November 27, 2015

Basketball "Champions League" to debut next year featuring former NBA players

Basketball never stops.

If you’re a basketball player and fan, you’ve seen that axiom everywhere you look. You’ve seen it on T-Shirts, on TV advertisements, on the Facebook status updates of your friends and as a hashtag on Instagram. It’s three simple words that drive the lifeline of a true hoophead. Come rain or shine, summer or winter, indoor or outdoor, youth, middle-age, or seniority, whether we get new jobs, start or end families, move to new places, and change ouirselves, basketball stays constant. Basketball never stops.

Now, stretch your imagination and conceive the life of a veteran NBA player: you have played the game for a decade or more, your body and mindset is attuned completely to preparing for basketball and basketball alone, you spend the majority of your off-court time in practice, in locker-rooms, or on travel from city to city for more basketball. And suddenly, it all ends. You retire, take home your last pay-check, and those professional days are gone. Sure you have options to keep playing overseas, in smaller tournaments, or in recreational league, but it’s never the same, and it will never be the same again.

If the best-laid plans of one entreprenuer can come to fruitation, there will soon be an option for former NBA players to get a whiff of that NBA experience again, even after their playing days in the world’s finest basketball league are over.

With names like Rasheed Wallace, Brandon Roy, Rip Hamilton, Josh Howard, Al Harrington, Keyon Dooling, and Maurice Ager already committed, chairman and CEO Carl George is bringing elite basketball players and die-hard fans the ‘Champions League’, a venture not affiliated with the NBA, as an alternative basketball league for former NBA players and young talents looking for basketball employment. According to George, the first season of the league is scheduled to be held in July and August 2016, during the NBA offseason.

(This ‘Champions League’, has of course nothing to do with that ‘Champions League’, although my head automatically starts chanting “The champions!” song whenever I hear that phrase. FIBA - the world's governing body of basketball - has also planned their own unrelated European Basketball Champions league for 2016-17, which sounds like a tweak on the existing EuroLeague.)

In his comprehensive piece on USA Today, Sam Amick does a complete breakdown of the upcoming basketball Champions League.

Sixteen teams to begin competing in the summer of 2016, with a strong preference for players who have competed in the NBA during the last three years. According to George, the New York team is already fully formed and includes former NBA players Al Harrington, Rasheed Wallace and Maurice Ager. Teams in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Cleveland are up next, with the goal to employ approximately 250 players in all (170 on teams, others as player-coaches or in other roles). Each team would have two former NBA All-stars on the roster and a Hall of Famer in the front office. George said that 60 players have committed to this point, with many more “in the pipeline” while the subsequent teams are rolled out.
Approximately 30 games to be played in July and August, with 10 charity/marketing events in non-NBA markets during the non-season months also included as part of a player’s compensation package. On average, George said, players would make approximately $200,000 per year (for 80 or 90 days of work) in their pay structure if they take part in both the season and the charity events.

“As surprising as it might sound, it comes as a surprise to most of (the players) when their career does come to an end,” George told USA TODAY Sports. “What we become, then, is a transition from that point forward. And we’re thrilled to be at that place. We’re the next step in the evolution."

"It’s not about the money," [Keyon] Dooling, who still serves the NBA Players Association as the Western region player representative, told USA TODAY Sports. "Most guys will tell you that they miss the community in the locker room, the camaraderie in the locker room, they miss their favorite restaurants that they used to travel to in all these different cities, that they miss the noise of the crowd. Those are some things that even a hundred million dollars can’t fill that void.

You should really go out to USA Today and read Amick’s full article to get every bit of detail about this exciting venture.

The Champions League will play an exhibition charity game on Jan. 29 in Saint Louis University’s Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis. Hamilton, Roy, Howard, and Harrington are expected to participate in the game.

November 26, 2015

Basketball and education brings Phillips Academy students from Massachusetts to Chennai

For several years, the relationship between Massachusetts and Tamil Nadu has been strengthened by basketball, specifically through the efforts of the Crossover Basketball and Scholar's Academy who have been flying from the USA to Chennai every year and using basketball as a vehicle for learning and education for Indian children. This year, one member of Team Crossover has extended that relationship by passing it on to students of Andover's Phillips Academy, who are currently in Chennai organizing basketball workshops and working with NGOs.

As part of the Niswarth Hoops 2015 programme, Phillips Academy's Biology instructor Raj Mundra has brought a team of 15 students and head coaches of the varsity basketball team "to explore the intersections of sport, education and culture." The group aims to interact with government and private classrooms, organize basketball workshops, learn from NGOs, and visit cultural sites in and around Chennai during their trip. They landed in India on Sunday, November 22.

The American International School of Chennai, Crossover Basketball, and Teach for India have partnered or are supporting Niswarth Hoops in this programme.

November 24, 2015

Second leg of ACG-NBA Jump basketball talent search held in Ludhiana (Punjab)

Last month, the NBA launched a unique talent hunt programme in India to find the young basketball player with most potential in the country. Joining hands with the ACG Worldwide Group, the NBA introduced the ACG-NBA Jump for players between the ages of 18-22 from around India. Tipping off in the third week of October in New Delhi, the ACG-NBA Jump is scheduled to be held in six Indian cities, pick a shortlist of the finest talents, and then train them to find the best among the best. The winner of this talent search will be given a shot to attend the NBA D-League tryout in the USA next year.

After a successful opening tip in New Delhi last week - which featured India's first NBA pick Satnam Singh as a special guest - the ACG-NBA Jump moved to the city that made Satnam the teenage star that he was: Ludhiana, Punjab. The second leg of the ACG-NBA Jump was held at Ludhiana's famed Guru Nanak Stadium on Saturday, November 21st. Senior Director of Basketball Operations for NBA India Carlos Barroca was among the coaches headlining this event and keeping their eye out for potential star talent from the city and nearby.

The first-of-its-kind ACG-NBA Jump programme will be split into three phases. In the first phase, six regional, one-day elite camps will be held in six cities: Delhi (Oct 26), Ludhiana (Nov 21), Hyderabad (Nov 28), Mumbai (Dec 12), Kolkata (Jan 9), and Chennai (Jan 16). Around 3-5 international coaches from across the globe will conduct the open try out session in all the six cities.The second phase will consist of a national elite training camp where 32 players selected from the six regional camps would assemble for a four-day training period. In the third and final phase, one top player from the national elite training camp would be selected to attend the NBDL Tryout in the USA for the opportunity to earn a spot on a D-League roster. The selected player would continue to undergo training up until the tryout in June 2016. Sony SIX, the official broadcaster of the NBA in India, will create a feature around ACG-NBA Jump, following the programme through its various stages and tracking the winner till his NBA D-league tryout.

November 23, 2015

Calicut University win 2015 All India Inter University Women Basketball Tournament in New Delhi

A close-fought win in the final handed Calicut University of Malappuram (Kerala) the 2015 All India Inter University Basketball Tournament for Women title on Thursday, November 19. The tournament was held at the Jamia Hamdard University in New Delhi.

This was Calicut's first victory in this tournament after a gap of 13 years. The final was a well-contested matchup between Calicut and Hindustan University (Chennai). Calicut led 34-27 at halftime and kept up their close advantage to end the game with a 60-54 win. Aswathy S Thampy scored 22 for Calicut, while Elizabeth Hilarious added 16. Hindustan's leading scorer was Sruthy, who had a team-high 18 points in the loss.

November 20, 2015

Game On: a basketball collaboration between USA and India to assist Dalit girls in Hyderabad

One of the worst things to afflict India - through its history and continuing into the present day - is the caste system. For centuries, the fate of certain human beings has been decided by society from birth simply because of the caste they were born into. In India, the caste system has been used to oppress certain sections of society or for political gain by creating further fissures between different castes. One of the most oppressed castes historically in India has been the Dalits: and over 200 million of them in the country oscillate between the extremes of unequal treatment and vote banks.

Fortunately, there are many in India and abroad who are fighting for Dalit rights. One of these organizations is the Dalit Freedom Network (DFN), created in 2001 by Indians of all different castes with a mission to "end atrocities against the Dalit people through a foundation of education, healthcare, and economic empowerment." Recently, the DFN joined hands with former American athlete Cassandra Irving to support their movement with an unexpected vehicle: basketball.

Irving played basketball in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, where she was 1995 Western Slope League Player of the Year, and then went on to play NCAA basketball for Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. In 2013, a trip to India with her son Cooper Irving gave her life a new mission. She learnt about the unfair treatment of Dalits and decided to take action: Irving started the Game On Youth Basketball Camps in Glenwood Springs to teach basketball to young players from ages 5-13. The proceeds from her camp will be used to support 40 Dalit girls in Hyderabad, India, all of whom were rescued from slums by the DFN.

Next year, Irving plans to bring the Game On camps to India itself, in partnership with the DFN. Their first basketball camp is scheduled from February 15-19 at OM Campus in Hyderabad.

Further report via Post Independent

Although this will be the first camp of its kind for girls and sports, Irving sees it as more than just a camp to teach the girls about sports, nutrition and fitness.
“It is life-changing,” Irving said. “Sports gives kids a team around them, a coach behind them and the courage, confidence and competitive mindset inside them to dream bigger, dig deeper and work harder to overcome the challenges that they face in life, both on and off the court. It is also incredibly fun, which is something Dalit kids rarely get to have.”

The first official Game On camp was held this past summer in Glenwood.

November 18, 2015

UBA takes nine Indian basketball players to USA for special training

Earlier this year, the Universal Basketball Alliance (UBA) of India launched their first two-week professional basketball league in India. The league featured eight participating teams representing different Indian cities and games were played in Hyderabad in July. Although the league featured some high-level Indian basketball talent, only a small handful of players were among India's elite or in contention for India's national teams. Chennai Slam won the inaugural event with a final victory over Pune. UBA are also the organizers of India's Men's National University Basketball Tournament.

Now, the UBA is on a quest to help its top players get even better, and in the process shed further light on their efforts to promote their basketball events in India. The UBA has chosen nine Indian players - eight of whom played in the inaugural season of the 2015 UBA Basketball League - to take to Phoenix, Arizona, in the USA for special basketball and fitness training and the opportunity to watch an NBA game in person.

The nine Indian players are currently training at the Kiwanis Recreation Centre, Tempe in Phoenix. They have been provided specially designed professional basketball workout programmes with scouts in attendance. Among the eight veterans of the inaugural UBA pro league earlier this year are India's international player Gurvinder Singh Gill and 2015 UBA Basketball League MVP Ravi Bhardwaj. Although he didn't play in the first season of the league, Punjab and international Indian team veteran Jagdeep Singh Bains is the ninth member of the travelling contingent to train America.

Participating Players
  • Jagdeep Singh Bains (Punjab, Senior India International)
  • Gurvinder Singh Gill (Punjab Steelers, Current Senior India)
  • Ravi Bhardwaj (Punjab Steelers, MVP)
  • Sartaj Singh (Punjab Steelers)
  • Yudhvir Singh (Delhi Capitals)
  • Vijay (Pune Peshwas)
  • Ramkumar (Chennai Slam)
  • Kaife Azam Zia (Bengaluru Beast)
  • Ajinkya Mehta (Pune Peshwas)
Deepesh Solanki, the CEO of UBA India, who is personally accompanying the contingent said, "This programme has been specially designed by professional coaches for our players. Scouts have been invited as well and we are confident that this initiative will re-energize and transform the performance of these elite talents going into season 2 of the UBA India Pro Basketball League."

The players have been taking part in as many as four daily sessions that included basketball practices, strength and conditioning workouts, and physiotherapy. On Sunday, November 15, they got a chance to watch in person their first NBA game at Phoenix's Talking Stick Resort Arena, which the home team Phoenix Suns won 105-81 over the visiting Denver Nuggets.

November 17, 2015

Hoopdarshan Episode 20: The Greatest, Latest Bloomer with Amrit Pal Singh

At 19, Amrit Pal Singh was farming with his father in Fattuwal, Punjab when he was first introduced to basketball. At 23, he is one of India's finest basketball players and is playing professionally for the best team in Japan's D-League. Hoopdarshan - India's finest basketball podcast - introduces you to the dictionary definition of a 'Late Bloomer'. Listen in as Amrit Pal talks to co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok about his wild rise from the villages to the Indian hoops elite, his dominant performances in Japan, and finding Butter Chicken in Tokyo.

Apart from officially arriving into the 20s, this is also a Diwali special episode of Hoopdarshan, and we mention many tidbits of the festival from Mussoorie to Tokyo to Melbourne. Amrit Pal Singh further discussed his discovery at 19 in Fattuwal, his hopes to keep helping the rise of Team India, and who would win a 'war' basketball game between him, Amjyot Singh, and Satnam Singh. Furthermore, Kaushik and Karan recap recent events in Indian basketball including the rise of U16 star Baladhaneshwar Poiyamozhi, discuss the unstoppable machine that is the Golden State Warriors, and a story on randomly running into India's basketball captain at a train station.

Hoopdarshan aims to be the true 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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