: Jordan, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Palestine.

India will play each of the three teams in its group on a home and away basis over three qualifying windows - November 2019, February 2020, and November 2020. At the end of the three windows, the top two teams from each group directly qualify for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup. The six third-placed teams qualify to participate in a final qualifier tournament in February 2021. The top four teams from that tournament will join the earlier 12 to complete the list of participating nations for the tournament.

Yao Ming, who was the star of China's basketball team, the Houston Rockets in the NBA, the Shanghai Sharks, and is now the chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), made his third visit to India as one of the dignitaries at the draft. Yao had earlier come to Kolkata in 1998 to represent China at the FIBA Asia U18 Championship. Two years ago, he visited Bengaluru for the FIBA Asia Women's Championship.

Also present at the draw ceremony at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bengaluru: Former Philippines star player Jimmy Alapag, Japanese women’s professional player Asami Yoshida, FIBA President Horacio Muratore, FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis, FIBA Asia President Sheikh Saud, Basketball Federation of India (BFI) President K. Govindraj, and Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala.

In August 2017, Australia become FIBA Asia Cup champions in Lebanon, while a disappointing Team India were ousted in the First Round.

The General Assembly of FIBA's member federations was also held in Bengaluru on Sunday. Sheikh Saud Ali Al Thani was re-elected as President of FIBA Asia. India's BFI president Govindraj is the SABA (South Asian) sub-zone representative.

June 7, 2019

NBA announces marketing partnership with Indian multiplex chain INOX

For true fans, the most intense NBA games are more entertaining as any blockbuster or award-winning movie. There's drama, there's action, there's suspense, there are gasps, cheers, some comedy, some heroes, some villains, and a whole lotta fun.

So, it only makes sense that the NBA's next partnership in India is with a multiplex group, one that will bring the NBA brand close to where you watch your favourite movies.

On Friday, right in the midst of the NBA Finals, the league in India announced its marketing partnership with India's second-largest multiplex chain, INOX Leisure Ltd. (INOX), with plans to integrate the NBA into select cinemas across Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune.

As the NBA's Exclusive Multiplex Partner in India, INOX will introduce numerous NBA elements in and around its cinema houses, including co-branded inflatables and popcorn buckets, NBA posters and NBA jersey wall displays. INOX will host screening parties for select games throughout the NBA season, along with meet-and-greet sessions with former NBA players.

"With a clear focus on curating the best experience for our patrons, we have continuously been working on partnerships to help us elevate their cinema-going experience," said Alok Tandon, CEO of INOX Leisure Limited. "This partnership with the NBA adds a global touch to our brand offering and a new dimension to INOX, and we invite our patrons across the country to come forward and experience the NBA for themselves."

"We are thrilled to partner with a dynamic brand like INOX to further connect with our fans in India," said Diane Gotua, NBA Vice President of Global Business Operations. "This is an ideal way for us to generate awareness and engagement for the NBA at a large scale and reach new and existing fans alike across the country."

This is fantastic news: not only will it increase visibility of the NBA's brand and players across to a new urban movie-going audience in India, but it will also allow for the exciting possibility of live game showings on the big screen. Of course, the timing of live games will always remain an issue all those time zones away from North America, but the league has already introduced new schedules in the course of the last few seasons to better suit primetime viewing hours for Indian fans. Hopefully, by the time next year's Finals roll around, I'll get a chance to watch the top teams in a 'movie theatre' atmosphere.

June 4, 2019

Hari Dutt Kapri: Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

Born in Uttarakhand, honed by the Army, and excelling for India at the international stage, Hari Dutt Kapri is today's addition to the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame. The former national team captain enjoyed a storied basketball playing career that culminated with him joining the ranks of Indian basketball's Arjuna Award winners.

Kapri was born in 1942 in Chiriyakhan of the Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand, a village in the Western Himalaya. But he only discovered the game of basketball when he joined the Army as a recruit in the Bengal Engineering Group. He eventually began to play a major role in the Services basketball team, where he was named captain in 1963 and led them to several National Championship gold medals in the 15-year stretch that followed.

Kapri was eventually also made captain of India's National Men's basketball team. One of the highlights of his career was captaining Team India to a best-ever fourth-place finish at the FIBA Asia Cup (formerly FIBA ABC) in Bangkok in 1975. He played a big role in many more international tournaments in India across the continent in the 1960s and 70s.

Kapri was rewarded the Arjuna Award, and after retirement, worked for the Uttarakhand Police and continued to play a role as a basketball coach and trainer for youth from the region.

Click here for more of the Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

June 3, 2019

Top 3x3 teams from around the country head to Mumbai for Red Bull Reign National Finals

After a two-month, 12-city tour around India, featuring high-level 3x3 basketball action and some of the top present and future talents in India, the first-ever Red Bull Reign season in India will conclude in Mumbai with the national finals on June 8, 2019. The 12 winners of each city's event, plus four wildcard teams, will play out for the national crown at the Indian Gymkhana in Mumbai.

Starting on April 7, the basketball tournament was held in Chennai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Goa, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, Aizawl, Guwahati, Delhi, Ludhiana and Jaipur. This event is a continuation of Red Bull Reign events around the world, including the USA, UK, Canada, Philippines, and more. The National Finals winners in Mumbai will get an opportunity to represent India at the World Finals in United States.

National Finalists
  • Team Clutch (Bengaluru)
  • Team Phoenix (Chennai)
  • Team Loyala (Hyderabad)
  • Income Tax (Ahmedabad)
  • Team Customs (Pune)
  • Team Dropset (Goa)
  • Eklaavya Society (Jaipur)
  • NFR A (Guwahati)
  • Team BBQ Chicken (Aizawl)
  • Team Singh (Mumbai)
  • Team Punjab Warriors (Ludhiana)
  • Team Income Tax A (Delhi)
  • Northern Spartans (Wildcard)
  • Tune Squad (Wildcard)
  • Sports U (Wildcard)
  • Excellence (Wildcard)
A number of top Indian players are expected to take part in the day of the national finals, including Amritpal Singh, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Yadwinder Singh, Arshpreet Bhullar, Lalrina Renthelei, Vinay Kaushik, and Ravi Bhardwaj.

June 2, 2019

Indian Bank (Men) and Southern Railway (Women) win 2019 All India Basketball Tournaments in Coimbatore

Two of the most prestigious invitational basketball in India came to a conclusion on Saturday after six days of high-level hoops action in Coimbatore. Indian Bank (Men) and Southern Railway (Women) won the 54th Nachimuthu Gounder Cup and 18th CRI Pumps Trophy respectively after a couple of close finals. The tournament was held from May 27 - June 1 by the Coimbatore District Basketball Association (CDBA) at the VOC Park Basketball Court.

Indian Bank from Chennai defeated Income Tax in the finale 74-64 to secure the gold medal.

In the women’s category Southern Railway (Hubli) managed to maintain the lead from the beginning over South Central Railway and won the match and trophy by two points 57-55.

India Army defeated Indian Air Force 72-62 for third place in the men's division, while last year's women's champions KSEB finished third with a 46-33 win over Arise Steel.

There was Rs.1.85 lakh prize money and Cup for men and Rs.1 lakh and trophy for women’s teams. Customs (Chennai) and KSEB (Thiruvanathapuram) won last year's iterations of the tournament.