August 31, 2019

Despite India's recent basketball ineptitude, FIBA rewarded BFI's K. Govindraj with the 2019 Asia President Award

At the eve of 2019 FIBA Men's Basketball World Cup, the International Basketball Federation honoured the best national federations from around the world in a glittering awards ceremony in Beijing, China, at the Sheraton Grand Beijing Dongcheng Hotel. According to FIBA's website, the ceremony was part of FIBA's XXI Congress. It "recognizes the most successful National Federations across a variety of awards."

The usual suspects walked home with the top honours. USA won for top rankings across the board. Other nations were honoured for tangible performances, like top rankings in junior levels, or in 3x3, or for featuring the most active 3x3 players, or for top social media presence, etc.

Last on the list of awards, however, was something that felt a little more subjective. The FIBA Presidents Award 2019, awarded to the leader of a National Federation from each continent. "This award," FIBA wrote, was"to recognize the work, commitment and positive impact on basketball made by each person and their National Federation during the past 5 years and was selected by FIBA President Horacio Muratore."

And for some inexplicable reason, the President Award for Asia went to... India's own K. Govindraj, President of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

From one angle, this is a matter of great pride for Indian basketball. We are fortunate - nay, honoured - to have a basketball president that has apparently had a better impact on the sport in the past five years than any other in the entire Asian continent - of all the other 44 nations. After a tussle in 2015 for leadership of the BFI, Govindraj's faction was recognised by FIBA over their opponents. So, Govindraj's honour was technically granted for less than the five-year stretch.

A stretch that included basketball not even being recognised by India's own government, a stretch that included the worst losing streak in recent history of India's men's basketball team, a stretch that included Indian players being unfairly banned by the federation, of an inexplicable "clerical error" that kept our top players out of important FIBA qualifiers, of embarrassing losses in those same qualifiers, of the federation creating obstacles for Indian players to chase other professional opportunities, of the BFI promising professional leagues and not delivering them, of poor public relations, of a website hardly updated, of social media accounts mostly barren, of the growth of a sport stunted.

The pros: BFI has made Bengaluru - their headquarter city - the de-facto home of most of FIBA Asia's Women's championships since 2017, including the 2017 FIBA Asia Championship for Women, the 2017 FIBA U16 Asia Championship for Women, the 2018 FIBA U18 Asia Championship for Women, and the upcoming 2019 FIBA Asia Championship for Women. This is awesome.

The cons: basically, everything else.

Govindraj's recent award came on the heels of a couple other honours from FIBA since 2017, including being appointed a member of the FIBA Competitions Commission and being elected as a member of the Central Board of FIBA Asia. In an article published earlier today on Ekalavyas, Gopalakrishnan R. succinctly pointed out how Govindraj's rise in ranks in FIBA has coincided with India's men's team's nosedive in performance. The on-court failures have been directly related to all the other chaos and mismanagement ailing the federation in Govindraj's tenure.

But FIBA, for some reason, continue to recognise him for his "work, commitment, and positive impact on basketball" in India, more than anyone else in the entire continent. Is it a case of FIBA judging solely by the surface-level events organisation, ignoring all of the rot beneath? Or (and more likely), is it because of Govindraj's connections and friendships with influential people in FIBA, helping his cause overseas, even though most basketball followers in the country have seen the federation fail the sport again and again over the past few years?

It was in July 2014, a little over five years ago, that India had arguably its greatest modern basketball moment, defeating Asia's finest squad - China - on their home floor in Wuhan at the [formerly-known] FIBA Asia Cup. This victory followed a couple more big international moments before the big dip: the political struggle for the federation at home, the disillusionment of star players with the federation, the bans, the losses. Over the past few years, the best Indian basketball stories - for Men, at least - have come despite the federation, of players rising to international leagues or making it to colleges abroad via other means.

And yet, Govindraj - and Indian basketball - have their honour. It is undeserved. Maybe the best-case scenario now is that, perhaps, it can be used retroactively, to urge FIBA to expect real progress from India, and for Govindraj to actually deliver it. Or at least, I hope so.

August 30, 2019

Indian basketball prospect Khushi Dongre signed to ASA College-Miami of the NJCAA

Another day, another bit of great news considering an Indian hoopers looking abroad as a student-athlete.

The latest to join the list is Khushi Dongre, a 5-foot-10 combo guard originally from Aurangabad in Maharashtra, who has been signed to play for the ASA College-Miami of the NJCAA (junior NCAA) Division 1. In recent years, the 18-year-old Dongre has played for India at the junior international stage and starred at the NBA Academy India's women's programme.

"Over the last couple of months of getting to know Khushi, she is always happy and so grateful for the opportunity to come here and play basketball in the USA," said Kevin Johnson, the head coach of ASA College-Miami Silverstorm team. "The meaning of her name means happiness and she definitely exemplifies happiness in her personality."

Dongre was most recently a part of India's U18 3x3 team that took part in the FIBA U18 Asia 3x3 Championship in Malaysia. Her contributions helped India make an impressive leap in the tournament to finish at 7th place. In the past, Dongre has played for Team India in the FIBA U16 Asia Women's Championship, where the team won Division B in Bengaluru. She participated in the NBA Academy India's women's programme in 2018 and 2019.

"It was such a blessing to be able to bring in a player from the NBA Academies Women's Program because we have the same vision in regards to helping our youth through the game of basketball," Johnson said. "We are so excited to have Khushi on our team and look forward to her bringing a high game IQ, shooting ability and great teamwork to our program."

Dongre will join the list of several other Indian women to make the leap to college basketball in North America, including Kavita Akula, Sanjana Ramesh, Vaishnavi Yadav, and Srishti Suren. According to a report by NBA India, she intends to major in Economics and Sports Management.

Indian basketball prospect Aashay Verma begins journey at Butte-Glenn Community College in USA

Since he was 16, Hyderabad boy Aashay Verma has been a step ahead of the basketball competition, charting his own path, and often, creating a new one. After starring in the NBA's Global Academy in Australia and numerous international basketball camps, the 7-foot-2, 20-year-old Center has now taken the next big step: Earlier this month, he joined the Butte-Glenn Community College in Oroville, California.

After being first spotted in the ACG-NBA Jump programme at age 16, Verma ended up being recruited to the NBA's Global Academy in Canberra, Australia, where he became a regular part of the Academy's team. Over the past few years, he has taken part in the NBA All Star Weekend's Basketball Without Borders camp and attended the NBA's Global Camp in Italy. In 2018 and 2019, he was invited to the NCAA Next Generation Showcase in San Antonio and Minnesota respectively.

According to the NBA Academy, Verma is now working on earning an NCAA scholarship.

Verma will join the Butte College Roadrunners, who have been the Golden Valley Conference Champions five times in the past ten years, including their most recent title earlier this year. Next season, the team will hope to defend their title, and secure a seventh consecutive trip to the California State Championships to fight for the state title.

August 27, 2019

2019 FIBA 3x3 National Championship: Kochi Stars (Women) and Punjab Steelers (Men) triumph in Bengaluru

Last week, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) conducted the 2019 FIBA 3x3 National Championship in Bengaluru, pitting together some of the nation's top 3x3 basketball squads in both men and women's categories in an event that also served as the FIBA Asia Quest 3x3 Qualifiers. The event was held in the outdoor courts of Bengaluru's Sree Kanteerava Stadium from August 22-24 featuring 17 men's and 12 women's squads.

At the finals on Saturday, August 24, Kochi Stars (Women) and Punjab Steelers (Men) triumphed to win the gold and secure their appearance in the FIBA 3x3 Asia Quest 2019 Finals.

Kochi Stars featured former international and Arjuna Awardee Geethu Anna Rahul - recently unretired - along with Smruthi Radhakrishnan, Surya, and Sonumol Soman. They defeated Maratha Yodhas in the women's final, 21-13.

In the men's final, Punjab Steelers defeated hosted Bengaluru Bulls. The star-studded Punjab squad featured some of India's top current players, including Amritpal Singh, Amjyot Singh, Arshpreet Singh Bhullar and Rajvir Singh Aujla.

Cochin Customs (Men) and Delhi Warrior (Women) each finished at third place.

The winners in both categories were awarded a cash prize of Rs. 75,000/-. The runners-up received Rs. 50,000/- and third-placers returned home with Rs. 25,000/- each.

The champions in both the sections - Punjab Steelers and Kochi Stars - will represent India at the FIBA 3x3 Asia Quest 2019 Final to be played in Male (Maldives) from Sept 6-8, 2019.

August 25, 2019

Japan (Men) and Australia (Women) win FIBA 3x3 U18 Asia Cup 2019 in Malaysia; Recap with India's results

The 5th edition of FIBA 3x3 U18 Asia Cup was held at the Gem-In Mall in Cyberjaya, Malaysia, from August 22-24. On the final day on Saturday, Japan's Men and Australia's Women emerged as the best of the best to claim the gold. India also participated: India's women's team made the Quarter-Finals and finished at an encouraging 7th place; India's Men fell in the Qualifying Round to finish 13th.

Japan were dominant throughout the tournament, and finished with an easy win in the Men's final, 21-13.

In the women's category, Australia had a perfect 5-0 record and dominated Japan in the final with a decisive 21-10 victory.

Japan's Seishin Yokochi was named Men's MVP after a game-high 9 points in the final. The women's MVP was Australia's Shyla Heal, who hit a game-high 8 points in the final.

Philippines won the women's bronze medal with a 14-11 win over China. The men's bronze went to China, who beat Australia 21-17.

India fielded a talented squad for the women's team, featuring experienced youngster Pushpa Senthil Kumar, Khushi Dongre, Sreekala Rani, and rising star Harsimran Kaur. India made it past the qualifying round with a dominant first win over Maldives (21-4) and a couple of impressive close finishes to defeat Thailand (17-13) and Chinese Taipei (17-15).

The squad moved on to Pool C of the main tournament, alongside Turkmenistan and New Zealand. India decimated Turkmenistan in an impressive 21-4 showing, but lost in a nail-biter to NZ, 16-14.

India's run came to an end in the Quarter-Final, where they lost to a stacked China squad, 22-3. They finished the tournament at 7th place.

India's men's team featured a group of experienced young players, led by Princepal Singh, Harshwardhan Tomar, Rajveer Singh Bhati, and Rajeev Kumar. India were in Qualifying Draw B with Maldives, Chinese Taipei, and Australia. India won their first two games, beating Maldives (20-5) and Chinese Taipei (21-16). But their journey concluded to the mighty Australians, who defeated them 19-15.

Final Standings

  • 1. Japan
  • 2. Kazakhstan
  • 3. Australia
  • 4. China
  • 5. Philippines

  • 1. Australia
  • 2. Japan
  • 3. Philippines
  • 4. China
  • 5. New Zealand

Teams of the Tournament

  • Seishin Yokochi (Japan) - MVP
  • Daniel Foster (Australia)
  • Arsentiy Kushniruk (Kazakhstan)

  • Shyla Heal (Australia) - MVP
  • Saori Yasue (Japan)
  • Kristine Cayabyab (Philippines)

August 17, 2019

Om Prakash Sr.: Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

Om Prakash Sr., who represented Team India and Services in the 70s/80s, is today's induction into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.
Photo courtesy:

In 1979, he received one of the highest civil honours in the nation for sport, the Arjuna Award.

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

August 16, 2019

Punjab Police miss out on 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup after East Asia Qualifiers in Bangkok

Usually, India's best 'club' team gets an opportunity to play in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, the tournament's biggest international club basketball tournament, bringing together the champions from every country. This time, however, FIBA changed the format to include qualifying rounds to determine the 'final 8' for the FIBA Asia CC. India's Federation Cup champions - Punjab Police - represented the nation in the East Asia qualifiers this week in Bangkok. But a losing record saw them fall outside the top-2 qualifying spots and return home unfulfilled.

From August 13-15, Punjab Police took part in the 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup East Asia Qualifiers in Thailand, alongside SAFSA (Singapore), HiTech Bangkok City (Thailand), and Fubon Braves (Chinese Taipei). The teams played three round-robin games each, and the top two were chosen for the final-8 of the tournament.

Host team HiTech Bangkok City and Fubon Braves assured their place in the FIBA Asia CC after winning their first two games. In their third matchup, against each other, Fubon squeezed past HiTech 77-76 to officially finish on top of the group.

Punjab Police featured an undermanned roster, where several of their top players like Amjyot Singh and Arshpreet Singh Bhullar weren't available because of their participation in season 2 of the 3x3BL in Punjab. They started their tournament with a crushing loss to Fubon, 100-56. Punjab's Rajvir Singh had a game high 23 points, but it wouldn't be enough as he got little support from his teammates. Fubon were led by Weir-Chern Liu (18) in the win.

Game 2 was an even weaker performance by Punjab Police, against the hosts, HiTech. Rajvir Singh was again the central force for Punjab, with 26 points on a highly-inefficient 35 shots. For HiTech, Nakorn Jaisanuk scored a team-high 18 to lead his team to a 116-54 win.

Punjab did manage to end matters on a positive note in their final game against Singapore's SAFSA. In a back-and-forth game that went down to the wire, Sukhdeep Dhillon (29) and Ranbir Singh Virdi (19) helped Punjab Police eke out a 81-78 victory. SAFSA were led by Leon Kwek (20) and Delvin Goh (19) in the loss.

With this win, Punjab Police ended the event with a 1-2 record at third place.

August 15, 2019

Indian Bank win 2019 PSG Trophy in Coimbatore

It was the second basketball trip this year for the Indian Bank side to Coimbatore. And for the second time, the journey ended with victory.

After securing the 54th Nachimuthu Gounder Cup in Coimbatore earlier this year, Indian Bank (Chennai) returned to the city in Tamil Nadu and bagged first place in the 2019 PSG Trophy on Tuesday, August 13 at the PSG Sports Club. The prestigious invitational basketball tournament was held between eight teams from around the country from August 9-13, 2019.

Indian Bank secured the title win a 79-61 victory over Indian Army (Delhi) in the final on Tuesday. Hari Ram of Indian Bank scored 29 points to lead his squad to the win.

KSEB (Thiruvanathapuram) defeated Indian Air Force (Delhi) 76-73 and secured third place, led by Jishnu G Nair 19. Ajay Hooda scored 19 for Air Force in the loss.

Eight teams took part in this five-day event: Indian Bank (Chennai), Indian Army (Delhi), Indian Air Force (Delhi), KSEB (Thiruvanathapuram), RCF (Kapurthala), Indian Navy (Lonavala), Customs (Chennai), and last year's winners, Income Tax (Chennai).

Hari Ram of Indian Bank was rewarded the tournament's Best Player award.

PSG Institutions Managing Trustee L. Gopalakrishnan presided the prize giving ceremony and City police commissioner Sumit Sharan gave away the prizes. The winning team earned Rs. 1 lakh, the runners-up Rs. 50,000, and third place received Rs. 25,000.

August 14, 2019

Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp in Tokyo begins today with four Indian players

64 best young basketball prospects - boys and girls - from around Asia and Oceania will attend the 2019 Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp, set to be held in Tokyo, Japan, from August 14-17. Organised together by FIBA and the NBA, the camp will feature several current/former NBA/WNBA players and coaches.

Four Indian players have been invited to this edition of the camp: Siya Deodhar (Nagpur), Amaan Sandhu (Mohali), Harsimran Kaur (Jalandhar) and Arvinder Singh (Barnala). This is the second invited for Deodhar and Sandhu for the BWB Asia Camp, after last year's event that was held in home grounds in Greater Noida's NBA Academy India.

NBA/WNBA players/coaches leading this camp will include: Sam Cassell, Kevon Looney (Golden State Warriors), Robin Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks) Yuta Tabuse (formerly of the Phoenix Suns; Japan), Ashley Battle, Allison Feaster, Yolanda Moore, Pat Delany (Orlando Magic), Bryan Gates (Minnesota Timberwolves), Antonio Lang (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Wes Unseld Jr. (Denver Nuggets). Patrick Hunt (President of the World Association of Basketball Coaches; Australia) will be the camp director and Jeff Tanaka (Chicago Bulls) will serve as the camp’s athletic trainer.

Last year's India's Sanjana Ramesh won the girls' MVP honours at the 2018 BWB Asia Camp in India.

August 13, 2019

Punjab Police participates in Road to Final 8 - East Asia qualifying round for 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup

The 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup is a tournament that will involve the top club sides from all around the continent. From India, the competitor is determined by the previous winner of the Federation Cup, which was Punjab Police. But before the squad can step out for the main tournament and be a part of the 'Final 8', they will have to win the East Asia qualifying round in Bangkok, set to be held from August 13-15.

Punjab Police will take part in this qualifying round alongside SAFSA (Singapore), HiTech Bangkok City (Thailand), and Fubon Braves (Chinese Taipei). The teams will play in single-round robin format from August 13-15. The top two teams will claim their tickets to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2019 to join complete the cast of 8 elite professional basketball clubs in Asia.

Punjab Police Roster
  • Arshpreet Singh Bhullar
  • Rajvir Singh
  • Sukhdeep Pal Singh Dhillon
  • Varinder Singh Atwal
  • Rishab Jangra
  • Harwinder Preet Singh
  • Nitish Kumar Sharma
  • Ranbir Singh Virdi
  • Taranpreet Singh
  • Gurjinder Singh

Punjab Police Schedule
  • August 13 - Fubon Braves vs. Punjab Police
  • August 14 - Punjab Police vs. HiTech Bangkok City
  • August 15 - SAFSA vs. Punjab Police

Punjab Police are missing one major star from their roster at this event: Amjyot Singh, who is currently playing in the 3x3BL in Punjab. The team lost their first game by 100-56 to Fubon Braves, and desperately need to notch wins in the next two contests to have a chance for the Final 8 of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

August 12, 2019

Central Girls and West Boys win the 2019 Jr. NBA Global Championship; India knocked out early

Two teams from the USA - Central (Girls) and West (Boys) won the 2019 Jr. NBA Global Championship on Sunday, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. This was the second edition of this event, which featured top 13-14 year-old teams from the USA and around the world, including India. For the second year in a row, both the winners were American; for Central (Girls), it was a second consecutive title.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, three-time NBA Champion and Jr. NBA Global Championship Ambassador Dwyane Wade and New Orleans Pelicans Vice President of Basketball Operations/Team Development and former WNBA All-Star Swin Cash presented the winning teams with trophies in postgame ceremonies. The global youth basketball tournament took place from August 6-11 and featured 32 boys and girls teams from around the world. Overall, 15,000 players from 75 countries participated across Jr. NBA Global Championship regional competitions.

The Central girls team, from Kansas City, Missouri, finished the week with a 7-0 record. The team, which defeated the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and West to advance to the Global Championship final, was led by returning champion S’mya Nichols and guards Chloe Clardy, Jada Williams and Kiara Smith, who scored a combined 43 points in the final win over Canada, 72-35.

The West boys team, from Los Angeles, went 2-1 in pool play before winning three straight games in bracket play, including victories over the Northwest, Central and the previously undefeated Southeast, to advance to the Global Championship final. West guard Tyler Rolison recorded a team-high 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Quinton Webb, Issac Martinez and Taj DeGourville combined for 39 points in Sunday's final victory over Africa, 70-61.

Prior to the championship games, former NBA star Grant Hill hosted an awards ceremony with other dignitaries, handing out awards representing the Jr. NBA’s four core values: Determination, Respect, Teamwork and Community.

India's boys and girls teams - comprising of the top performers of the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme - also took part in this tournament for the second straight year. Although both teams were knocked out in the Quarter-Final stage of the International Bracket, India's boys put up an impressive show, winning one big game in overtime and nearly upsetting Canada in the knockouts. For India, young stars Lokendra Singh and Harsh Dagar made a name for themselves with some big performances. The top performer for India's girls team was Muskan Singh.

India's Results

  • India bt. Latin America 73-76 OT
  • Africa bt. India 63-21
  • Europe and Middle East bt. India 52-41
  • International Quarter-Final: Canada bt. India 64-56 OT
  • Mid Atlantic bt. India 79-26

  • Latin America bt. India 54-21
  • Africa bt. India 57-36
  • Europe and Middle East bt. India 62-23
  • International Quarter-Final: Canada bt. India 65-26 OT
  • Northeast bt. India 69-47

Hoopdarshan Episode 82: Amjyot Singh on G-League, Indian Basketball Suspension, and 3x3BL

The top player in Indian Basketball - Amjyot Singh - joins Hoopdarshan in Episode 82 to discuss his suspension from India's national team, his experiences playing in the NBA G-League, taking part in the 3x3BL in Punjab this season, and rating Gurudwara langar food. In addition, co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok catch up on all the happenings from the Indian basketball universe.

Amjyot Singh is one of the most accomplished Indian basketball players. Hailing from Chandigarh, he has played for and captained India's national team in several important tournaments. He has played professionally in the NBA's G-League for the OKC Blue and the Wisconsin Herd, as well as the D-League and BJ Summer League in Japan. Singh is one of the nation's top 3x3 players as well, starring in numerous international events for his clubs.

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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August 10, 2019

Shahid Qureshi - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy: Man's World India
One of the first Indians to play pro basketball abroad, an Indian international star, and a hero of Mumbai's most iconic court, Shahid Qureshi is today's entrant into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Hailing from Mumbai, Qureshi honed his game at the famed basketball courts in Nagpada and Mastan. A dominant power-forward, Qureshi was strong on both ends of the floor. He is widely recognised as the first Indian to play professionally abroad, after he was handed a contract to play in Sweden for the club Akropol in 1994. It was here that he picked up the nickname 'Djor', or the Bull, for his forceful style of play. Qureshi played two seasons in Sweden, including pro 3x3 basketball as well. He briefly played pro in Singapore, too.

Qureshi last represented India's national team in 1998, and was the last player from Nagpada to don the Indian colours. He worked for Tata Steel and has now permanently moved to the US.

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

August 4, 2019

When I Be On The Mic: Experiences from commentating 3x3BL basketball from Jalandhar

I have been a basketball journalist in India for nearly a decade, with most of the work coming in the form of research, typing out the written word, and more recently, speaking about the game with interviews on the Hoopdarshan podcast. But over the past weekend, I was able to check a box that I hadn't ever considered to even dream of: in-game commentary!

The second season of India's FIBA 3x3 basketball league, the 3x3BL, tipped off at the Lovely Professional University (LPU) in Jalandhar on Friday, August 2. The new season of the league featured 12 men's teams divided into two conferences, and, for the first time, six teams for women in their own conference. I was honoured with an invite to commentate on the first two days of the event, during the live streaming broadcast of all of the round-1 men's matches for 3BL's Facebook and YouTube pages.

It was a confusing, strange, educational, and ultimately, a fun experience. Although I have had experience talking about basketball thanks to my podcast, I usually play the role of the 'colour' commentator, as in, the one that brings in deflections and hype to the story, instead of the 'play by play' guy who tells the story as it is. In Jalandhar, however, I was the only one on the commentary desk, which meant that I had to play both roles: narrating the action as its happening, and peppering it with 'colour' whenever necessary.

I have a fairly good knowledge of the big-name Indian basketball players (I have been responsible for making many of those names 'big' in the first place) and of the backgrounds of these players. But at least half of the participating players at the event were new to me, and I had to learn about them in research right before the event or on the fly as I commentated. This meant that, while I had a treasure trove of information to share about the likes of Amjyot Singh Gill, Amritpal Singh, Inderbir Singh Gill, Palpreet Singh Brar, etc., I stumbled often matching the face to the name on the back of the jersey with some of the other players. This, of course, led to a few errors and rookie mistakes, like erroneously calling Team Gurugram's Rajan Sharma "Ranjan" for most of the day!

Another early challenge was the quick pace of the game. Basketball is a fast game anyways, but 3x3 - where possessions change in a matter of seconds and big moments happen quickly one after the other - is even more boosted up. In the first few games I commentated, I tried to talk about everything: every cut, every pass, every shot, every turnover, and it led to me sounding as if I was on fast-forward. As the day progressed, I learned to slow down and focus on slightly-bigger things. As it is with basketball players who put in practice in the fundamentals, the game itself slowed down for me.

3x3 is a new-ish version of the game for me, too. And often, I would forget that the outside arc is a 2-point shot, not a three. I had to correct myself on air several times. There was a big moment in the first semi-final of Day 2 between Mumbai and Kolkata where Mumbai was down by two points and Inderbir Gill took an outside shot to tie the score. My instinct, however, made me think it was a three, and I shouted, "Inderbir for the win". He made the shot - and within the next split second, I corrected myself and mentioned that the games are now tied, that we are now going into overtime. As an aside, that was the most exciting game of the weekend and many other players told me that it was one of the greatest 3x3 games they'd ever witnessed.

Finally, one of the major confusions for me in the first day was the balance between the crowd at the arena (in LPU) and the live-streamers online. I had originally intended to only be the voice for the live-stream, and thus, set out with the agenda of commentating only for audiences at home. But halfway through, my voice made it out into the PA system at the arena, and suddenly, every play-by-play description and every backstory was being heard by the fans and the players. It left me in a bit of a lurch: do I be hype for the crowd (but disturb the players) or I do the professional job for the broadcast. On Day 2, I was back to only-broadcast, which I think helped me focus better.

Day 2 was much more enjoyable. I was more confident after the first day's experience of my pace, about coordinating with the broadcast director and the on-floor PA, about when to interject background facts and when to talk about game. I had better energy and was able to react better to a lot of huge moments on the floor. One of the best things that happened was that I got an opportunity to interview several guests during the broadcast who sat next to me, including Dhruv Barman, Kiran Shastri, Amjyot Singh Gill, Richard Xalco, Lalrina Renthlei, and more. I've always been better in conversation and interviews, and jumping back and forth between them and the basketball action felt more in my wheelhouse.

Another lesson - for myself and for those aspiring to commentate on basketball events - was the importance of having 'filler' information. As in, background stuff to talk about that isn't necessarily about the live action. There are many moments in the game including timeouts or referee-disputes when I had to keep talking about something - anything - just to ensure that the audiences stay engaged. I did background research on Jalandhar, on the basketball history of Jalandhar, and several of the top players in action. In addition, I gave opinions about the changing style of basketball, on tactics, on history, of the larger picture of Indian basketball, and more. You can never be too prepared for the 'empty' time!

All in all, I enjoyed my time behind the mic, and enjoyed watching some of the highlights later posted by 3x3BL with my jokes and exclamations. It is a different challenge to be smooth without interruptions and stammers for a live audience, and I gained new respect for those who do this job at a professional level. I hope that this experience was able to improve my own game - and I'll look forward to the challenge again!

August 1, 2019

Hoopdarshan Episode 81: Harman Singha and the Street Ball League

In Episode 81 of Hoopdarshan, actor, producer and NBA anchor Harman Singha joins us to talk about his latest brainchild: Mumbai's 3x3 Street Ball League. In a conversation with co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok, Singha discusses the conception of the league with celebrity co-owners, playing 1v1 against his brother Rannvijay Singha, his background loving the NBA, and the best food to eat in Jalandhar.

Harman Singha is an Indian actor, writer, and producer, famous for the web series A.I.SHA and for NBA India coverage on Sony SIX. Harman is one of the co-founders of the Street Ball League in Mumbai, for which they've brought together several celebrities from the city to invest in teams in their league including Esha Gupta, Melvin Louis, Sara Khan, Gursimran Khamba, 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.

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