April 24, 2018

Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA National Finals - featuring the country's top young players - to be held at NBA Academy India from April 29


In December, the new season of NBA's grassroots teaching initiative - the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme - was launched to engage over 45 lakh youth in 34 cities around India. Now, as the season of hoops reaches completion, the best of the best from around the country will gather together in Greater Noida to determine India's national champions - and qualify for a first-time opportunity to compete in the Jr. NBA World Championship!

The NBA announced that the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA National Finals will be held at the NBA Academy India in Greater Noida from April 29 - May 2. The competition will bring together eight boys and eight girls teams composed of the top 10 players from each Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA City Tournament in Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kerala, Kolkata, Mumbai and Punjab.

The winning boys and girls teams will advance to the Jr. NBA World Championship from Aug. 7-12, 2018 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.

The Jr. NBA World Championship, a first-of-its kind global youth basketball tournament for elite 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls teams from around the world, will have boys and girls divisions, each comprised of 16 regional teams that will receive all-expenses-paid trips to compete in the inaugural event. The championship will include round-robin competition followed by single-elimination tournaments. The teams will be chosen from winners from eight newly-created USA regional tournaments (Central, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southeast and West) and international regions (Africa & Middle East, Asia Pacific, Canada, China, Europe, India, Mexico and South America). Winners of the U.S. and international brackets will play in the World Championship game on Aug. 12.

"The Jr. NBA World Championship adds another significant layer to the NBA’s existing youth basketball programming and development efforts in India," said NBA India Managing Director Yannick Colaco. "The new global youth basketball tournament will provide Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA participants with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase their skills on a global stage and learn the core values of the game from their peers from around the world."

In addition to the on-court competition at the Jr. NBA World Championship, boys and girls from dozens of countries from around the world will participate in off-court activities – often alongside current and former NBA and WNBA players – including life skills education, physical and mental wellness programming and NBA Cares community service projects.

The Jr. NBA World Championship will align with the NBA and USA Basketball Youth Guidelines, which promote player health and wellness and age- and stage-appropriate rules and standards. All coaches participating in the Jr. NBA World Championship will also be required to be trained and licensed.

Fox has signed a three-year deal with the NBA to televise the Jr. NBA World Championship event.

April 15, 2018

Dominant hosts Australia win double basketball golds at 2018 Commonwealth Games; Indian contingent return winless


Before the first jump-ball was tipped up, all signs already pointed towards Australia to be a dominant force at the 2018 Commonwealth Games basketball tournament. Both Australian Men and Women's squads had won the gold on home soil the last time basketball featured in the CWG back in 2006. Both squads had already made a mark on the Olympic stage, the Asian basketball stage, and of course, in the regional Oceania bracket. Now, at the 2018 edition of the tournament in Gold Coast, they had the home support and the talent to secure the golds once again.

And that is exactly what happened. Over the weekend on April 14-15, Australia's Women and Men both won their respective finals at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in the last two days of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in impressive fashion. Both finished their outings at GC2018 undefeated.

Australia's Women's squad played their final on Saturday, April 14, against England and blew past them for an easy 99-55 win, led by Kelsey Griffin (16) and Cayla George (16).

Australia's Men won their final with similar ease, using a balanced offensive attack to defeat Canada 87-47 on Sunday, April 15.

New Zealand won both bronze medals at GC2018 Basketball. NZ's women - led by Natalie Taylor (18), Charlisse Leger-Walker, and Micaela Cocks (18) - beat Canada 75-58 on Saturday. Ceejay Noefuente had 18 for Canada in the loss. NZ's men needed a strong 26-point performance by Thomas Abercrombie to beat Scotland 79-69 on Sunday.

While Indian athletes at Gold Coast generally enjoyed a lot of high points and success during the Commonwealth Games, the same couldn't be said about the basketball squads. Despite giving themselves several weeks of preparation and naming the best-available healthy players in both the Men and Women's teams, India returned from Australia having lost all of their games in both divisions.

Led by Serbian coach Zoran Visic, India's women's team featured many of the heroes from the FIBA Asia Cup second-division triumph, including Jeena Scaria, Grima Merlin Varghese, Raspreet Sidhu, and Rajapriyadarshani Rajaganapathi. Missing in action was India’s most experienced player and captain, Anitha Paul Durai. But taking charge in her absence will be the hero of the Kazakhstan final herself—Shireen Limaye—who has been handed captain’s mantle and will hope to inspire the squad to more heroics at this prestigious stage.

India got off to a fraught start against Jamaica. Despite staying neck to neck with their opponents all game, India never quite had the extra level to push ahead. Jennifer George scored 19 for Jamaica in a 66-57 win, while India were led by Limaye's 18.

India's biggest disappointment would probably be the Game 2 loss to Malaysia, who are familiar rivals on the Asian stage that India has often defeated in the post. It was an up-and-down game, with India trailing only by four before the start of the final quarter. But Malaysia finished with a flurry and raced away to an 85-72 win. Fook Yee Yap scored 18 for the winning side while India were led by Scaria's 19 points and 13 rebounds.

India's final game was another loss to eventual bronze-medallists New Zealand. NZ outscored India 31-12 in the first quarter and kept a command of the game throughout, cruising to a 90-55 victory. Cocks scored 21 for the winning side.

India Women ended the tournament 0-3, knocked out out of the preliminary round.

Coach Rajinder Singh was at the helm of India's Men's roster, which came headlined by internationally experienced bigs like Amjyot Singh, Satnam Singh, and Amritpal Singh. Amritpal, unfortunately, injured his ACL in the run-up to the tournament and was ruled out. India were already shaky in the backcourt in the absence of the injured Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi. The development of another big, Aravind Annadurai, provided some hope for the national squad. Experienced forward Yadwinder Singh was named the team's captain.

Led by Amjyot (23), India got off to a strong start in their first game against Cameroon, even leading by 24 points halfway into the contest. But Cameroon weren't deterred, and led by Arnold Akola Kome (21) and Robert Songolo Ngijol (17), made a memorable comeback to tie and then overturn India's lead. In the end, India stared down a massive collapse as Cameroon held on to win 96-87.

The collapse took fizzled out India's energies, and the team played uninspired in their second game, a 100-54 loss to England. Adam Thoseby had 20 points for the winning side while Annadurai showed some flashes of offensive prowess for India, ending with a game-high 22.

India played better against Scotland in their last game, trailing just by 8 at halftime. But a 29-11 third-quarter run by the Scots snatched the game away, and despite a late run by India, it wasn't enough to avoid the 96-81 loss. Scotland's top player was Nicholas Collins (16). India's trio of bigs came up huge in the loss, led by Annadurai (27 points, 14 rebounds), Amjyot (26 points), and Satnam (16).

Like the Women, India's Men also ended 0-3 and were knocked out of the preliminary stage.

CGW-2018 Final Standings

Women

  • 1. Australia
  • 2. England
  • 3. New Zealand

Men

  • 1. Australia
  • 2. Canada
  • 3. New Zealand

Interview: Indian YouTube Personality Bhuvan Bam lives his best basketball life at Celtics game


Over the past few years, Bhuvan Bam spread his wings to fame on multiple levels of multimedia, from hilarious YouTube videos with The Viral Fever, BB ki Vines, and a burgeoning singing career. But this past week, Bam got to experience in a brand new environment of entertainment: NBA Basketball. With NBA India, the internet personality visited the NBA India Academy to watch young prospects in action at Greater Noida, and then flew to the United States to watch in person - from his front row seat at the TD Garden to watch the hometown Boston Celtics beat the Brooklyn Nets on April 11.

After the game was over, Bam, who was an admitted novice to basketball, spoke to me about his experiences and how the sport has attracted him in recent months.

"I have never expected such a thing before," Bam said of his experience from his front row seat at the TD Garden. "I've been to cricket matches in India before, but this was something crazy! The cheering of over 18,000 fans in attendance, the echo in the stadium. It was a great match for a 'Debut Guy'. My first experience was such a luxurious one; to watch the match like this in front row, with so many people, with such a view was amazing."

Bam said that he got a gist of the game at the NBA Academy earlier in the week. "I got a gist of the game there - so when I got to the match [in Boston], I was happy I was not clueless!"

A post shared by NBA India (@nbaindia) on


The Celtics won the game 110-97. The injury-riddled team was led by a breakout performance by center Aaron Baynes (26 points, 14 rebounds).

Bam, who has over 7 million subscribers in India, added that the experience of paying attention to the game over the past few months has gotten him more encouraged about basketball's potential in the country - and he plans to stay involved with the NBA in the future, too.

"We still have many things to work on in India," Bam said. "Cricket is the main sport and sports like basketball are not played at such a high level. The NBA's initiatives can seriously give it a push."

April 14, 2018

Hoopdarshan Episode 60: NBA Regular Season Roundup/Awards and Playoff Predictions with Akshay Manwani


It's that time of the year again! The NBA Playoffs are here, and to round-up another fantastic regular season and look forward to the playoffs, Hoopdarshan returns with an enlightening conversation between Kaushik Lakshman, Karan Madhok, and guest and NBA India expert Akshay Manwani. Hear our picks and debates on the big end-of-season awards and our predictions of which teams could go all the way in the post-season.



Hoopdarshan is the truest voice of Indian basketball, and since we're such hopeless fans of the game, it will become the voice of everything basketball related we love, from the NBA to international hoops, too. On every episode of Hoopdarshan, we will be inviting a special guest to interview or chat to about a variety of topics. With expert insight from some of the brightest and most-involved people in the world of Indian basketball, we hope to bring this conversation to a many more interested fans, players, and followers of the game.

Make sure to follow Hoopdarshan on Soundcloud or search for 'Hoopdarshan' on the iTunes Store! Auto-sync Hoopdarshan to your preferred podcast app NOW!

Hoopdarshan can be found on...

April 13, 2018

NBA launches "Swag ka Khel" to reach Indian fans through multimedia and on-ground activities for the Playoffs


NHL great Wayne Gretzky had said once that, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take", but the true embodiment of "shooting your shot" was probably NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who made a career and won titles and awards out of shooting and missing and shooting again. The NBA's strategy in expanding in India seems like that Kobe ethos, too: there always seems to be another shot, another approach at developing the sport, another way to make basketball bigger than ever for Indian fans.

The latest shot by the NBA and their Indian broadcast partners Sony Pictures Network (SPN) is "Swag ka Khel" - the sport with swagger. For the NBA playoffs this season, the NBA and SPN launch a multimedia and on-ground campaign to reach more fans than ever in more Indian cities and to the regional language belts as well. The 360-degree marketing campaign rolled out across television, radio, outdoor, online and on-ground activation across 14 cities – Pune, Nagpur, Nasik, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Lucknow and Kanpur.

Swag ka Khel will include everything from Hindi in-game commentary during the playoffs and interactive zones around the various cities with interactive virtual reality games as well as contests designed to engage fans. According to BestMediaInfo, NBA legends, dance teams, mascots etc. will take part in the little basketball melas.

Yannick Colaco, the Managing Director of NBA India, said, "Our market-specific campaign is focused on creating awareness and relevance to our audience that enjoys NBA Games in Hindi. We have seen a significant rise in the viewership since the launch of the Hindi commentary, especially on prime-time Sundays. We will continue to cater to the demand for NBA, and engage with our audience across markets in India to grow the game of basketball."

Rajesh Kaul, the president of Distribution and Sports Business of SPN India said, "As the popularity of NBA increases steadily over the years, the time is right to increase the reach. From insights we have gleaned, we know that NBA is building significant traction in the Hindi-speaking markets. So far, we have telecast a total of 45 NBA matches with live Hindi in-game commentary. Our attempt to expand the viewership base through Hindi commentary has been extremely successful with over 13 million viewers and to fuel this further we are launching our new campaign titled Swag ka Khel."

Schedule for Swag ka Khel on-ground activities:

  • April 14-15 - Pune - Phoenix Market City.
  • April 21-22 - Ahmedabad - Alpha Mall.
  • April 28-29 - Chandigarh - Elante Mall.
  • May 5-6 - Faridabad - SRS Mall.
  • May 12-13 - Gurgaon - MGF Mall.
  • May 19-20 - Lucknow - Sahara Ganj Mall.
  • May 26-27 - Kanpur - Z Square Mall.

April 11, 2018

House of Hoops: How five sisters from Varanasi made Indian Basketball a family business


This feature was originally published for NBA.com/India in July, 2016.


Varanasi, many believe, is the oldest living city in the world, a civilization in perpetual existence for thousands of years. While the outside world was destroyed and rebuilt, Varanasi’s essence remained the same. Devotees begin their day early in the morning, at the crack of dawn, with blessings from the Ganga, moving on to yoga by the ghats, a cup of chai at the Chawk, visits to the Sankat Mochan and Vishwanath temples, Ganga Arti at Dashashwamedha Ghat in the evening, and a final ring of the bell to call it a very early night.

The city’s personality is a dual acceptance of discipline of ritual and a creative expression of one’s free-soul, what locals call being ‘mast’. And it is this balance that eventually produced the most unlikely by-product of this ancient city. Not its saris, its carpets, or paan. Not the ghats, lassis, or educational institutions. But a culture of basketball like no other.

Specifically, one particular house of hoops – the Singhs – an incredible family of five sisters who have made an indelible mark in contemporary Indian basketball. Varanasi’s Singh Sisters – Priyanka (36), Divya (33), Prashanti (30), Akanksha (27), and Pratima (26) – have made basketball a family business. Divya, Prashanti, Akanksha, and Pratima have all played for the Indian National team, and two of them have even been national captains. Priyanka played for the UP State team. And Divya, now, is blossoming into one of India’s finest young basketball coaches.

Prashanti, sister number three and a national team regular, credits the energy of her hometown to her family’s basketball success. “The vibration in Varanasi is very different,” she says. “You step into the city - people come from across the world and feel different there. There are cultural differences and difficulties everywhere, but there is a positive feeling here. It’s a simple place. People are sensitive and focused because there aren’t many distractions.”

“There is no night life, so we have early mornings! For Indian sportsperson, this is required: to be a morning person. Lifestyle of Varanasi both mast and disciplined. It's an amazing place, and in our case, it really helped.”

Unlike a lot of stories of Indian athletes, the Singh Sisters had no pedigree of sports in the previous generation. Their father is a Senior Branch Manager at Allahabad Bank in the Shivpur area of the city and the mother a former teacher turned housewife. The sisters, however, took advantage of the Udai Pratap (UP) College to hone their basketball skills, in a golden era for the city when one coach at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) center helped briefly make Varanasi into the basketball capital of the nation.

Prashanti also credits the intellectual culture in the city for making the sisters into cerebral as well as physical players. “This city,” Prashanti says. “It’s not fashionable, but it’s intellectual. People may look simple, but they are intelligent.”

“All of us [sisters] have a strong academic background because of our father, who attended IIT Kharagpur. We had no sports background, even though we had the physical ability, a natural built from our village ancestors. But basketball requires more than that; it’s not easy game. It’s a game that requires quick decision-making. Only physical ability doesn't help, this is a smart person's game. We always had focus on intelligence and academics, and that helped us a lot.”

Like the devotees by the ghats, the sisters followed their own ritual in the city. Basketball practice in the morning, school, and more basketball practice, repeated with absolute discipline to perfect their basketball skills. But basketball is more than a game of discipline; and it took a dash of local creativity – that mast personality – to turn these players into star athletes for India and at the international level.

Will the future generations in the city, and around the country, follow the Singhs’s examples? “People are definitely very interested in helping the sport in the city, but nothing is happening yet,” Prashanti says, “Despite this being the Prime Minister’s constituency, sports here is ignored. We have to improve infrastructure and we need a good indoor court in this city. Basketball is a global, A-grade sport. We deserve more.”

April 9, 2018

Australia win the FIBA U16 Asian Championship in Foshan; winless India finish bottom


First-timers in the Asian circuit, Australia, routed hosts China in the final to win gold at the delayed FIBA U16 Asian Championship in Foshan on Sunday, April 8, 2018. The tournament, originally slated to be held last year, brought together the best youth players from Asia/Oceania from 13 national teams.

India's youth squad also took part in the tournament, but had a disappointing outing, losing all of their preliminary round games and finishing at last place.

Australia got off to a slow start in the final on Sunday, as China build up a 6-point lead after the first quarter. But then the tides change, and the Aussies' offensive arsenal took control. Led the unstoppable trio of Luke Travers (22), Wani Swaka Lo Buluk (21), and Tamuri Wigness (20) Australia beat China 91-67 to win the championship. Haoqin Sun had 16 for China in the loss.

Another newcomer - New Zealand - secured third place in the tournament by defeating the Philippines 76-70 in the bronze medal game on Sunday. The win was fuelled by a 24-7 second-quarter run by NZ. Marvin Williams-Dunn (17) and Mitchell Dance (16) were New Zealand's top performers, while Terrence John Fortea scored a game-high 18 for the Philippines in the loss.

The top four finishers above qualified to represent FIBA Asia to the 2018 FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup.

India were placed in Group D of the preliminary stage of the tournament, the only group with four teams, making it mandatory for the team to win at least one game to move on to the next stage. India sent a squad of the best young players in the country, headlined by Harshwardhan Tomar, the captain, Princepal Singh, and coached by Vibhor Bhriguvanshi.

It was a difficult outing from the very start. India opened their campaign against reigning champs Korea, who immediately pulled out to a 27-12 first quarter lead. Despite matching the Koreans blow by blow for the rest of the game, the early hiccup was too much for India to overcome, and Korea went on to win 92-71. Jae Hyeon Kim scored 19 for his side in the win. India's top player was Princepal, who had 28 points and 17 rebounds in a heroic losing effort.

India faced another Asian powerhouse - Japan - in their second game. This time, India started better, and the score was tied at 17-all after the first quarter. But Japan took complete control from there on, taking a sudden 24-point lead in the second quarter and continuing their strong defence and tough shooting to notch a 109-57 win. Keisei Tominaga (27), Chikara Tanaka (22), and Keijiro Mitani (18) led Japan. India's top player was again Princepal, who had 26 points and 13 rebounds.

The team's final contest, against Lebanon, would prove to be the closest, to determine which team would join Korea and Japan in the next round. Once again, after a good first quarter, India slipped, and Lebanon turned a 2-point lead to a 15-point advantage by halftime. Despite a strong second-half surge, India couldn't close the gap and lost the game 88-81. Rayan Raine Zanbaka scored 27 for Lebanon while India were led by Rajveer Singh Bhati (22) and Priyanshu (16) in the loss.

The loss dropped India to 0-3 to finish at last place.

Although it was a disappointing outing overall, India can be encouraged by the performances of Princepal, who has improved a lot after spending the past year with the NBA India Academy in Greater Noida. The 6-10, 17-year-old Center led the team in scoring (22.7) and rebounds (13.0) and is sure to be a force for India's frontcourt in the future. Other top performers included Bhati, the team's second leading scorer, and the captain Harshwardhan, both of whom will surely be a part of the national U18 team in the next major FIBA tournament.

Final Standings
  • 1. Australia
  • 2. China
  • 3. New Zealand
  • 4. Philippines
  • 5. Korea