November 30, 2010

After officiating the Asian Games final, referee Ramesh Durairaju sets his sights on the Olympics

Tamil Nadu based referee Ramesh Kr. Durairaju vividly recalls a moment last week which he vows he will remember forever.

It was at the Guangzhou (China) Asian Games, where Durairaju was part of a small contingent of Indian referees officiating the basketball tournament. On the night of November 24th, Durairaju had been picked to officiate a Men’s Quarter-Final game between Iran and Jordan. He remembers returning to his hotel room late, around 1:20 in the morning, only to find two of his Indian colleagues – including his referring mentor Mr. Naresh Aneja – waiting for him.

They had a little bit of news to discuss with him: the 34-year-old Durairaju was to discover through his friends that he had been picked to be one of the three officials to referee the Final of the Women’s tournament the following day.

“I could hardly believe this news!” he exclaims, “We stayed up till 3 in the morning, as my friends congratulated me and Mr. Aneja discussed the game. It was a night I will truly never forget!”

Durairaju, a native of Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu) became only the second Indian since his fellow statesmen SK Subramanyam to officiate a final of an Asian Games basketball event. Subramanyam did it 28 years ago during the Delhi games in 1982. For Durairaju, it was a dream come true, but he insisted that he isn’t done dreaming yet.

Durairaju started officiating in 2002, and cleared the examination to become a FIBA referee in 2006. His first international didn't come till 2008, when he officiated at the Malaysia International Basketball Championship. Durairaju admits that he had a late start as a official, but he put in many hours of hard work to improve himself and get to the level he is at today. Through the course of his, he feels indebted to the advice and support of Aneja, a man Durairaju has described as his teacher.

The final match, a close fought affair between hosts China and South Korea, turned out to be a lively experience for the young referee. “Just stepping out on court was really nice – I hadn’t ever expected anything like this,” said Durairaju, “The infrastructure and the facilities were amazing, and the final was being watched by so many people in the arena and so many more around the world!”

He continues: “I had to be completely mentally prepared for this game on matchday. It was a great and easy game to officiate, as both teams were focusing on just playing the game of basketball and not committing too many fouls.” The game came down to the wire, before China pulled off a 70-64 victory in the end.

Naresh Aneja served as the Commissioner of the Gold Medal game, and Durairaju was accompanied by referees Elena Chernova (Russia) and Teerapong Yodsint (Thailand) on the floor.

Durairaju’s accomplishment has been another feather in the cap for Indian referees in 2010. In July this year, West Bengal’s Atanu Banerjee became the first Indian referee to officiate the final of a World Championship, as he was one of the referees at the final game of the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women in France.

Durairaju, too, has hopes to keep improving and keep rising. The Asian Games final was a great feat, but there will be no full stop to his story here. “I am back to work now, trying to improve myself and become a better referee every day,” he says, “My sights are set on the World Championships and the Olympics. The honour at the Asian Games has encouraged me to work harder to try and make it to that level.”

With ambition like that, there will be few doubting that Durairaju can one day stand amongst the world’s very best.

November 29, 2010

Interview with Bill Harris and Tamika Raymond: head coaches of India’s basketball teams at the Asian Games

American basketball coaches Bill Harris and Tamika Raymond have accomplished several historical feats over the last few months alone. The two became the first American head coaches of the Indian Senior Men’s and Women’s national basketball teams respectively. They led the Indian team into their first appearance in the 2010 Asian Games basketball tournament in 28 years. Under Harris, the Men’s team also won their first ever basketball game at the Asian Games, beating Afghanistan 83-76 in their pre-qualifying match-up.

The contract for both the coaches expires at the end of the month, and both Harris and Raymond will be returning to the USA after bidding farewell to the teams. The two have been working with the teams since the end of September/beginning of October at the Senior camp in Chennai. The Men’s team played a friendly game against Hong Kong before heading off to Guangzhou, China, for the Asian Games. After beating Afghanistan, the Men lost all their five group games to Qatar, Chinese Taipei, Iran, Philippines, and Japan.

Men’s coach Harris has over 30 years of experience as a head coach in the game of basketball across several institutions in the US. His most-recent previous appointment was with Wheaton College (1991-2009), where he had tremendous success posting the highest career winning percentage as a head coach in the institution’s history.

Despite India’s poor final showing, Harris showed his optimism and excitement for the experienced gained by the players. “This tournament was an opportunity for the players to compete against the best countries in Asia. While training, the Indian players got a chance to push themselves further than ever before and get a glimpse of their full potential if they keep working harder at it.”

“I am very proud of our win against Afghanistan,” he added, “It will also be a memorable moment for the players and for me, especially considering that we were the lowest seed in the competition and were not expected to beat them after the two losses to Afghanistan earlier this year [at the South Asian Games]. The win gave us the opportunity to qualify for the group stage and compete against Asia’s best.”

Both the Indian teams were amongst the youngest squads in the tournament, and the Men’s team was led by captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, who just turned 20. They also lost valuable players such as Trideep Rai to injury for three games, and leading scorer Jagdeep Singh also missed the last match against Japan. Despite this, Harris was impressed by the character that the Young Cagers showed in China.

“We played a good game against Iran, who are one of the strongest teams in the world,” Harris said, “After a bad first half, we played Iran even in the second period and lost only by 15 points. Against Philippines, we had a good first half, and were down only by one point then before letting them take a big lead in the second. Against Japan too, without two important players, we were able to stick close for three quarters. In The Japan game we were able to call upon Dishant Shah, who is at junior level, to start the game and play big minutes, which was very impressive.”

Harris was known to command a lot of respect amongst the players and brought a disciplined approach to the team during training in Chennai. “I have been tough and demanding on them, but they know that I did this because I cared for their success. During the training, they began to see gradually that they can develop into great players.”

Now, at the end of his tenure, Harris is leaving behind personalised training regimes for each of the players so that can continue to put in work into their ability. His only concern is that now without him, the players must become self-motivated to follow the regimes.

Discussing the future of the Men’s team, Harris stressed that it is important for the players to continue to strive for betterment. “The BFI and the NBA have to figure out a way to make sure that the national players can stay together and play together. I feel that India needs to get 20 of its best players for the national team and then keep them together all year round to train together, improve their team chemistry, and grow as a team.”

Harris said that it was hard to leave behind the team, who had become like a family to him. He will now be returning to US, where he is still undecided about his future but is looking forward to spending some time with this family.

Under Tamika Raymond, the Women’s team played a few practice games against professional teams from China in Chennai before heading to Guangzhou. There, they lost all three of their group games to China, South Korea, and Thailand. Raymond is a former WNBA player and NCAA Division I Assistant Coach.

“Getting beat that badly definitely wasn’t fun, but the kids learning so much is something that I wouldn’t trade for the world,” Raymond said, “For India basketball, sending a team to this tournament has been a great foundation to build upon.”

Raymond’s team was tested by the best in Guangzhou. They played first two games against China and South Korea, who were the two finalists of the tournament. China is ranked 4th in the entire world and South Korea 8th. After two big losses, India played well against Thailand in the third game before losing out by eight points in the fourth quarter.

One of the stand-out players for Raymond was Anitha Pauldurai, who played the most minutes for the team and showed much needed leadership and experience. Raymond added that Anitha showed a “coach’s mentality”, which was rare.

Another player for whom Raymond reserved special praise was Indian basketball legend Geethu Anna Jose. “Geethu is a very talented player, and has a great future,” Raymond said, “Unfortunately I don’t think that she has been challenged enough in India. To improve, she needs to play against other great players.”

Raymond added that the team’s point guard Akanksha Singh was the squad’s most hard-working player, showing great confidence and persistence against all the competition. She also mentioned youngsters such as Pratima Singh, Raja Priyadarshini, Sneha Rajguru, and Rajpreet Sandhu, who stepped their game up in China to offer the coach a pleasant surprise.

Raymond feels that the next stage for India to improve the quality of its basketball players is to focus on their conditioning. “To be as good as the teams we face, we first have to look like them,” she said, “We have the length, but we need the right kind of weight room training, nutrition, built, and strength to try and look like other strong teams such as China or Korea.”

“It was surprising at times that some of the basic training techniques that we worked with that players learn at a much younger age in America were new to these girls, but they enjoyed all the weight room training work that we did, where we worked particularly on their agility and fitness.”

Another factor that Raymond believes that India needs work on is improving their basketball IQ and their will to win. “It is not just important to play the game but also to think it,” she said, “They shouldn’t just play basketball; they should want to play smart and want to win. They should want to be great.” The players had to learn many things to improve their basketball IQ, such as plays and important defensive concepts.

Finally, Raymond feels that there is a need for uniformity in the coaching process in India, and a need for the coaches to be trained better, so that in turn they can pass on valuable information to the young players. This process, she feels, must start at the Junior level so that the players are comfortable with the system by the time they reach the Senior National team.

“The next stage for India should be to reach out again and bring in more quality coaches for their teams,” Raymond suggested, “The team’s future will depend on how much time they can spend together and on their future coach. It is sad that when the players return they get separated and go back to represent their separate regions and teams, and the lower level of play can hurt their development. In other countries, the national team stays and trains together to improve.”

“The NBA and BFI have a wonderful arranged marriage, and basketball in India can only get better!”

Raymond can be seen on ESPN in America, where she will be a sideline reporter for Women’s basketball. She added that there is a chance that she will also work at a few WNBA games when the season begins.

The secretary-general of the BFI Harish Sharma was very satisfied with Harris’ and Raymond’s work in India. “The American coaches came from a background of great work culture in basketball,” Sharma said, “Both of them have done well to improve the standard of basketball in India. It was good to see that, under them, our national players brought a level of much-needed discipline to their game. They improve their shot selection, and their defense improved tremendously under both coaches.”

“We want to hire more foreign coaches to replace them and lead the Indian senior teams for the next two or three years.” Sharma added.

Troy Justice, the NBA’s Director of Basketball Operations in India, who helped the BFI in bringing Harris and Raymond to India, confirms that the NBA will once again to an extensive global search for future national coaches for the Indian squads. “We will be looking not just for good coaches, but for coaches who will be right for India and will be committed whole-heartedly to India,” Justice said.

November 28, 2010

At the Garden: My photos and experiences from Madison Square Garden

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to attend my first two NBA games at the Madison Square Garden (New York) and Verizon Center (Washington), watching the Knicks host the Warriors and the Wizards host the Raptors.

It was obviously a mind-BLASTING experience... The MSG, home of the Knicks in particular has been my dream. Watching my favourite Knicks squad was a pleasure to say the least - few things in the world can match the excitement of a Knick game, regardless of how well (or unwell) the home squad is performing. I wrong about this experience in my NBA-India article a few weeks ago. It was a close game which the Warriors won by 5 points. After the game, I was also invited to go to the locker rooms and speak to some of the Knick players. I interacted with Knick starters Landry Fields, Danilo Gallinari, and Raymond Felton.

Anyways, enough writing - A picture says a thousand words, so here are some that I clicked from the Knicks game. I will upload my write-up and photos from the Wizards' game another day

Madison Square Garden, pregame

David Lee returns to play the Knicks for the first time!

Game about to tip-off!

Amar'e and David Lee at jump-off

Gallinari at the perimeter...

Amar'e Stoudemire shooting a free-throw

Toney Douglas drives in for a tough lay-up

November 27, 2010

China wins double gold at Asian Games; India goes winless

Hosts China stamped their dominance over basketball in Asia after winning double gold in both the Women's and Men's tournament at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou. China defeated the Republic of Korea in both divisions to clinch the title.

Nan Chen led a balanced attack for the Chinese Women on Thursday, November 25th with 17 points and 12 rebounds to overcome the Korean challenge, 70-64. All of China's starters scored in double digits as the hosts prevailed in the close game. Yeonha Beon scored a game-high 23 points in Korea's losing effort.


China 70 (Nan Chen 17 pts 12 rebs, Xin Guan 14 pts, Fan Zhang 7 rebs) bt. Republic of Korea 64 (Yeonha Beon 23 pts, Jung Eun Park 14 pts, Mi Sun Lee 5 stls). Halftime Score:38-29

Japan came third in the women's competition after beating Chinese Taipei 73-61 in the bronze medal game.

In the Men's final, China sustained a close lead for the whole game and fought off Korea's comeback to win 77-71. Former NBA player Zhizhi Wang scored 20 points to lead a balanced effort for China. Donggeun Yang for Korea added 17 points for the losing team.


China 77 (Zhizhi Wang 20 pts, Jinhui Ding 14 pts 8 rebs, Yue Sun 14 pts) bt. Republic of Korea 64 (Dongguen Yang 17 pts, Joo Sung Kim 15 pts, Sungmin Cho 15 pts). Halftime Score:43-37

Iran won the Men's bronze medal after beating Japan 74-66

The Indian teams did not have a successful competition after qualifying for Asian Games basketball after 28 years, as the Men and Women's teams suffered defeats in all their group stage match-ups.

The Indian Men's team had early success as the won their pre-qualification match-up against Afghanistan to enter the tournament's group stage. Trailing by eight points at half-time, a balanced effort from India's starters led to a succesful comeback victory 83-76. Jagdeep Singh led a balanced effort from the Indians with 22 points. Trideep Rai (18), Hareesh Koroth (17), and Yadwinder Singh (15) also chipped in with important contributions.

But India's five group games saw them fall to 0-5 against their opponents. Despite Hareesh Koroth's 24 points, India lost big to Qater, 97-48. Chinese Taipei played a high-scoring game against India which they won 93-66, as Jagdeep Singh again led India with 22 points. Jagdeep continued his strong play in the tough game against Iran next, scoring 24 points in a losing effort, where Iran won 78-63. Yadvinder Singh also added 17.

India had a promising start in their last two games, against the Philippines and Japan, but succumbed to late game fatigue at lost both. Philippines beat India 78-57 and Japan won 85-58.

In the Women's tournament, India were baptised by fired in their first game against a strong Chinese squad, who won big, 107-39. The Women continued to suffer in a tough draw, as their next game was against eventual semi-finalists Republic of Korea, who won 98-44. The Girls showed a much improved performance in their final game, as Geethu Anna Jose powered to 20 points and 12 rebounds against Thailand, still to lose a close game 62-54 in the tough fourth quarter.

Although the box scores might have shown a dismal performance for the Indian team, the truth was that both the Men and the Women showed glimpses of competitiveness in all their games, just to succumb to problems regarding fatigue. The Indian teams were just not fit enough to hang with Asia's best for 40 minutes a game, which led to several epic second half collapses.

But first qualification in 28 years is still a positive step up. Hopefully the influence left behind by American coaches Bill Harris and Tamika Raymond paves the way for a brighter future for the game in India.

November 25, 2010

The Spurs are still here

There are a surprisingly low amount of San Antonio Spurs related posts, not only on this blog, but across on most blogs and websites around the global INTERNAATS (outside of San Antonio, of course). Somehow, the last decade's most successful basketball team (along with the Lakers) went by either hated, or at worst, unnoticed by most in the basketball world.

But the San Antonio Spurs, NBA Champions in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007, and contenders for damn near every other year, have once again sprung up from under the radar and are currently owners of the NBA's best 13-1 record, including owners of an incredible 12 game winning streak. Ask the casual NBA fan of the intriguing storylines of this NBA season, and he/she will mention the failing Big 3 at Miami, the chase for a sixth championship for Kobe in LA, the Celtics and their acquisition of Shaq, or Kevin Durant and the exciting young Thunder squad. And still, none of these teams have had a better start than the Spurs have.

Maybe it's because of their leader Tim Duncan, who has once again been the model of a quiet professional, getting it done year after year (after year, after year) without fanfare, hype, big shoe deals, and relatively lower global attention. Maybe its because of their coach Gregg Popovich, who has stuck with the same winning system, rated boring by half the world (and cheaters by the other half). Even the antics of Tony Parker and his Desperate Housewife or Manu Ginobili's incredible clutch talent/ incredible flopping talent have brought this team into mainstream attention.

Duncan recently became the Spurs' all time leading scorer, overtaking their other legend and twin tower, David Robinson. Duncan, known as T-Robot for his efficiency and lack of emotion (expect that he is programmed to frown at questionable referee calls), continues to cement his legacy as one of the greatest power forwards of all time. And yet, year after year, he continues to be overlooked.

But the Spurs are still here, and still winning. After getting swept by the Suns in last year's Conference Semi-Finals, Spurs have responded well with more of the same formula that has made them so successful over the past 12 years. Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili are once again getting it done, and are being supported ably by younger talent such as Richard Jefferson, George Hill, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, and the rest.

When the season began, I had predicted that there will be few teams who could really challenge the Lakers for the Western Conference Championship. The Spurs' fast start has made me doubt that prediction: I still feel that no one is stopping Kobe and LA from reaching the Finals again, but I don't think that the ride through the Western conference will be as smooth as I had earlier expected.

I spent much of the last decade cursing and fearing the Spurs - no matter what the scene around the league, you could bet that they would always be a threat to your favourite team. And here they go again. The best managed franchise in the league just won't go away...

November 23, 2010

Indian software mogul becomes owner of the Golden State Warriors

So what if Indian basketball players are still several years away from being good enough to play in the NBA? India leads the world in other fields - particularly software, and business acumen. Mumbai's Vivek Ranadivé, who is the chairman, CEO, and founder of computer software company TIBCO, took up ownership of the Golden State Warriors last week as the vice-chairman of GSW Sports LLC Executive Board. Ranadivé is the first Indian owner of an NBA team, and could open the flood gates for many more Indian entrepreneurs looking to invest in basketball.

The CEO and governor of the ownership group is Joe Lacob.

Ranadivé, a 53-year-old businessman, grew up in Juhu, Mumbai, and has been a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and postgraduate from the famed Harvard Business School. He founded TIBCO in 1997, which is "an infrastructure software company, [that] uses technology to help companies bridge the gap between the time something happens and the understanding of that event."

Ranadivé has also authored two books: The Power of Now (1999) and The Power of Predict (2006).

Here are more interesting details from Desi Hits:

Ranadive does not play basketball, however he is a big fan of the Golden State Warriors and has been a ticket holder for many years. He also coached his daughter Anjali's basketball team and helped the girls win a championship.
Seeing that the team consisted of 12 year old girls who weren't very tall and didn't have a lot of experience playing basketball he knew he had to come up with a strategy to help them succeed. He made the decision to have the girls do a full-court press for the whole game, and it worked out.
He hopes to use this out-of-the-box thinking with the Golden State Warriors as well.

He added "The areas that I hope to bring to the table in making the Warriors a 21st century team: I will help with everything from fan base managing customer loyalty programs, structure, community outreach and game play. I would also like to help make it a global brand, especially helping to popularize it in the Indian community."

This is exciting news, both from an Indian point of view and for Golden State Warrior fans. The Warriors have been an up-and-coming squad this season, boasting the talents of Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, and David Lee who have given them one of their best starts in several years. They have lost a few games since then and currently hold a 7-7 record.

My next question is this: how soon before Vijay Mallya buys the Knicks?

November 22, 2010

Video: Indian basketball scholarship recipients at IMG Academy

In mid-September 2010, 8 young basketball players between the ages of 13-14 were recruited by the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida on a scholarship programme to begin a year of growth and training among world class coaches, facilities, programs and sports camps. The basketball players were amongst a group of 29 kids in various sports, and were the first group of students to benefit from the IMG-Reliance Scholarship Program. The program is part of a greater initiative of IMG Reliance Pvt. Ltd., a joint venture between IMG Worldwide and Reliance Industries.

IMG Basketball Academy Director Andy Borman and coach Dan Barto traveled to India to evaluate the basketball talent and pick the eight youngsters. The boys have joined the IMG Academy developmental team and are coached by Nate Vander Sluis, former Division I four-year letterman for Miami of Ohio University. The girls are coached by Shell Dailey, former University of Texas player and WNBA coach.

The Indian youngsters include 14-year-old Punjabi seven footer Satnam Singh Bhamara, who has turned heads all over the country with his potential and great play. Here is a video featuring him and the rest of the youngsters at practice at the academy, and it features interviews with the coaches.

The players are - Boys: Satnam Singh Bhamara, Sanjeev Kumar, Dinesh Mishra, Ashiv Jain. Girls: Pooja Ambistha, A. Kavita, Soumya Babbar, Barkha Sonkar.

November 21, 2010

Video: Sim and Tanveer Bhullar making High School kids look like High School kids

As you get older, you know that feeling you get sometimes that kids are growing up too quick these days? That some of these kids can do things at a young age that we couldn't have dreamed of in our time (although, in my case, "our time" was only about seven years ago). Especially when you see some of the young high school basketball players who are far more athletic, quick, and explosive, and play a game that makes them look much older than their age?

Well, here is a quick fix to all of that. I just watched two videos from City League Hoops, chronicaling the American National Prep Tip Off in Pittsburgh this past weekend. The videos featured Indian-origin Canadian brothers, who I have since decided to collectively call the Giant Bhullars. The two brothers are massive: Sim (17) is 7 foot 4 inches tall, and Tanveer (15) is 7 feet 2. I credit the hatta-katta physique to some home-made Punjabi white butter in their ancestral veins. Both the brothers currently attend the Kiski School in Pennsylvania, and have both been getting a lot of attention from Division 1 colleges in the US.

Anyways - back to the videos. The two brothers, especially Sim, is making the competition look like little children out there. I almost feel bad for them. Damn Sim... Don't hurt the kids. He's making all the other kids who grew up too soon look like kids again. Speaking of kids who grew up too soon, let me repeat that Sim is 7 foot 4. And 17.

Here are some highlights of Sim Bhullar.

Tanveer got limited minutes at this camp, but he too showed his good offensive touch around the basket. Here are his highlights:

Exciting stuff, indeed. They could be the first Indian-origin players in the NBA. Of course, we have our own giant Punjabi out here in India, born and bred at the Ballo Ke village in Bhamara, grown to a 7 feet at age 14, and currently learning to hone his talents on scholarship at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. I'm speaking, of course, of Satnam Singh Bhamara, who, too, has started to garner some hype in the hoop circles in America.

Watch out world - Giant Punjabis are coming to dunk on your kids.

November 20, 2010

India's first basketball movie to star Prashanti and Akanksha Singh

All those times I saw Spike Lee's classic 'He Got Game', watching Ray Allen aka Jesus Shuttlesworth drive by Denzel Washington, the one thing that DIDN'T go through my head was: "Wow, I wish I could see this in India." Not because I didn't want to see it; simply because, I couldn't even foresee seeing something like it, if you get the gist of what I'm rambling.

Well anyways, what I didn't expect to see might actually come to life - for perhaps the first time ever, an entire movie is going to be shot at a basketball court. '4 PM on the court' is set to become India's first ever basketball movie. It will be directed by Shine Krishna with a script written by Ajit Kuriakose Varghese, who is a basketball player himself.

But what is perhaps most interesting is that two of India's finest women's team stars, sisters Prashanti and Akanksha Singh of Varanasi, are set to have major roles in the movie as themselves. Prashanti, the captain of the Women's squad, and her sister Akanksha are currently with the team in Guangzhou, China, facing mighty difficult challenges at the Asian Games basketball tournament. But according to DNA, the two have confirmed their role in this upcoming movie, shooting for which will begin in Kerala in February.

Here is more information, straight from Derek Abraham of DNA, Mumbai:

“Yes, it’s true that we have been approached [for the movie]. We have been asked to play ourselves. I think this will be a completely new experience. I haven’t read the script, but I have been told that it’s a movie based purely on basketball. For now, though, we are focusing on the Asian Games,” Prashanti told DNA, shortly before the Indian contingent flew to Guangzhou.

Interestingly, Ajit Kuriakose Varghese, the movie’s script writer, is a basketballer himself. The movie (4 pm On The Court), he says, will be a “coming-of-age film” and “the first of its kind”.
Well, every movie is supposed to be unique, but when the 46-year-old tells you that the entire flick will be shot on a basketball court, you can’t but raise your eyebrows. “There are over 350 Hollywood movies based on basketball, but not one has been shot completely on one court,” Varghese says, matter of factly.
He then goes on to describe the script. “A bunch of collegemates are shown playing the game. After sweating it out for over two hours, they indulge in some friendly banter and leg-pulling stuff. This becomes a ritual. About a month later, two girls (Prashanti and Akanksha) join the college for a sports medicine programme. They go up to these boys and ask if they could play along. Moments later, their true identity is revealed and the boys are obviously left stunned,” Varghese explains.
The idea, Varghese says, is to portray the face of Indian women’s basketball. I want to show that this isn’t a game played by female thugs. I also want to show that playing basketball will do no harm to a woman’s body or figure. There are a lot of stereotypes about the game and women playing it. All that must change. We need to get more people on the court,” Varghese adds.
The movie will have five songs — yes, all on the court — and will be complete with a passionate kiss (no, neither sister will do that!). There could be one or two surprises too. An American coach could also play a cameo.

"It’s basically a Hindi movie with a bit of English. The budget is around Rs4 crore I am confident this will be a path-breaking movie,” says director Shine Krishna.

Wow! This concept has so many things going right for it... Potential cameo of American coach (I know Phil Jackson looks to India for his Zen-like meditative techniques)... Social message (girls should be allowed to play sports, too!)... Songs (no tree to dance around; basketball pole will have to do)... And of course, LOTS of basketball.

November 19, 2010

Vote for your NBA All-Stars!

So here we are again, just a few weeks into the brand new NBA season, and it is already time for the greatest fan participation event of the year to begin. The one event that really gives NBA fans access into watching who they want to see play. The one event that has seen Tracy McGrady's value soar higher than it has in half a decade. Yes, boys and girls, I'm talking about the NBA All Star Game.

The 2011 version of the game is still months and months away. The All-Star Game this season will be played at the Staples Center in Los Angles home of the Lakers (and another team, which also has a similar stationary-sounding name to Staples. Oh yeah, Clippers). Well anyways, just like everywhere, the NBA is allowing fans to vote in this year's ballot. If you haven't ever done this before, its about time you join the club. From now until January 23, you can vote every day for your eastern and western conference starters: two guards, two forwards, and two centers each.

This is where you go to vote.

I've already chosen my starters - I'm known to be notoriously biased in my all-star voting. So I've always picked players depending on who I like, not depending on how they are performing. So this year, the following will be my all-star picks:

Western Conference:

Forward: Ron Artest (LA Lakers)
Forward: Pau Gasol (LA Lakers)
Guard: Baron Davis (LA Clippers)
Guard: Deron Williams (Jazz)
Center: Yao Ming (Rockets)

Eastern Conference:

Forward: Kevin Garnett (Celtics)
Forward: Chris Bosh (Heat)
Guard: Dwyane Wade (Heat)
Guard: Gilbert Arenas (Wizards)
Center: Al Horford (Hawks)

My biggest issue here? The Center position. In the NBA's strictly defined positions, there are barely any centers that I rate very high. That is why Yao Ming makes it to my Western conference list. To be honest, I would have rather chosen Gasol at Center and upgraded someone like Carmelo Anthony as my forward in the West.

Similarly in the East, I would have rather taken Amar'e Stoudemire as Center if he had been listed in that position, but he was named forward.

Anyways, this is my list. Why don't you guys vote for your own and let me know.

November 9, 2010

Anitha P. Won't Back Down

The Delhi Commonwealth Games may have missed out on a basketball tournament, but four years ago, the competition took place at the Games in Melbourne. Back in March 2006, the Indian Women’s team were baptised by fire in their very first game, as they played in the preliminary round against Australia, the hosts and the strongest team in the world. Australia made full use of their squad’s experience at the international level, and boasted by Lauren Jackson, one of the greatest women players in the world, they made mincemeat of the Indian team. The Australians went on to clinch the gold medal at the competition.

But during that blowout victory, the Indian eves, however outmatched, showed their bravest face against the world’s best. Leading the squad was a confident 21-year-old youngster that dared to challenge the world’s best player in her own court. Lauren Jackson (6 foot 4 in) may have scored 41 easy points against India, but the young and undersized forward Anitha Pauldurai (5 foot 6 in) from the Indian side didn’t back down, playing a game-high 36 minutes and leading her team with 21 points.

Four years later, Anitha remembers that game against Jackson as one of the most memorable nights of her life. Considering the way this 25-year-old has evolved her game, she can be sure that there will many more nights like that to come.

Anitha, a resident of Chennai, started playing basketball at the age of 11, but admits that early on, she wasn’t a fan of the sport. “I used to like volleyball and athletics more,” she said, “But when I was in school, the basketball coach recommended that I try the game. The more I played, the more interested I became in the sport.”

As she kept improving and working her way up the ranks, Anitha was also lucky enough to be part of a family that supported her ambitions. Her father, a retired police head-constable, gave her the green light early to do ‘whatever she liked’, and Anitha didn’t look back. “I didn’t really have a role model in the game,” Anitha said, “I just love sport and love to play. I joined the game of basketball, got good coaching, and so I continued.”

After years of success, Anitha now finds herself as in integral part of the Indian Sr. Women’s Team that is heading to Guangzhou, China, to take part in the 2010 Asian Games. The team is being coached by the former WNBA player and American head coach Tamika Raymond, who has seen great potential in the Tamil Nadu girl.

Anitha’s unique skill-set ensures that she can become a devastating weapon for India. She plays the small forward position in the team, or the “three” – but has the ability to control the ball and play point guard as well. This ability to switch between positions, her skill to drive in and attack the basket, and her high shooting percentage, all add up to create a great all-round player.

The team has spent the past month working with Raymond in Chennai, and is now ready to head out to China for the Asian games, which are set to kick off on November 12th. “I’m very happy to have Coach Raymond working with us,” says Anitha. “Her coaching style is very different. We know we are many years behind the world’s best, so we’re working hard with her to catch up. Our practices have been shorter, but extremely intense.”

The Women’s team is still searching for an identity, but Anitha hopes that a few practice games before the real tournament kicks off will help each player understand their role. Anitha is already looking forward to the challenge that the Indians can pose. “We have some good players,” she said, “Geethu has the potential to be in the WNBA. The rest of the squad is a young, exciting team. What they lack in experience they make up by aggression!”

Anitha seems to be the perfect archetype of the aggressive, confident, young Indian player. Her favourite move, she says, is to slash and drive in to the basket, wading by two or three defensive players, and scoring. She dreams of looking opponents in the eye and driving to score past them.

Be it competition like China, Korea, and Thailand that the Indian Women’s team will face in Guangzhou, or Lauren Jackson, the world’s best, one thing is for sure: Anitha P. won’t back down!

November 4, 2010

National Championships to be held at New Delhi from Dec 28, 2010 - Jan 4, 2011

After the great success of the Junior National Championships at Vashi last week, all eyes are now moving on to the Seniors. The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has announced that the 61st IMG-Reliance National Basketball Championship for Men and Women will be held from December 28th – January 4th at New Delhi.

As of now, around 26 teams in each division, including states, Railways, and Services, are expected to participate in this prestigious championship for the Senior national-level players.

Indian Railways Men and Women will be defending the championship they won at Ludhiana last year.

November 3, 2010

Indian Sr. National Teams named for 2010 Asian Games

The Sr. National Basketball teams to represent India in the Men’s and Women’s basketball competition at the Guangzhou (China) Asian games, set to be held from Nov 12-27, have been announced.

This is the first time that India will be taking part in this tournament in 28 years. Indian basketball teams had last played in the competition at the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1982.

Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (Men) and Prashanti Singh (Women) have been named the captains of their squads. For the first time, the Indian National teams are being led by American coaches: Bill Harris for the Men’s team and Tamika Raymond for the Women.



Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (Captain)
Jairam Jat
Jagdeep Singh
Prakash Mishra
Sunil Rathee
Yadivinder Singh
Kiran Pal Singh
Trideep Rai
Hareesh Coroth
Eudrick Pereira
Dishant Shah
Head Coach: Bill Harris
Assistant Coach: Rajinder Singh


Prashanti Singh (Captain)
Geethu Anna Jose
P Anitha
Bharti Netam
Pratima Singh
Akanksha Singh
Harjeet Kaur
Raja Priyadarshini
Sneha Rajguru
Smriti Radhakrishnan
Rajpreet Sandhu
Head Coach:Tamika Raymond
Assistant Coach: Sat Prakash Yadav

The Men’s team will face Afghanistan in Group D of the Preliminary Round 1 on November 13. If India wins, they will join the winners of Group B (either Philippines or Saudi Arabia) into Group F of the Preliminary Round 2. Chinese Taipei, Japan, Qatar, and Iran are the other teams in Group F. 17 men’s teams in total are participating in Asian Games Men’s Basketball.

The Indian Men's team will travel to Hong Kong on October 5th to play some friendly matches in preparation for the competition in China.

Only seven women’s teams are participating, and the Indian Sr. Women’s National Team has been drawn in Women’s Group X along with China, Korea, and Thailand.

November 2, 2010

CP3 Returns!

One of the most encouraging yet under the radar NBA stories this season has been the return of Chris Paul, CP3. The point guard who has been in contention for the best pg in the league has been recovering from an injury-riddled season, playing only 45 games in the 2009-10 season. While he was gone, the likes of Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, and most emphatically, Deron Williams touted for the 'best point guard' spot in the league.

Given Paul's injury problems and Williams' consistency in the highest playoff level, I would give Deron an edge in the race.

Back to CP3 though - after what seemed to be a strange few weeks in the off-season where Paul wanted to leave New Orleans, things got even stranger as he did a complete U-turn and decided to stick with the Hornets. He has returned to a team that hasn't gotten that much better or that much worse... The Hornets still have David West, Emeka Okafor, and Peja Stojacovic. They've surrounded this team with other talents like Marcus Thornton, Trevor Ariza, and most recently, Jerryd Bayless. Hornets lost talented backup pg Darren Collison to the Pacers.

So, was the team really going anywhere? So far, the Hornets have been one of only three teams to have a perfect 3-0 start (Hawks and Lakers are the other two). Hornets have beaten the Bucks, Nuggets, and Spurs already, and Chris Paul has been on fire, playing as if he never left. In the three games this season, CP3 has been averaging 20 points and 9.3 assists per game.

But the big question is, can the stellar play of Paul and the Hornets continue? Three games is no sample size, but its an encouraging start nevertheless. I'm still highly doubtful of this roster, especially considering the competitive in the Western Conference with all its improving teams. I'm sure Paul will continue his great start, and will fight to become one of the best, if not the best pg in the league again. The Hornets though... I'll be shocked if they finish above seventh in the West.

Still, its nice to see an exciting team back in action!