July 30, 2019

Shiba Maggon - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

A player, a coach, a referee, a leader. Shiba Maggon, called 'The Queen of Basketball', has found a way to be involved in Indian basketball for decades in a variety of roles. She has already given a lifetime of service to the game - and has a lifetime more left to give. For all this and more, she is now an entrant into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born in Karnal, Haryana in 1976, Maggon found basketball success early in her life coming through the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in Chandigarh. The untimely death of her sister - an international netball and aspiring basketball player - thrust Maggon more passionately into the basketball realm from the early 90s. She later joined Western Railways, Ajmer in 1996 and was with them till 2002. In 2002 Shiba joined MTNL Delhi and played with them till Jan 2011. Her glittering domestic basketball career included seven gold medals and eight silvers for Railways and Delhi in the Senior Nationals, plus three gold medals and three bronzes in Federation Cups, between 1997-2011.

Maggon was selected for India's junior national team in 1992 and soon graduated to the seniors, for whom she became a staple for nearly 15 years of action. Maggon served often as India's captain and played in five FIBA Asia Championships for Women in the course of her career, and was ranked in the top 5 for Asian players in 2002. She was also part of Indian basketball team to take part at Commonwealth Games for the first time at Australia in 2006.

In 1998, Maggon got a scholarship to the Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1998, where she majored in Physical Education. She also completed a diploma course in Olympism and Humanism with the International Olympic Academy in Athens, Greece. Maggon is credited as being one of the first Indian woman to be an international FIBA certified referee. She has also served as a basketball voice-over commentator and a lead coordinator for NBA India.

Her post-retirement career has since seen her succeed in different avenues of basketball, most notably coaching India's national teams at the senior, junior, and youth levels, as well as coaching Delhi in several domestic nationals. She has been a part of India's national women's team coaching staff for several important international events, including the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, and more. She will continue the journey for India at the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup for Women. She is also in contention for the Dhyan Chand Award this year.

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

July 25, 2019

Hanuman Singh Rathore - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

Whether he suited up for Rajasthan, Railways, or India, Hanuman Singh Rathore was often the smallest guy on the basketball court. But the talented guard exceeded expectations and succeeded with heart over height over a glittering basketball career in the 1970s-80s, with highlights including the Arjuna Award and a spot in India's only Olympic team. Today, Rathore is added to the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Rathore was born in Bhagwanpur, in Nagaur district of Rajasthan in February 1950. He attended the Military School in Ajmer and then the Rajasthan University in Jaipur. By the time he began to play for Rajasthan's state teams, the 5-foot-9 guard had developed into one of the best young talents in the country. Singh eventually joined Indian Railways, for whom he manned the point en-route to several titles in the domestic national championships.

Rathore played an important role for Team India and was part of the legendary squad that played in the Moscow 1980 Olympics, the only time India has participated in an Olympic basketball tournament. India finished the tournament 0-7, but Rathore gained some valuable experience. His high-point was the game against Czechoslovakia, when he dished out 10 assists in a losing effort.

Rathore was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 1975. He remained in the periphery of Indian basketball in various roles after his retirement, including being a selector for India's national teams. He is currently employed with the Steel Authority of India (SAIL).

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

July 22, 2019

Mumbai's Street Ball League for 3-on-3 basketball set for first season with players' auction

The growing trend of 3-on-3 basketball in India finds a snazzy new face in Mumbai with the launch of the Street Ball League. Steered by several local celebrities in the city, the league held an auction for their 12 men's and 4 women's teams on Sunday, July 21st at the WeWork BKC in Mumbai. The basketball action is set to take off in September and will be held for two months in the league's first season.

The Street Ball League is a brainchild of actors and social-media celebrity brothers Rannvijay Singha and Harman Singha. The two have long been involved with the promotion of the NBA in India, and this league brings together many of their celebrity connections as team owners for the first season, including actor Esha Gupta, dancer and choreographer Melvin Louis, Sana Khan, comedian Gursimran Khamba, former Miss India Universe Simran Kaur Mundi, MTV VJs Varun Sood and Divya Aggarwal and more.

"Basketball runs in my veins," said Harman Singh. "Both my parents were players of high caliber, learning a sport young was an integral part of growing up and I was lucky enough to always enjoy and play the game. Street Ball is our way of spreading the love and joy of this game to all the youngsters out there."

"The basketball movement in India has got new wings through the Street Ball League..." said the league's director, Pranav Premnarayen. "We are proud to structure new innovative platforms in various sports and take them across India."

The format of the games in this league will be slightly different from the FIBA 3x3 rules. The matches will be of 24 minutes each, divided in two halves. A a new entry called "the clutch time" will be included in the last two minutes of each half where all the scoring will get doubled.

On the day of the auction, the highest bidders in the women's section was Team Hot Steppers, picking up Carina Menefiz, and Team Face Spartans, who picked up Sanjana. In the men's action, the highest bid was made by Hot Steppers again for Pradeep Singh.

Street Ball League - Teams
  • Men: Bay City Bombers, Buzzer Beaters, Dunk Vipers, Face Spartans, Flying Panthers, Hoop Heads, Hot Steppers, Old School Ballers, Samurais, South Side Warriors, Three Pointers, Titans.
  • Women: Face Spartans, Hoop Heads, Hot Steppers, Playmakers.

According to its media spokesperson, the Street Ball League has ambitions to grow to other cities in India in the future, including New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Kolkata, and Chennai.

July 21, 2019

Hoopdarshan Episode 80: India Coach Veselin Matic, NBA Free Agency, and Ajinkya

Hoopdarshan's 80th episode is going to be a long, emotional journey, highlighted with an interview with India's new national team coach, Veselin Matic of Serbia. Matic discusses his plans for Team India going forward, the U16 SABA triumph, and how he hopes to bring a change to Indian basketball. Furthermore, co-hosts Kaushik Lakhsman and Karan Madhok talk about the frantic NBA Free Agency as well as Marathi basketball movie 'Ajinkya'.

Matic was named the head coach of India's men's national basketball programme a few months ago and arrived in India with a wealth of basketball experience. He has coached the national teams of Iran, Lebanon, and Syria, been an assistant coach for a very successful stretch of Yugoslavia's national team, and coached club basketball in Serbia, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Lebanon, and more.

Also on this episode's Hoopdarshan: India's U16 SABA victory reaction, Satnam Singh's draft rights traded, NBA Academy Games, the new season of 3BL, Kawhi Leonard, Clippers, Lakers, Nets, Durant, Celtics... and deep-diving into the film 'Ajinkya' as part of our favourite obsession: basketball in Indian cinema.

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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July 20, 2019

Sozhasingarayer Robinson - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

It's time to shower much-overdue love on a true Indian basketball legend. Sozhasingarayer Robinson might've never won big national awards or given the true respect he deserved during his playing days. But the 6-8 forward was pound-for-pound one of the greatest Indians to ever play the game, a player who took the sport into new frontiers for India, and in the process gathered a cult following behind him. For all this and more, Robinson is today's entrant into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born in Puducherry, raised in Gujarat, and dominant eventually for Tamil Nadu, Robinson was a standout athlete and one of the first Indian players to play professionally abroad. After dominating at the state and national level, he gained fame in larger circles after leading India to a surprise win over South Korea in 2004's FIBA Asia Stancovic Cup, pouring in a scintillating 36 points in the victory. Robinson was in and out of the national team in the early part of the 2000s. His performances were impressive enough for him to be offered contracts to play in Iran for Negar Sang Sharekord and Farsh Mashad.

Back home, Robinson played for IOB (Chennai), and later, for the Indian Army, aside from his duties to the TN state team. He was a swashbuckling forward capable of hot shooting streaks, attacking from the perimeter, and finishing on the inside. Robinson was offered to play in New Zealand for the Auckland Stars after strong performances against their national team, but eventually wasn't able to complete the transaction.

A game-changing moment in Robinson's career came when he faced suspension from Tamil Nadu for missing training camp in 2006. In protest of the lack of support for India's national team, Robinson retired from the game the same year, only to un-retire a few years later to finish off his hoops journey.

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

July 19, 2019

IBMD: Indian Basketball Movie Database

Imagine playing one on one, full-court basketball against the love of your life. You are a beautiful woman and he's a handsome man, and you are not just playing a game, but a game within the game. You want to defeat him, of course, because you're proud, and because he's riled up a gang of children around you to chant "girls can't play basketball". You want to prove them all wrong. But you also want to exert decades of pent-up frustration against this man. This man who was once your best friend, with whom you learned the game and honed your skills. This man, who years later, you find through the game again. And now, there's is something deeper in your connection. A little more chemistry. A little more passion. This isn't just one-on-one basketball. This is the beginning of a love story.

Now imagine you stop what you're doing mid-court to fix your sari.

Yes, you're playing in a sari.

Can you relate to this predicament? Have you ever fought for the game's honour against Cricket? Has basketball ever come in between your ambitions and parenthood? Is your dream to play one-on-one against the opposite sex so that you can eventually fall in love? Can you relate to using the help of a little extra-terrestrial to give your basketball team superpowers to defeat your bigger, badder opponents?

If you answered 'yes' to any of those scenarios above, congratulations, you're a lover of basketball in Indian cinema. As unlikely as it may be, there has been somewhat of an important and hilarious history of hoops and Indian films. Sometimes, basketball is only an important scene in the movie, highlighting the dramatic moment forever in the hearts of me and my fellow 'Hoopistanis'. Sometimes, basketball is a major plot device, setting in motion the cause and effect that leads to redemption or glory or heartbreak or a dance-break.

With this in mind, I present to you the comprehensive and running-list of IBMD, the Indian Basketball Movie Database. Several years ago, I'd written an article called 'Great Moments in Bollywood and Basketball', analysing memorable basketball-related scenes in three hit movies of the past few decades. The IBMD expands on that to include new movies and movies in Indian cinema (sometimes in other languages) outside the 'Bollywood' realm. In almost all these films, basketball was used as a vehicle or a metaphor to show true aspiration, a type of rise in one's status, an entry into an exclusive club. It is always a positive. Basketball mastery - whether used in a serious or a comical pretext, or an absurd one - is portrayed as a very special superpower.

There are many more films/moments out there that I hope to add to keep this list growing. Readers: please send me your suggestions of basketball scenes, not only in Indian cinema (of any language) but also in any streaming shows that we must pay attention to.

With that said, in order of release date, here is the IBMD:

Phool Aur Kaante (1991)

This early 90s hit was emblematic of its era: Action! Romance! Larger than life villains! Ajay Devgan (pre-Devgn) straddling two motorbikes at the same time! Perhaps more known for being Devgn's film debut, Phool Aur Kaante also features perhaps the earliest recorded hoops action in Indian film history, and all within the first fifteen minutes. In one scene, Devgn interrupts a terrible shootaround by his friends by dribbling the ball away into the locker room. In another, he is alone, shooting free throws - on the badminton court - going 4/4 from the line in less than ten seconds. Nothing better than a little a little forlorn basketball to get one's frustrations out, before beating up drug dealers in the very next scene. 

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

It's only right that we begin with the most influential Indian film ever made about basketball. KKHH was released months after Michael Jordan hit his final shot for the Chicago Bulls, and propelled an entire generation of young Indian players to take up the game (and maybe find love with their childhood bestie in the process). A few years ago, I wrote a long essay 'Kuch Hoops Hota Hai' on the surprising legacy of this Karan Johar hit on Indian basketball, featuring interviews with many top players of the national team who swore about how this film urged them towards the game.

KKHH is filled with classic moments. Kajol playing in a sari. Shah Rukh Khan's weird dribble and obvious dirty fouls. The awkward sexual tension between the two players at a kids' summer camp. The film used basketball as the 'cool' and 'western' thing that Indians in KKHH's fantasy-land aspired to. The film of course became one of the highest-grossing Bollywood releases in history and won tonnes of Filmfare awards. Khan and Kajol were in the primes of their careers, a get-together of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen earlier in the 90s. They play basketball as high-schoolers and then again as reunited adults. Cue song. Cue romance. Cue Salman Khan in a cameo making a Jordan reference. This movie had everything.

Koi Mil Gaya (2003)

The Hrithik Roshan film is primarily a rip-off of ET and Forrest Gump, but for its basketball sequence midway, it took a little off of Space Jam, too. Roshan and his friends (all children) have made friends with a friendly alien creature called 'Jadoo' who can help them do things of supernatural athletic ability. At one point in the film, Roshan's team - the Paandavs - play against a mean-looking bunch called the 'Kasauli Tigers'.

From the sidelines, Jadoo waves his magic on the Paandavs and Roshan, helping the movie star dribble like Allen Iverson and dunk like Zion Williamson in a video-game cheat mode. The Tigers actually go on a 49-0 run at one point, and Jadoo needs the sun to instill his influence on the game. When the sun does show, the game turns, and Roshan slam dunks his way (with a very high usage rate, I might add) to a huge comeback. In the incredible game-deciding sequence, Jadoo-powered Roshan intercepts a shot, jumps, does three body flips in mid air to land his feet on top of the oppositions rim, and then drop the winner. Wow.

Dhoom 2 (2006)

Oh, you thought we were done with Roshan pretending to be a basketball savant? Let me take you a few years forward to Dhoom 2, the successful sequel to the international spy/sexy/action thriller. Like Khan and Kajol in KKHH, here are a couple of more actors in their prime: Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. It's raining. It's night. There's a lot of leather. And Roshan drops the immortal words that are now the opening sequence of our Hoopdarshan podcast: "Yeh International game hai - Deemag is khela jata hai, gussey sey nahi" (This is an international game, played by the mind, not with anger).

He was talking about their sexy one-on-one game, of course, but this is Bollywood, so he was also talking about their international spy game. We get to see more of Roshan's questionable basketball skills. He travels a lot. He throws the ball into the basket instead of shooting it properly. Bachchan strips down to a tight mini-skirt. Roshan and Bachchan come awfully close to each other and drop flirtatious trash talk. I'm sorry, but Cricket could never be this romantic.

Ajinkya (2012)

I haven't yet seen an Indian film that uses basketball as a main plot-line as thoroughly as this small Marathi movie, Ajinkya. Ajinkya is about a basketball coach in Nagpur who is a relentless winner with a big ego. He wants his team to win every game by at least 25 points and has won the regional tournament for about 14 straight years. But then, some dumb things happen: 1) his wife wants to have a child, but he can't go with her to get her fertility results because of this year's tournament final; 2) he slaps his best three-point shooter for not wanting to practice and this player doesn't play for him in the final; 3) he loses the final and vows to give up basketball; 4) his wife - who can conceive now - doesn't want to conceive a child with him anymore; and 5) he leaves town alone heartbroken - without basketball and family - to work in Aurangabad.

The rest of the film is his redemption project in Aurangabad. Both the director (Tejas Deoskar) and leading man (Sandeep Kulkari) of this film have a hoops background, so even if the story itself is quite trash, the basketball emotions are realistic. The coach takes a bunch of rag-tag new players who don't know anything about the game in his new city and teaches them, and in returns, learns that having fun is more important than winning. They play the same tournament again and reach the finals. I won't spoil it any further. But conception is still involved. So is James Bond.

Vallinam (2014)

Shelf this one in 'TBD', as I've yet got a chance to watch this Tamil film and review it for its basketball moments. From early reports, I learned that the movie pitted basketball (the hero) vs. cricket (the villain). Directed by Arivazhaghan Venkatachalam, the film starred Tamil actor Nakul as the top basketball player who plays for India. Apparently, the final scene of the movie is a basketball game between the Indian team and a foreign team at an expensive set in Thiyagaraya Nagar in Chennai.

Half Girlfriend (2017)

Chetan Bhagat writes terrible books, but sometimes they make for good films. Half Girlfriend is not one of those good films. No, this one is about a romance that starts through basketball (have I heard this before?) in a fictional Delhi college between a girl from a rich, English-speaking family (Shraddha Kapoor) and a boy from a Hindi-speaking Bihari background (Arjun Kapoor). Despite their differences, they're both great basketball players and leaders of their respective women's and men's teams. Arjun coaxes Shraddha for a date through basketball, but she only wants to be his 'half' girlfriend. Which means, perhaps the equivalent of an NBA contract with a player option? They play a lot of one-one-one hoops, make a lot of NBA references, discuss their language differences, and sow the seeds of what will become deeper love later.

The NBA in India was actually heavily involved in partnering with this movie. NBA coaches worked with the two Kapoors in helping them look the part of hoopers on screen in production. References to LeBron and Durant and Curry are dropped liberally. NBA posters and insignia are seen often. The movie was even promoted around live NBA broadcasts in India in 2017. Anyways, a lot more happens after college for these two (basketball is mostly forgotten) and things get dramatic and sad and the Bill Gates Foundation is involved and the girl sings around in New York and the boy is drunk a lot. In the end, they get together, and basketball is involved again. I watched and reviewed this movie in great detail for its basketball stuff so you wouldn't have to.

Tarunyachya Lathevar (2017)

This Marathi film begins with two girls playing one-on-one in a dark indoor hall, right after one of those girls also practices her bharatnatyam skills on the same court. And we're off! This movie was directed/starred by the former president of the Maharashtra State Basketball Association (MSBA) and featured several actual Maharashtra players in action. The protagonist in the film loves basketball - as in, staring-lustfully-at-the-hoop-while-romantic-music-plays-in-the-background-for-way-too-long kinda love. There is a lot more basketball in this movie, including romance blossoming from basketball (of course), evil administrators, and of course, a big tournament. The game-scenes look organic and not choreographed, giving them a more realistic feel.

Chhichhore (2019)

One of the final films that budding young actor Sushant Singh Rajput starred in before his untimely death, Chhichhore is a college-sports comedy, a modern ode to the 1992 classic Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. One of the earliest frames in the film is a basketball backcourt in a college campus, a foreshadowing of the sport that will play a major role in the film's eventual conclusion. The film takes place in two timelines, the present and the past. In the present, Raghav, the son of the separated couple Anirudh (Rajput) and and Maya (Shraddha Kapoor, in her second apperance in an IBMD film) attempts suicide after an academic failure. He is in critical condition, and ultimately, relies on stories and memories of his parents' college days to give him hope.

The 'past' timeline takes place in those college days of the parents. Anirudh (Ani) and motley crew of hilarious friends are the 'Losers' of Hostel-4 (H4). Ani ambitiously decides that H4 should put that reputation to rest by winning the colleges General Championship, a tournament of multiple sports that is always won by H3, the fancy and gifted arch-nemesis of H4. Through hilarious means of self-motivation, a little trickery, and some distraction, H4 get close enough to get themselves in contention for the championship - all they need are three more gold medals in chess, relay race, and basketball on the very last day. Through dramatic means, chess and track golds are secured.

That leaves basketball. H4 are led by Ani, who is supposedly a state-level player, and H3 are led by Raggie, a talented athlete and the film's smug villain. Unlike past Bollywood moments, this basketball game is actually very-well choreographed. Both teams seem to be using the motion offense, moving excellently without the ball, using picks and screens, and passing fluidly. Most of the buckets are mid-range jumpers. Layups are rare, threes are nonexistent - it's Daryl Morey's nightmare. H4 trailed by 12 at halftime, but as it is in all these basketball movies, the underdog 'good guys' made a huge comeback in the second. Eventually, it comes down to the final shot: H4 are down 2 with six seconds to go. Ani calls a timeout... and his 'radical' game-plan is - to attempt a three-pointer. Ani loses his man, catches the ball at the top of the key, and lets off a weird one-handed shot that reminds one of former India international Narender Grewal. The shot bounced all over the rim, a reminiscence of Kawhi Leonard's four-bounce Game 7 winning shot in 2019. But guess what - Ani misses!!!! It is a truly unexpected shock. The hero lost and let everyone down. But even in loss, he gains the respect of his opponent. The lesson we are left with is that it's not the result that matters - it's the effort. And it is perhaps this lesson that aids to Raghav recovering from his surgery in present day and living to provide the film a happy ending.

Chhalaang (2020)

Rising Bollywood star Rajkkumar Rao plays a slacker Haryanvi public school PT coach in the comedy Chhalaang ('Leap'). When he has time on his hand, his character Montu leads a group of right-wing goons to thrash and reprimand innocent couples hanging out together in public parks on Valentine's Day. Later, the daughter of one of these needlessly-harassed elder couples becomes Montu's co-worker - he is attracted to her and, after a little bit of traditional Bollywood persistence, she actually forgives him and considers him as a romantic partner. None of this is about basketball yet, but I wanted to set up the premise just so we are all clear on how absurd things are going so far. 

The rest of the film is about more such transformational moments of growth for Montu, and the biggest challenge comes when a well-trained rival coach is hired by the school. Montu and this other coach decide to confront their differences with an intra-school multi-sport contest in Basketball, Kabaddi, and Relay Racing. In true underdog fashion, Montu trains a bunch of underdog players in his gender-neutral lineup, and in the process, learns a little about maturity and responsibility etc. himself. A highlight here is the scene where the students perform a dribbling drill using cow-dung as obstacles instead of training cones. The basketball game is actually well choreographed and fairly entertaining for Bollywood's low standards - Montu's team loses because their best player - Pinky, a mixture of both finesse speed and bruising athleticism - is injured halfway. Nevertheless, the coach is happy that the kids gave their best and weren't completely embarrassed. Yay, sportsmanship! 

July 16, 2019

3BL league to return for Season 2 in India next month - this time, with a women's league, too!

Last year, 3x3 basketball in India was revolutionised by the 3BL, the first FIBA-approved league for the shorter format in the country. The league reached several Indian cities and helped provide a new avenue for professionals and fans to find Indian hoops.

With the success of the inaugural season behind them, 3BL will return for Season 2 next month - and this time, launch at a grander scale which will include a first-ever women's 3x3 pro league in India.

Organised by YKBK Enterprises, the second season of India’s only FIBA-recognised league, 3x3 Pro Basketball League Indian Sub-continent (3BL) will be held from August 2 - September 29 across five cities in India. In a pioneering move, 3BL is also introducing a women’s 3x3 basketball league, which will be conducted simultaneously alongside the men’s league. The second season of 3BL will feature 12 teams with the best of Indian basketball talent, both men and women, competing in 9 rounds over the period of two months to emerge champions. In an association with the Government of Punjab to promote basketball in the state that has produced many of India’s best talent, the 9 rounds of 3BL will be conducted in Chandigarh, Amritsar, Mohali, Jalandhar and Patiala.

In an effort to provide a platform to Indian female basketball players and build 3x3 basketball at grassroots level in the country, a professional women’s league for 3x3 basketball will be brought to India for the first time 3BL Season 2. In recent years, major international women’s basketball tournaments like FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2017, FIBA U16 Women’s Asian Championship 2017, FIBA U18 Asian Championship 2018 and the upcoming FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2019 have also been hosted in India. The women’s league in 3BL will provide an opportunity to the female basketball players to explore a professional career in basketball and further improve the sporting environment for women’s sports in India.

Photo credit: 3BL
By conducting the league over nine rounds, 3BL will help increase the points for the Indian federation in the FIBA 3x3 Rankings, which is the decider for a berth on the qualification round for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The winners of the men’s rounds will also qualify for spots on two FIBA 3x3 World Tour Masters and three Challengers.

Last year's 3BL was won by the Delhi Hoopers - the most dominant squad over the six rounds of basketball.

The try-outs for the second season of 3BL will be held on 19th July 2019 for the women’s league and for 20th July 2019 for the men’s league at Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi. Basketball players interested in participating can register here: www.3x3bl.com

Speaking about the second season of 3BL, Rohit Bakshi, League Commissioner, 3BL, said, "We are thrilled to bring 3BL back for a second season after the resounding success of the first season last year. This year, our aim is to make 3BL bigger and better and make a significant impact on India’s FIBA 3x3 Ranking to give us a shot to qualify for Tokyo 2020. We have also introduced the women’s league this time to give a platform to all the fantastic and aspiring female basketball players in India. Basketball Federation of India and The Government of Punjab is supporting 3BL in improving the sporting environment in India and we will be working together to ensure India becomes a dominant force in 3x3 Basketball."

July 15, 2019

NBA Global Academy wins 3rd NBA Academy Games in Atlanta; Team India finishes 1-5

For the past few years, the NBA has significantly shifted its focus on the future on basketball, on finding and developing elite-level youth talent from across the world with their network of international academies. Every year, these academies come together for a battle royale, pitting the best against the best. This year, the 3rd NBA Academy Games were held in Atlanta, for the first time in USA soil, and the result was a repeat of last year: the top team of the tournament was once again the NBA Global Academy - based in Canberra (Australia) - who took the title with a final win against World Select Blue on Sunday.

The 2019 NBA Academy Games were held at the Emory Sports Medical Complex in Atlanta, featuring eight Academy teams from around the world: World Select Red, NBA Global Academy, TSF, NBA Academy China, NBA Academy Africa, NBA Academy India, NBA Academy Latin America, and World Select Blue. The tournament held from July 9-14, with the final and third-place games held on Sunday, the 14th of July.

NBA Global Academy cruised to a victory in the final against World Select Blue, 97-73. NBA Global Academy took the first quarter 28-16. Despite World Select Blue taking the third quarter 25-19, NBA Global Academy easily won all other quarters to secure the win. Uruguay's Santiago Vannet was the leader for the Global Academy with 20 points and 5 assists in the win, while Australian Blake Jones added 18. NBA Global Academy also featured India's standout prospect Princepal Singh on their roster. For World Select Blue, Samuel Mennenga was the top scorer with a game-high 27 in the loss.

Featuring the likes of Amaan Sandhu, Harshwardhan Tomar, and Pranav Prince, the NBA Academy India finished the tournament with a 1-5 record, at 7th place out of the 8 participating teams. Former India's national team head coach and the current technical director of the Academy in Greater Noida, Scott Flemming was the head coach of this team. They lost their first five games to World Select Blue, NBA Academy Latin America, NBA Academy Africa, NBA Global Academy, and, in the knockout stage, a second time to NBA Academy Africa. But they picked up an important consolation victory over NBA Academy China in their last game.

NBA Academy India results from 3rd NBA Academy Games
  • World Select Blue 87-43 NBA Academy India
  • NBA Academy Latin America 84-49 NBA Academy India
  • NBA Academy Africa 66-27 NBA Academy India
  • NBA Global Academy 94-38 NBA Academy India
  • NBA Academy Africa 59-35 NBA Academy India
  • NBA Academy India 65-61 NBA Academy China

The top performer for Team India at this tournament was Amaan Sandhu - 'Big Baby Punjab' - who finished the tournament averaging 10.67 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest.

July 14, 2019

Anil Kumar Punj - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

One of the high-flying stars of India's national teams in the 60s/70s, Anil Kumar Punj rose to a rare level of basketball greatness in the country, culminating with the honour of the Arjuna Award in 1974. Today, I add Punj to the illustrious list of legends in the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born in Kapurthala (Punjab) in 1947 - months before India's independence - Punj became an important player for India's Border Security Force (BSF) and the national team. He had an illustrious career in the BSF from 1968 to 2004 from where he retired as Commandant.

He distinguished himself at the international and national level and was a member of the Indian Basketball Teams which participated in the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok, and two FIBA Asia Basketball Championships - 1971 (Tokyo) and 1973 (Manila).

Over his career, Punj bagged two Gold, four Silver and four Bronze Medals in National Basketball Championships and also 13 Gold Medals and 2 Silver Medals in All India Police Games. He was decorated with the Arjuna Award by the Government of India in 1974 and Police Medal for Meritorious Services 1992. He was also decorated with the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award by the Punjab Govt. in 1986. Punj passed away at age 63 in January 2011.

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

July 10, 2019

4 years after becoming first Indian to be drafted into the NBA, Satnam Singh's draft rights have been traded to the Memphis Grizzlies

It takes nuclear fusion of the intergalactic level to give birth to a star, a minor big bang. Often, these stars die in spectacular supernovas. But sometimes, they just whimper away in silence, disappearing into the dark universe.

Four years ago, Satnam Singh's entry into the NBA began with a bang. The Dallas Mavericks made the 19-year-old, 7-foot-2 center the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA. His 2015 drafting was a major moment in Indian basketball history, spawning optimism for the growth of the game in India and a Netflix documentary detailing the astonishing story that ended with him wearing that Mavericks hat.

Four years later, and without a single NBA game under his belt, Satnam dalliance with the Mavs has ended in a quiet whimper. The Mavericks announced on Monday, July 8 that they were trading the draft rights to Satnam Singh from 2015 along with two future second-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies, in return for point guard Delon Wright. It will now be up to the Grizzlies to decide if they wish to offer Satnam a contract, waive their draft right, or retain the rights without having Satnam under contract the way the Mavericks did for the past four years.

It is a question of curious NBA legalese on how the Mavericks were able to hold on to Satnam's draft rights since 2015. Satnam isn't the only one; the Mavericks have a habit of drafting players and retaining their rights for long terms, including Finland's Petteri Koponen who was drafted in 2007 by the Philadelphia 76ers, and whose rights the Mavs have held since 2011. Ben Zajdel of The Smoking Cuban dug deep into the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement and explained the rules in more layman terms:

Essentially, this means that as long as a player is under contract with a non-NBA team and gives the NBA team that drafted him no indication he plans to play in the NBA, they retain his draft rights. The process can go on for more than a decade, apparently. If an international player is no longer under contract with a non-NBA team and informs the team that holds his draft rights he intends to play in the NBA, they must tender him an offer within the next year, or he becomes a rookie free agent.

The draft rights for Satnam essentially meant that he can play for no other team except for the one's that hold his rights - which was the Mavericks, and which will now be the Grizzlies.

Even though he has been absent from realising his NBA dream, Satnam has been actively pursuing many other avenues of pro basketball. After he was first drafted, he spent two seasons playing for the Mavericks' affiliate Texas Legends. He returned to India to play a bigger role in the national team from 2017-18 and try his hand at 3x3 basketball. Last year, he took upon a new journey: Canada's National Basketball League, where he played for the St. John's Edge that made the NBL Finals.

Now, just when it seemed that Satnam's NBA affair was over, his name popped up in the news stream again, heading to a new team. Perhaps, a fresh start? Remember, we are still speaking of his draft rights, not his contract itself. No one yet knows what the future holds. When I reached out to Satnam about his thoughts on the trade, he was in the dark as the rest of us.

"I don’t know yet about anything," he said. "I hope I get soon some good news."

We in the Indian basketball world are hoping for the same. Hopefully the quiet decay of the star is only the beginning of something new, the start of another journey in Satnam's universe.

July 8, 2019

Aparna Ghosh - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

She has dedicated a lifetime to the sport of basketball in India, and with the Dhyan Chand Award, been appropriately celebrated for her service. Today, I add the great Aparna Ghosh into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Hailing from Bolpur in West Bengal, Ghosh has been one of the most accomplished players and coaches in Indian basketball, playing for the national team for 16 years and going on to become a highly-successful coach for Indian Railways. Since substituting herself to lead the charge from the coaches' bench, Ghosh has led Indian Railways women to a myriad of success for several years. She currently serves as the Sports Officer at RSPB of the Railway Board.

In 2002, Ghosh was honoured with the Dhyan Chand Award for lifetime achievement in sports and games, handed by the Indian government. She is one of only two basketball personalities in India to receive this honour.

Ghosh has also served as part of India's national coaching system, and was the national women's team assistant coach at the 2015 FIBA Asia Women's Championship. She has served in the organising committee of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and in the same year was picked to be in a select group of Indian coaches to receive training at the George Mason University in the USA. In 2015, Ghosh was given a lifetime achievement award by the Calcutta Sports Journalist Club.

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

July 7, 2019

Indian prospect Jagshaanbir Singh Jhawar gets scholarship to play at Golden State Prep in the USA

Two years ago, young Jagshaanbir Singh Jhawar was in the first class of prospects selected by the NBA Academy India, joining a group of two dozen young players that took a risk into the unknown, into something that had never been done before, with the hope of unlocking a bright future with their basketball skills.

This week, Jhawar has officially become the first of the group to unlock that dream.

After two years of honing his skills at the NBA Academy in Greater Noida, the 19-year-old, 6-foot-10 big man from Jalandhar has been offered a scholarship to play for Golden State Prep (GSP) in Napa Valley, north of San Francisco and the home of the Golden State Warriors in California. He will join GSP's post-graduate programme starting next month.

Jhawar represented India's U18 squad at the FIBA U18 Asia Championship last year, where he averaged 1.3 ppg and 4.3 rpg in a backup role. He was also part of the NBA's Asia Pacific Camp held in China in 2017.

"This programme will be a new challenge, and I'm positive that at the Golden State Prep I will hone my skills further," said Jhawar. "I would like to thank the team that at the NBA Academy India that contributed to my growth and prepared me to take this next step forward."

"We are excited to have a player of Jagshaanbir's calibre joining our programme," said GSP's founder Jeremy Russotti. "We are certain that his on-court abilities coupled with his reading of the game will make him an ideal candidate of our team."

In her excellent, long profile of Jhawar and his father Tejinder Pal Singh, Shivani Naik noted how the young man who grew up idolising Tim Duncan has added many of the former NBA star's skills to his game, both on-court, and his humility off of it.

Jhawar has already developed a physical low-post game on both sides of the floor. Hopefully, the experience of playing alongside other high-ranked young players with GSP will hone his skills further and prepare to him to unlock the next level, the next dream.

July 6, 2019

India wins 2019 SABA U16 Championship in Dhaka to qualify for FIBA U16 Asia Championship

The wheels keep turning unabated for India's basketball dominance over our South Asian neighbours. India is by far the strongest team in the subcontinent, and every new generation of players emerges to reinstate our place at the top. The latest to do so were India's U16 boys team at the 2019 South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) U16 Basketball Championship, held in Dhaka (Bangladesh) from July 3-5. India finished the tournament at a perfect 4-0 on Friday at the Dhanmondi Basketball Gymnasium and punched their ticket into the FIBA U16 Asia Championship next month.

India featured a long and athletic squad for the SABA Championship, captained by Kerala's Pranav Prince and coached by new Serbian head coach Veselin Matic. They faced off against hosts Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Maldives in the 5-team event.

India started off the tournament with a two-game day on Wednesday, facing off against both Nepal and Bangladesh. They started off in style, exploding for a 103-28 victory over Nepal in which Lokendra Singh (20) and Robin Banarjee (16) led a deep bench of scorers for India.

In Game 2, India played their best defensive effort of the tournament, cruising to the unbelievable scoreline of 95-8 in winning over the hosts Bangladesh. Captain Pranav Prince led all scorers with 18. India held Bangladesh scoreless in the fourth quarter.

On Thursday, India continued this epic momentum for their biggest win, 108-9 (a 99 point victory!) over Maldives. Banarjee scored 23 for India while Amrendra Nayak added 19. Maldives were held scoreless in the first and fourth quarters of the game.

The toughest challenge for India - relatively - came against Sri Lanka in their final game on Friday. The Lankans managed to hold India to their lowest offensive output, but India still raced to a 72-41 victory. Warnakulasurya Shehan Anthony Fernando of Sri Lanka was the game's highest scorer with 16.

India finished top of the standings after four games, with Sri Lanka at second place, and Bangladesh at third.

India will now participate in the 2019 FIBA U16 Asia Championship set to be held in Beijing (China) next month.

July 3, 2019

India's Srishti Suren will be taking her talents to Canada to play for the University of Winnipeg

The dam has broken, and basketball talent is oozing out. After many recent success stories of young Indian women heading abroad for college basketball opportunities, another rising star joins the list. 19-year-old Srishti Suren will become the first Indian woman to play high-level college ball in Canada. The University of Winnipeg announced on Tuesday that Suren has committed to the Wesmen for the 2019-20 season and will have five years of eligibility.

Suren, a 5'11 forward from Chennai, most-recently represented India at the 2018 FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women held in Bengaluru. She averaged 10.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and helped the squad win Division B in front of the home fans. Suren also played for India's side at the 2016 version of the FIBA U18 ABC and the 2015 FIBA U16 ABC. She has been a part of the Tamil Nadu under-age teams since she was a sub-junior player.

Suren now joins a number of young Indian women who have recently played or committed to play in universities in North America, including Kavita Akula, Barkha Sonkar, Sanjana Ramesh, and Vaishnavi Yadav. According to ChrisD.ca Winnipeg News, Suren was initially recruited to play for NCAA Division I San Francisco for last season, but was unable to pursue a roster spot because of commitments to Team India at the FIBA U18 Asia Championship.

According to the official website of the Winnipeg Wesmen, Suren will enroll in Psychology and plans to minor in neuroscience.

"I feel my international experience has given me more confidence to face the court globally and taught me how important communication on and off court with my team is," said Suren. "Playing internationally has also developed my friendship skills on and off the court, which I will help me have a good understanding with my teammates. I've been wanting to fly high in life and I think this is one step closer to my dreams of playing in one of the top basketball leagues in the future."

Based in Manitoba, the Winnipeg Wesmen play in the Canada West University Athletics Association of the U Sports in Canada. The Women's basketball team won a three-peat of national championships in Canada in the mid-90s, but haven't made a finals appearance since 2006. Last year the Wesmen Women ended their season with an 8-12 record.

"We're getting a kid who's played FIBA international, has a lot of basketball under her belt and has travelled the world so she's not afraid to leave to play," said Tanya McKay, head coach of Wesmen Women, on the team's official website. "She comes here with five years of eligibility, so I think the timing is great for the program."

"She just plays so athletic... She can hit the three, she can drive, she defends well and uses her length. She's a kid who's played a lot of basketball and I think that's contagious. She's coming to play basketball, so she'll help elevate practices and be driven to compete."

July 1, 2019

India announces youth boys team to participate in SABA U16 Qualifiers in Dhaka this week

With an eye forward at the FIBA U16 Asia Championship, India's youth boys basketball team will have to contend with their first hurdle this week. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, India will participate in the 2019 South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) Basketball Championship, from July 3-5. Team India, the tournament's reigning champs from 2017, will compete against Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, with the winner getting a spot in the All-Asian FIBA tournament next month.

India's U16 squad will be led by new men's basketball head coach Veselin Matic from Serbia. Kerala’s Pranav Prince, who is a member of the NBA Academy India, has been named the captain of India's U16 team. The Basketball Federation of India released the full team roster on Sunday:

India U16 roster for 2019 SABA U16 Basketball Championship
  • Pranav Prince (Kerala) - captain
  • Lokendra Singh (Rajasthan)
  • Jitendra Kumar Sharma (Rajasthan)
  • Digvijay Singh (Rajasthan)
  • Achintya Krishna (Karnataka)
  • Manoj B M (Karnataka)
  • Robin Banarjee (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Sahil (Haryana)
  • Brijesh Tiwari (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Eknoor Singh (Punjab)
  • Arjun Unnikrishnan (Kerala)
  • Amrendra Nayak (Chandigarh)
  • Head Coach: Vaselin Matic
  • Assistant Coach: Aman Sharma
  • Physiotherapist: Ranjan Sharma

The team has been in training under Coach Matic at the Basketball Academy of Jayprakash Narayan National Youth Center in Bengaluru over the past month.