June 30, 2011

62nd Junior National Basketball Championship will bring 51 teams to New Delhi

26 boys’ and 25 girls’ under-18 teams have confirmed entry into the 62nd Junior National Basketball Championship in New Delhi from July 5-12th. The championship will be organised by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) in association with the Delhi Basketball Association (DBA). The matches will be played in fully air-conditioned indoor courts at the Thyagaraj Indoor Stadium.

Players born on or after 01.01.1993 are eligible to participate.

The participating teams are:

Boys: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Orissa, Pondicherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal.

Girls: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Orissa, Pondicherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal.

Punjab (Boys) and Kerala (Girls) won the 61st Junior National Basketball Championship, which were from October 24-31 in Vashi (Maharashtra).

June 29, 2011

CCAA Player of the Year Inderbir Gill wants to play for India

If you may recall, a little over three months ago, I wrote a short post about Inderbir Gill, the Punjabi-born, US-immigrated, Canada-bound basketball player. Gill was named the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) Player of the Year, after a glittering performance as he finished his final year at the Northern University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George (Canada). He was second in scoring in the British Columbia Colleges' Athletic Association (BCCAA) this season and third in assists.

A year ago, Gill led the UNBC Timberwolves to the CCAA Men's Championship, and this year, into the Final Four. The 6-foot all point guard is a three-time CCAA All Canadian, former CCAA Men’s Championship MVP and was named 2010’s CCAA Athlete of the Year Across All Sports.

Wait, and did I mention? He's INDIAN!

Still, despite an interesting article about him in the Tribune four years ago, the young man who was born in Hoshiarpur in Punjab never received much media attention from his home-country, probably because until recently, media in India didn't really pay attention to our basketball heroes. Luckily, the 24-year-old young star, who had been contemplating his future after another stellar college season, found my post and decided to contact me.

His intentions? To come back to his roots and represent the Indian basketball team.

"I am a proud Indian and to represent India and to wear India’s basketball jersey would be the greatest honour for me," says Gill, "Basketball is on the rise in India and it would be great to be a part of it."

Gill's ties to India go way back - hailing from the state of Punjab which has given the country several glittering past and present basketball stars, perhaps he always had the game in his veins. Gill was born in 1987 in the city of Hoshiarpur in North Punjab. His parents did a good job in passing on the sporting gene his way: His father, Parminder Singh, led Punjabi University football team in early 70s, while his mother, Sital Kaur, played basketball for Lyallpur Khalsa College in Jalandhar.

But before he found the 'basketball gene' in his system, Gill had another dream as a child. "Like every Indian, I was a fan of cricket and wanted to be a cricket player," he says, "I did not know anything about basketball. In fact, when my mom brought a basketball home, my friends and I used the basketball to play dodgeball!"

In 1998, when he was just 11 years old, Gill's family left India and immigrated to the United States. Here, he settled in the city of Spokane in Washington State in the year 2000. It was here that he basketball journey took off: Gill used his quickness and natural instincts to master the game and was soon selected for his high school basketball team.

Gill is a quick, athletic point guard, who likes to push the ball in transition and play an up-tempo game. He describes his strengths as being an ability to penetrate to the rim and find his teammates for easy baskets. "Basketball is the ultimate team sport," says Gill, "And I get as much joy of making a nice assist as scoring myself. I take a lot of pride in my defense and feel that it is a big part of my game."

But no amount of success comes before the hurdle, and Gill had to suffer some, too. At 6 foot nothing, he was always undersized for a sport where bigger usually meant better. His other biggest obstacle, he describes, was his late start in the game. "I was 12 when my family moved to the United States. I started playing a year later and learning all the fundamentals and trying to make up for the years not playing basketball was hard to overcome."

But Gill overcame his late start, and pretty much everything else that came his way. Gill joined his high-school team, and after that headed to Everett Community College (Everett, Washington). After a low-key first season here, Gill burst into the scene in his second year, where he led the Trojans in scoring, steals, and incredibly, in rebounds, starting all 16 games of the season. By the end of the 2006-07 season Gill found himself in the Conference All Star team, and a season later, in Canada, representing UNBC.

He was immediately a perfect fit here, leading the team to their best-ever finish at the National Tournament in his first season (4th), and being named in the BCCAA first team all star. A year later came the glory - UNBC went 17-1 over the course of the season, finishing at the top of the conference table. Gill was named the CCAA Male Athlete of the Year across all sports, but saved his best for the CCAA National Tournament. Behind 32 points and 6 assists by Gill, UNBC won the CCAA National Championship, and Gill was named the tournament's MVP. A year later, the CCAA recognised him as Player of the Year.

It's an impressive resume, indeed, and a hallmark of a player who has fought the odds not only to achieve individual success and accolades, but also make a mark in the way good point guards are supposed to - by winning.

"Winning is what motivates me on the basketball court," says Gill, "I love to win and the challenge to try to win every game I play is the biggest factor of motivation for me."

Now, Gill will be hoping to bring his skills and his motivation back home, to upgrade the talent pool available in the Indian National Men's side, and on the way, guide his journey back where it began. With the right coaches surrounding the National side and the right focus in helping the game grow in India, Gill's talents will come in more than handy as India hope to climb a rung in the basketball ladder.

"One day, I would like to see myself playing at a high level professionally, represent India in basketball tournaments and be a part of the Indian basketball," he says, "I believe that with my hard work, determination, and a desire to continuously improve my game, I will eventually achieve my goals."

It's a great dream, indeed. And now, as a bonus, I would like to leave you with a short highlight clip of Inderbir Gill, from his stellar last season at UNBC. Enjoy!

June 28, 2011

Indian Senior Women to take part in William Jones Basketball Tournament in Chinese Taipei

A 17-women team of Senior Indian basketball players have been chosen as probables for The 33rd William Jones International Basketball Tournament, which will be held from July 31-August 4 in Chinese Taipei. The women’s tournament will be held at the Taipei Gymnasium in Taipei City.

A selection committee constituted by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has chosen a short-list of 17 players after observing their performance at the coaching camp at the KD Jadhav Stadium in New Delhi. The final team consisting of 12 players will be announced one week before the tournament begins.

Senior Women probables for 33rd William Jones Basketball Tournament:

Geethu Anna Jose
M. Pushpa
Anitha Pau Durai
Smruthi RK
Bharti Netam
Prashanti Singh
Harjeet Kaur
Akanksha Singh
Raspreet Sidhu
Asha Hegde
Aruna Kindo
Kruthika Laksman
S. Kokila
Sneha Rajguru
Shireen Limaye
Amruta Bhuskute

The William Jones Cup is an international basketball tournament held annually in Taipei, Taiwan. It was named after Renato William Jones, a basketball promoter and one of the founders of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).

Other women’s team who have confirmed their participation in the women’s event this year are Japan National Team, Chinese Taipei National Team, Samsung Women’s Team, and Chinese Taipei University National Team.

This will be the first international action for the Indian National Basketball Team under new American head coach, Pete Gaudet. The tournament will also serve as preparation for the 24th FIBA Asia Championship for Women, to be held in Omura/Nagasaki, Japan, from 21-28 August.

June 27, 2011

Zak Penwell: Indian Basketball’s New Workout Plan

Nothing fills a need better than what is exactly needed to fill that need. A perfect fit to an incomplete jigsaw puzzle.

Let me explain: What is the most common criticism against the performance of the basketball players in India? If you asked me, the answer woyld be fitness and athletic ability. For too long, our stars have been one step behind our athletically-charged opponents, and for too long, have Indians worldwide heard that they weren’t ‘athletic enough’ for basketball. Not explosive enough. Too Weak. Too Slow. Too Tired.

During the Asian Games basketball tournament last November, a well-coordinated Indian Men’s team showed flashes of brilliance under Coach Bill Harris, but were never fit enough to keep up their concentration for the entire duration of their games. Most recently, India’s finest women’s player Geethu Anna Jose, the only Indian to be offered trials with the WNBA, was overwhelmed by the strength of the American players she went against at the trials.

Player strength and conditioning was the great missing piece of Indian basketball’s jigsaw puzzle: it isn’t true that Indian basketball players aren’t athletic enough; we just haven’t been given the right guidance to develop our bodies to its complete potential.

Enter the missing piece: A month ago, American Zak Penwell was hired by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) as its first-ever Strength & Conditioning (S&C) Coach. Penwell comes to India after combining a world of athletic-conditioning education and experience. He was brought alongside other American coaches Kenny Natt and Pete Gaudet, who will be working with the Indian Men’s and Women’s teams respectively as head coaches. Penwell, meanwhile, will focus on S&C for both teams, as well as the players on the junior national programmes.

“A sport like basketball has certain demands that every high-level coach will make,” said Penwell on the importance of his role with the Indian National sides, “They need to be good athletes, jump higher, hold their position, run faster, handle fatigue, concentrate and be sharper… My job is to give the players all the tools they need to perform at their best.”

Penwell believes that his role is more than that of just a fitness trainer – he prides on being a coach, instead, reaching out to players to increase not only their physical abilities but also to toughen them up mentally for their challenges. “At the highest level, the players need to focus on their skill and their tasks in in-game situations. If a ball-handler believes that he or she can dribble past an opponent, their legs shouldn’t betray him. A player should focus on their skills and tactics and not be held back by physical limitations.”

As the BFI’s Strength & Conditioning Coach, Zak Penwell will be responsible for developing and implementing specialized nutritional, strength training, and conditioning programs for all Indian national men’s and women’s teams. He will also advise Indian coaches throughout the BFI system to enhance and nurture the development of top basketball talent throughout the country.

Penwell comes most recently from Scotland’s Sportscotland Institute of Sport, where he worked with athletes from a range of national teams including swimming, basketball, sprint canoe, judo, rugby, golf, curling, triathlon, and field hockey. Since 2006 he has spent over 40,000 athlete contact hours in the weight room, with over 550 elite collegiate and international-level athletes. Penwell is a graduate of the U.S. men’s and women’s college basketball power the University of Connecticut, where he earned two degrees from the top Kinesiology program in America.

Bottom line: the BFI couldn’t have chosen a better fit for its needs in India. Penwell feels that the ‘perfect fit’ was mutual. “There is amazing potential for the game here, but little in the field of Strength and Conditioning,” Penwell said, “That is why it’s an exciting opportunity to start with a fresh slate, do the things the right way, and watch the right system flourish. My strengths fit perfectly with Indian Basketball’s needs.”

“I’m here to impart a championship mindset.”

Although Penwell has experience in assisting almost 20 different sports, he is in India for basketball and basketball alone. “Everything I train the players for in the gym or on the court will have a direct, practical application during game-time,” he said, “They should know how each exercise will translate directly to basketball.”

In his first few weeks working at the camp in Delhi for the Indian Senior and Youth National Basketball teams, Penwell has learnt the needs of the players and his approach to working individually with several of the men and women here. “The first goal for us here is that the players need to get stronger,” Penwell says, “Along with strength training, we will work on improving their agility and getting the basics right.”

Being strong and fit enough to avoid injury also plays a crucial role in success in basketball – no team likes to play the biggest competitions with its best players are on the bench nursing an injury. Injury Prevention will become a major part of Penwell’s focus.

Of all of the criticisms that might befall Indian players, here’s one that we can do little about: height. But Penwell has a plan of countering height by increasing conditioning in other areas, such as jumping ability (or ‘jumpability’, as he calls it), positioning, and being fitter to simply ‘outwork’ opponents on the court. “Our players have to have the stamina to keep performing even when their tired. It’s about Total Recovery – recovering to their full ability in the shortest amount of time.”

“I have no doubt of the player’s potential,” he adds, “All I ask for is a 100 percent effort and attention to detail. The athletes we have can be made into winners.”

During his three-year stint, Penwell hopes not only to improve the strength and conditioning of the basketball players in India, but to also revolutionise the field for all sports in the country. “Once people see the changes we produce in basketball, it can be a good model for other sports in the country,” said Penwell, “It should be a success story that others can follow.”

Already, the players at the National Camp are starting to show understanding and appreciation for Penwell’s work. Both the new coaches of the Indian national team – former NBA head coach Kenny Natt and former Duke/Vanderbilt/OSU coach Pete Gaudet – are seeing a more disciplined approach to player fitness and durability than in the past.

“By the time I’m done here, I hope to see basketball in India achieve things it has never achieved before,” Penwell says.

A perfect fit, indeed – because basketball lovers in India will walk step-by-step with Penwell so that all our dreams can be achieved.

June 25, 2011

Aftershocks of a Draft

So the NBA Draft is over, and a bunch of young players have bolstered mostly weak rosters, but unfortunately, the future of the league is an uncertain as it has ever been. It doesn't help that, with the Lockout (#LWord) looming, some of the best young players such as Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, and Jared Sullinger decided to skip the draft and go back to school for another year. Yes, the talent crop might look weaker on paper than past years, but take a closer, scrutinised look and you'll find out how several teams upgraded themselves the right way, via drafting crucial pieces or via trade.

So here are the top 14 (lottery) picks of the 2011 NBA Draft. The order is a little different from what you would expect, because several teams pulled off trades on draft night. The most crucial one was the Sacramento Kings pulling off a three-way trade with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Charlotte Bobcats. The Kings received the 10th pick from Bucks and John Salmons. Bobcats received the 7th pick from Kings and the Bucks' Corey Maggette. Bucks received Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, and 19th pick from Bobcats and Beno Udrih from Kings.

Kapeesh? It will make more sense when you look at the draft list now:

1) Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving
2) Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams
3) Utah Jazz: Enes Kanter
4) Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson
5) Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas
6) Washington Wizards: Jan Vesely
7) Charlotte Bobcats: Bismack Biyombo
8) Detroit Pistons: Brandon Knight
9) Charlotte Bobcats: Kemba Walker
10) Sacramento Kings: Jimmer Fredette
11) Golden State Warriors: Klay Thompson
12) Utah Jazz: Alec Burks
13) Phoenix Suns: Markieff Morris
14) Houston Rockets: Marcus Morris

The first thing I wanna mention is that, after the first 2 picks, the draft became as unexpected as it was expected to become, if you can follow my drift right there. Canadian forward Tristan Thomas took the biggest jump to be picked 4th. Two of the biggest starts in College Basketball last year - Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette (Say his name in the TIMMY! voice from South Park: JIMMER!! - fell to nine and ten respectively. My Knicks continued to torture fans by another questionable pick at #17 in the form of defensive guard Iman Shumpert. And the likes of Kyle Singler, Jeremy Tyler, and Josh Selby fell into the second round.

First off, let's start with the Cavs, who took little time in putting an end to their post-LeBron-depression-era by bringing in Duke's point guard Kyrie Irving. No surprises here: Irving is talented indeed, and scouts see shades of a poor man's Chris Paul in his leadership and his on-ball skills. Irving's going first also continued to usher in the hand-check-rule era of point-guard domination in the NBA. After Derrick Rose and John Wall, he was the 3rd PG in the last four years to be picked #1. Clearly, their is a major shift in focus in the league, with PGs getting more and more respect around the NBA. With the fourth pick, the Cavs kinda shocked people by picking Tristan Thompson, especially over guys like Jonas Valanciunas (who is a bit of an unknown project).

Another bit to note obviously was the international flavour in this draft. 6 of the first 7 picks were born overseas. The league continued to have an increasing number of international players picked in the draft - in my NBA-India article today, I suggested that the league should be named to the IBA - International Basketball Association!

Minnesota did what we expected them to do - pick combo-forward Derrick Williams. But now with a plethora of forwards in a similar position on their side, they will have to trade someone. My money is on Michael Beasley saying goodbye to any hopes of balling alongside Ricky Rubio.

One of my favourite picks this year is Turkish PF/C Enes Kanter, who went third to the Jazz. Kanter is freakishly talented, boasting the game of a slightly bigger Carlos Boozer. Because of his foreign origins, he was a bit of a mystery man in the league, but I'm glad the Jazz took a chance with him - I think he will prove to be a star in a league that is forgetting the importance of skilled post-players.

In Jan Vesely at 6th, the Wizards added the guy people call 'Euro Blake Griffin', mostly because of his athletic/dunking ability. The Wizards had a great day at the draft, as they also added a good defender in Chris Singleton as the 18th pick and a stable point guard in Shelvin Mack at 34. They will form an exciting young nucleus around John Wall, Andray Blatche, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee.

My favourite movers and shakers of the draft though were the Bobcats. With the 7th and 9th picks, the Bobcats immediately overhauled their roster by bringing in the person many are calling the next Ben Wallace - Bismack Biyombo, and of course, the player I feel who deserved to be a top 3 pick this year purely based on his winning mentality - Kemba Walker. With the acquisition of veteran Corey Maggette, the Bobcats can finally move on to a new, exciting direction.

At 10th, the Kings brought in the draft's surest ticket in JIMMER!! - JIMMER!! is also the best shooter of the year, and although has questions in his defensive ability, he will bring excitement back to Sacramento. It's a gamble indeed by the Kings, but if it pays off, their nucleus of JIMMER!!, Tyreke Evans, and DeMarcus Cousins could be one to watch for the future.

At 13th and 14th is the wonderful story of the Morris brothers, Markieff and Marcus - Twin big men separated just by seven minutes at birth and a little more than seven minutes at the NBA draft. Markieff went to the Suns and Marcus to the Rockets.

Apart from the names mentioned above, a few other teams made notable moves that I feel should be mentioned here:

- Portland lost Rudy Fernandez to Dallas and Andre Miller to Denver, but they got Raymond Felton in return. I like it.
- Denver made a savvy pick at 22nd by bringing in hustling big man Kenneth Faried.
- Dallas, the best team in the league, just got a little better by adding versatile backcourt player Fernandez.
- Boston got a good player at 27th in JaJuan Johnson.
- And the Spurs traded away PG George Hill to the Pacers, and got the 15th pick in return, who they turned into small forward Kawhi Leonard.

So there we are... The picks have been made, the trades finalised, and the rosters taking shape. All that's left is to hope for the NBA Basketball next season...

... And of course, the 2012 draft! With so many big names dropping out this year, 2012 will be STACKED! Anthony Davis, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, Jared Sullinger, Austin Rivers, Quincy Miller, James McAdoo, Michael Gilchrist, Bradley Beal... learn those names now - you will be hearing again, same time, next year!

June 22, 2011

Pete Gaudet – Q&A: The Hoops Scientist

If basketball was a science, then Pete Gaudet would be found in the lab all day: mixing the right chemicals to make the perfect compound, perfecting the timing, jotting down his results and then mixing again to sharpen up his final product, and then meticulously detailing each piece of information and piecing everything together to make his work better and better.

The way Gaudet looks at it, basketball is a science. The American coach, who has been appointed as head of the Indian Sr. National Women’s team, brings with him over 40 years of experience coaching hoops at American High School, College, International, and Professional level. But when asked about why he accepted such a drastic change of scenery to come and coach in India, he answered: “At the end of the day, the basketball is still round, and my workstation is still the gym… Basketball is still basketball.”

And there are few people more versed in the chemicals that comprise the compound game of basketball than Gaudet: Over the course of his career, Gaudet has coached both men and women at the highest levels of American college basketball, including positions at West Point, Duke University, Vanderbilt, and the Ohio State University (OSU). He has extensive technical and international basketball experience to add to his resume.

While at Duke, Gaudet won two NCAA men’s championships as Assistant coach to the legendary Mike Krzyzweski (Coach K). He made seven Final Fours, coached eight All-Americans, three national players of the year, and 12 NBA draft picks, including Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, and Danny Ferry. When Coach K took a leave of absence in early 1995, Gaudet was promoted to interim head coach.

Gaudet and Coach K also worked together with the Army basketball team, and before joining Duke, Gaudet coached Al Arabi, a club team in Kuwait. He has travelled to over 25 countries in conjunction with baseball, conducting clinics in Italy, Nigeria, Italy, Korea, Senegal and Canada.

After Duke (1983 - 1995), Gaudet worked at Vanderbilt and OSU, holding both men’s and women’s assisting coaching positions at Vanderbilt and was a women’s coach with the latter. While in OSU, Gaudet wrote a book called ‘Practical Post Play’, which is an essential guide for post players and coaches.

At OSU, he worked with Tamika Raymond, who was the former coach of the Indian Women’s team, and encouraged Gaudet to take the job after her. Last month, Gaudet was signed alongside two other world-class coaches for Indian Basketball – Kenny Natt (Indian Senior Men’s team) and Zak Penwell (Strength & Conditioning Coach).

Gaudet is currently working at the National Coaching camp at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex in New Delhi as the team prepares for the 24th FIBA Asia Championship for Women, to be held in Omura and Nagasaki, Japan, from August 21-20, 2011.

A week into his time in India, I got the opportunity to speak with Gaudet about the challenge that lay ahead of him.

Hoopistani: Why did you choose to take this coaching opportunity in India?

Gaudet: I was very intrigued about this job when I first heard about it. I was contacted by [former India Women’s coach] Tamika Raymond about it, whom I used to work with at OSU – she told me that it would be a great experience for me. She told me that the girls love the game, but that they need teaching.

In the past, I had usually avoided the Head Coach position because it doesn’t come with the basketball teaching/developing opportunities. But here, I knew that I would be able to teach the game. In the past, I have worked with players of all levels, and with men and women.

I understood that IMG/Reliance was going to be presenting me with a good challenge here in India. Plus, coming to another country wasn’t a problem for me – I have coached around the world!

Finally, in the past I had mostly worked with college players, with whom you have to balance playing and studying times, as they are still students. With this opportunity, I can work with this team on my own time.

Hoopistani: As you said – you have coached around the world. Tell me a bit about your experiences.

Gaudet: In College, during the regular season, I had to work with the team. But in the off-season I had the option of taking part in specific camps around the world. I’ve enjoyed working with post players a lot, and have been a regular attendee of Pete Newell’s Big Man Camp in Hawaii. Internationally, I have done clinics in Nigeria, Korea, Italy, Qatar, Israel, and Canada, and also travelled to Yugoslavia, Spain, Greece, and Serbia.

In Kuwait, I coached a professional club team for eight months. This is my first time in India.

Hoopistani: What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

Gaudet: I’ve spent 40 years in basketball as a coach, and the best thing that I’ve experienced have been the relationships that I have established with players and other coaches in this time. It has been great to have mentored so many basketball players.

Aside from that, I treasure the two National Championships that I won with Duke (1991 and 1992).

With Duke, Vanderbilt, and OSU, I have been proud to have been part of teams who have competed at the highest level of NCAA College Basketball, playing against some of the best teams.

Hoopistani: How do you expect your challenge in India to be different from that you faced in the US or in the other parts of the world?

Gaudet: My India challenge is about being here and now, and not about anything I’ve done in the past. Players are players – Just like the players I’ve worked with before, these players in India have a championship in which they are trying to compete. My job will be to prepare a team of advanced players and make sure they keep improving.

More than good basketball plays, I want to have good basketball players. Yes, you can’t have control over the players you have, but my challenge will be to ensure that every day when they leave practice, they realise that they have become better players.

You can have no ego about a change of scenery like this. Whether you are working with the best players in the world or not, basketball is still basketball. At the end of the day, the basketball is still round, and my workstation is still the gym. It’s still 5-on-5. I have worked with professionals and with 10-year-olds, and I have enjoyed both, because teaching basketball is very satisfying – it has got nothing to do with having superstars. Young players have an advantage in that they are more receptive to improve themselves.

Hoopistani: What have you learnt about the Indian team in your short time with them?

Gaudet: The women’s team have been very receptive to the knowledge I have shared with them. They understand that they have to perform at a high level. The most important thing is that they love to play the game of basketball.

Hoopistani: How will you hope to raise the level of the team’s performance?

Gaudet: My background is in defense, and that is what I believe in. I want them to enjoy playing defense, and learn the importance of stopping the opposition players. It is important to find players with the skills and passion for defense.

Basketball is a creative game, and I also believe in giving the players’ the freedom to be creative. But they have to be good enough to handle this freedom.

We may not have the biggest or the strongest team, but we have enough athletic ability to be good defensively and find a way to counter size with quickness.

It’s important to find out what each of the specific players is good that, and then make them enjoy it. Hopefully, I can get all of the players to contribute to the team in some way.

Hoopistani: In Geethu Anna Jose, you have a dominating post player who was also the only Indian to be offered WNBA trials. How do you plan to maximise her talents in your team?

Gaudet: Using Geethu in the post will be one of our weapons. She has the right skill-set to be successful. But in a full game of basketball, post players do not actually get too much time on the ball. For Geethu to be effective and make the most of her time, the other players in the team have to get her the ball. Post players like Geethu can’t reach their full potential without the help of the others.

She will also then be able to free up the other players, to provide them with driving lanes to score and with open three-point shots.

Hoopistani: Looking ahead – do you think the game of basketball has a future in India?

Gaudet: If we can make the most of the commitments made by IMG/Reliance, with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), we can really hope to see the game improve here. I want to see this sport gain more popularity, see more basketball gyms, and more kids playing the game.

The popularity of the sport can grow through the Indian team’s performance – if this team if able to perform well, maybe they can set up the building blocks of a future for the game in India.

Hoopistani: What are your goals for your term here in India?

Gaudet: I want to raise the standard of the game here and show young people that, if they work hard, they can end up playing at a high level. I want them to approach basketball not just for the game but to achieve great things.

June 19, 2011

Finally... Ricky Rubio is coming to the NBA

I will be lying to you if I said that I didn't have more than a passing/professional interest in this story. Ever since his dominating performance at the FIBA Europe U16 Championship (more on this later), I've been enamoured with the young Spaniard's game.

Yes, a lot of super-talented young players have come and gone over the past few years: some have lived up to their expectations (Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin) and some have disappointed (Greg Oden, Hasheem Thabeet, Michael Beasley (mostly)). But there was always something different about the young Spaniard. Rubio's gifts were more mental than physical. Even as a teenager, he was mentally a step ahead of the adult players he played with in the Spanish League or in international competitions for Spain. It seemed that, somehow, the kid just gets basketball. If you know about him, I shouldn't have to point you to his highlight videos for proof. Hell, I'll do it anyways.

News broke a couple of weeks ago that the Minnesota Timberwolves, who drafted Rubio 5th in the 2009 NBA Draft, had finally signed him to a contract. Due to his contractual agreements with FC Barcelona, it took Rubio a few more days to announce the deal, and on a press conference on June 17th, he finally announced that he will be taking his talents to Minnesota.

FINALLY! Barring any Lockout-related tragedies (#LWord), we will finally be able to see the magical young point guard in action in the NBA this season. I have been waiting a long time for this: I first heard about Rubio via a SLAM Magazine article by Lang Whitaker back in 2007, and I was immediately curious to see if his game could back up his accolades.

Rubio has been the youngest player ever to play in the Spanish ACB League, when he made his debut for DKV Juventut as a 14 year old in 2005. 14, and playing amongst adults in probably the second-best domestic league in the world. He played for Juventut for four years. But it was his performance at the FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship that cemented his young legacy.

During the tournament in August 2006, Rubio achieved two triple-doubles and a quadruple-double. In the 110–106 double overtime Final victory over Russia, Rubio scored 51 points, grabbed 24 rebounds, made 12 assists, and stole the ball 11 times! He also forced the first overtime with a three-point, buzzer-beating shot from mid-court. Rubio was subsequently named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament after leading it in points, rebounds, assists and steals.

He was named FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008, was voted the Spanish League's best point guard in 2008, and was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year in the 2008-09 season. In his four years, he won a FIBA EuroCup championship and the ULEB Cup championship with Joventut. Ricky was recognized as Europe's overall best basketball player by being named Mr. Europa in 2008.

2008 was the same year that Ricky was selected in the Spanish senior national team for the Beijing Olympics. At 17, he was playing point guard maturely for essentially the second-best team in the world. He started in the final against Team USA, and showed incredible offensive and defensive vision in a losing effort. Ricky was later part of the Spain team that won the EuroBasket 2009.

At 18, after declaring for the NBA draft, and promptly taken by the Timberwolves as their 5th pick, Ricky decided not to go to the NBA, or rather the Timberwolves, and his contract was bought from Joventut by FC Barcelona, with whom he announced that he will stay for at least another two years before crossing the Atlantic. He has since won the Spanish League Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, FIBA European Young Player of the Year for three straight years, the MVP of the Catalan Cup in 2009, and the EuroLeague Rising Star award in 2010.

His Barcelona side has won everything in Europe with him and with plenty of other stars, including the EuroLeague and the Spanish League.

Across the pond however, Rubio's controversial decision to stay in Spain another two years made him a very unpopular person in the NBA circles. Fans questioned his toughness to stick with NBA players, and they questioned his toughness to stay away from home in the first place. From sunny Barcelona to the very not-so-sunny Minnesota. From the Spanish League to the world's most competitive basketball league in the NBA. Is he overrated? Are we judging him too much based on YouTube? His meager statistics last season with Barcelona were 6.5 ppg and 3.5 apg. He even lost his starting spot at one point in the season.

Do we believe the hype?

Yes, I say, but now, with some careful doubt. Yes, there are a lot of question marks surrounding his game. Yes, he has digressed slightly over the course of the season. Yes, he is a scrawny little kid about to be fed alive to the big boys.

Those were the cons. These are the pros:

- He's still only 20 years old, and already has 6 years of professional senior basketball experience. He has represented Spain's senior national team since 2008 and Europe's best basketball team, Barcelona, for the last 2 years. He has won a lot. At this age he already has a winning blueprint all over him. He has learnt well, and while most players of his age are still rookies, his adjustment won't be to the pro game, it would be to the game in the NBA, something that, given some time, he will be able to master.

- Don't be fooled by the size - Ricky pestered two of the NBA's best point guards in Chris Paul and Deron Williams defensively in the Olympics. And is other tiny-looking guys like Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, and not to mention Steve Nash can make it, why not Ricky?

- Don't be fooled by the stats either. In his 1 year with Lottomatica Roma of the Italian Lega A in Europe, Brandon Jennings averaged 5.5 ppg and 2.2 apg. But the European system is much different to the NBA and the stats are not comparable In the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks for the last 2 years, Jennings has averaged 15.8 ppg and 5.3 apg. And even those stats lie. Players with European experience or European style of play such as Jennings, Tony Parker, and Rubio don't need big stats to be effective. They do it via defense, making the extra pass, and just being complete ball players instead of being scorers or passers. In this sense, I have no doubt that Rubio will be successful in the NBA.

Now the question is: will he actually stay in Minnesota. The Timberwolves, with Rubio, will probably run a starting lineup of: Rubio, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, and Darko Milicic. But their advantage is that they also have the second pick in the NBA draft, which will probably be used for 6 foot 9 combo forward Derrick Williams. Now someone out of Love, Beasley, or Williams will have to go. Who will it be? And will the T-Wolves give Rubio away in a deal with one of them? There are doubts if Rubio will be motivated/happy to play in Minnesota, but he has value and the Timberwolves can get a good player in return for him by sending him to a big market.

A lot of questions abound the Timberwolves right now, and no one knows what their line-up really will look like when (and if) the season starts. No one is sure if Rubio will be there or not, but one thing is for sure, we will definitely, finally see him play on the big stage. In an article I wrote last January, I was sure that Rubio was exciting enough that, one day, he could become one of my favourite players in the league. I still believe it, and I'm hoping that after seeing him play in the NBA, some of you will start believing it too.

June 17, 2011

Hoopistani Mocks the 2011 Draft

We are just 6 days away from perhaps the least anticipated NBA Draft of all time. I'm sorry if that's the worst possible way to start an article about the Draft, but it's true - this year promises to present one of the weakest draft classes in a long time. It's going to be slim pickings for the teams announcing their pick on June 23rd, and what's worse is, it's hard to get excited about the future of these youngsters in the league when there is the dark cloud of 'possible lockout' (TheLWord) hanging gloomily above it - how can we be excited for the future if we aren't sure of a future?

That said, at the end of the day, NBA teams will be adding fresh new talent to their squad and hope for them to become the stars of the future. Before writing this article, I checked out the players who are the stars of today, and I'm going to simplify the 'star' argument by choosing the 2011 All Star Teams. In the pool of 25 players in the 2 teams (Yao Ming was selected but injured, so a replacement was chosen), there are an amazing six former #1 draft picks, and 18 overall picked in the top 5! Criticize the choices of NBA owners all you want, but 18/25 picked in the top 5 shows that some of them know what they're doing (and others pick Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh).

But there's hope for the low picks too. Amongst the seven players outside the top 5, we find the last four NBA Finals MVPs: Dirk Nowitzki was a 9th pick, Kobe Bryant was a 13th pick, Paul Pierce was a 10th pick, and Tony Parker, who didn't make the all star team this year but was the 2007 Finals MVP, was picked 28th. The lowest all star in terms of draft ranking? Manu Ginobili, who was shockingly picked 57th in 1999.

What does this all teach us? You'll get an all star when you pick high, but don't knock the low picks, because there could be a champion hidden somewhere.

So without further ado, here are my predictions for the lottery teams (top 14) of the 2011 NBA Draft. I have used knowledge from three reliable sources to help me come up with my list: DraftExpress.com, SLAM Online Mock Draft, and NBA.com Mock Draft. Of course, this prediction is made considering that there will be no picks traded to other teams, in which case, different teams will have different needs to fill:

1) Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving
2) Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams
3) Utah Jazz: Kemba Walker
4) Cleveland Cavaliers: Jonas Valanciunas
5) Toronto Raptors: Brandon Knight
6) Washington Wizards: Enes Kanter
7) Sacramento Kings: Jan Vesely
8) Detroit Pistons: Bismack Biyombo
9) Charlotte Bobcats: Jimmer Fredette
10) Milwaukee Bucks : Kawhi Leonard
11) Golden State Warriors: Marcus Morris
12) Utah Jazz: Alec Burks
13) Phoenix Suns: Chris Singleton
14) Houston Rockets: Tristan Thomas

I feel I should explain a few decisions.

Kyrie Irving seems to be the lock for the first pick, and most people believe that Derrick Williams follows next. When Cavs won the draft lottery, I was sure that they would translate it into the Duke PG. The 2nd pick seems to be settled for Derrick Williams too.

This is where things get interesting, and unlike most rankings, I have picked Kemba Walker to go over the likes of Brandon Knight and Jonas Valanciunas. Scouts be damned - all I know that inspirational college winners are a good sign of winners in the pro league too. If I'm Utah, I'm bringing Kemba in and making him the permanent replacement to Deron Williams.

Since Cavs have already picked a PG in Irving, I say they skip Brandon Knight and pick Valanciunas with their 4th pick.

The other choice I feel I must explain is Jimmer Fredette to Charlotte. Jimmer's stock as been up and down the last few weeks, with teams failing to understand whether or not he could become a star in this league. He was college basketball's best scorer but there are doubts about his ability to play in the pros and defend the bigger guards. For the draft, some say he could go to the Kings, as high as 7, while others have him slipping to Utah or Phoenix at 12-13. I feel 9 is a good spot for him: The Bobcats could certainly use his scoring tenacity and he will learn a thing or two about defense down there, too.

I am also intrigued to see how the international prospects in the draft - Jonas Valančiūnas (Lithuania), Enes Kanter (Turkey), Bismack Biyombo (Congo) - perform in the lottery.

So let's cross our fingers and wait. Let's hope that some of these players become all stars and MVPs of the future, and let's hope there is a season on time come November so we can see them in action!

June 16, 2011

Inter-School Basketball League tips off in Bangalore

After successful implementations in Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai last year, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and IMG-Reliance launched the first ever inter-school basketball league in Bangalore on June 16th with the help of the Karnataka State Basketball Association (KSBBA).

10 boys' and 8 girls' school teams from around the city will be taking part in this competition. In each division, the teams will be divided into two groups of five, who will play against each other in a double leg (home and away) system through the course of the season. The best teams from the two groups will qualify for the knockout rounds.

The group games are scheduled to be held from June 16 - July 2, 2011, at the various schools in Bangalore.

Participating Teams


Group I: Christ School, Sri Kumaran Children's Home, Delhi Public School (Bangalore South), Bishop Cotton's School, Kendriya Vidyalaya (Hebbal).

Group II: St. Joseph's Indian High School, National Public School (Rajajinagar), Poorna Prajna Education Centre (PPEC) (Indiranagar), Vidya Niketan School, Mallya Aditi International School.


Group I: Mary Immaculate Girls' High School, Sri Kumaran Children's Home, Stella Maris Schol, National Public School (Rajajinagar).

Group II: Bishop Cotton's School, Mallya Aditi International School, New Horizon Public School, Carmel Convent High School.

UPDATE: Go here to get daily results from the Bangalore School League.

June 15, 2011

Kenny Natt: Basketball in India is ready for the first steps in a long journey

“Why India?”

That was the most common question thrown at 52-year-old basketball coach Kenny Natt when he faced some of the top sports journalists and writers in the country. Journalists and writers, who, after years of absorbing themselves in the functioning of the nation’s flawed system, rightly wondered why one world’s most elite basketball coaches would choose to bring his coaching talents to India.

A month ago, Natt was announced as the new Head Coach of the Indian Sr. Men’s National Basketball squad, the Young Cagers, as they’re nicknamed. He was chosen along with experienced collegiate coach Pete Gaudet (Women’s National team) and Zak Penwell (Strength and Conditioning) as the men who have been passed on the baton to instruct and lead Indian basketball into the future.

Natt has followed Bill Harris as the second American coach to be handed Indian basketball’s top coaching gig, but unlike Harris, who was only with the team for a few months as they ventured into the 2010 Asian Games, Natt has signed on to a two-year agreement with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). He will be the first head coach for the Young Cagers who comes with a glittering resume that includes an NBA head coach job and assistant coaching gigs to teams that included basketball greats such as Karl Malone, John Stockton, and LeBron James.

Which brings us back to the very valid question, Mr. Natt: “Why India?”

I remember speaking to Dan Barto last year, a coach at the IMG Basketball Academy in the USA, about the importance of good coaches in India. Barto responded by saying that in any place where the game of basketball is at its infancy, it is those who spread the knowledge of the game who are remembered, more than those who play it. This concept, he says, was even followed in America, the country playing at the highest level of hoops in the world right now – before the game became a worldwide phenomenon, there were no LeBrons and Kobes - there were the James Naismiths, the John Woodens, and the Red Auerbachs.

Indian basketball is still an infant relative to the rest of the world, and the country is waiting to be moulded into its complete basketball potential. He might have worked with some of the best talents in the world, but Natt says that he is looking forward to going back to doing something that he loves most: teaching the game of basketball from its basic fundamentals.

“This is a great opportunity for me to do something I love – help develop young basketball talent,” says Natt, “I have a passion for teaching young, up-and-coming players.”

Before coming to India, Natt had worked with the who’s who at the highest levels of the game. But before his journey as a coach began, he was an accomplished player, too. Natt played for the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He averaged 20.1 points and 3.5 rebounds his senior season while earning All-Trans America Conference honors and was named MVP of the Louisiana All-Star Game. As one of the top scorers in school history, Natt was inducted into the Northeast Louisiana State University Hall of Fame in 2003.

Natt was drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the 30th selection in the 1980 NBA Draft. He spent three years in the NBA playing for the Pacers, Utah Jazz and Kansas City Kings. During his career, he played for six CBA teams before finishing his playing career with Fresno and Youngstown of the World Basketball League (WBL).

At the start of his coaching/scouting career, Natt spent two seasons as a scout for the Jazz and as an assistant coach at Youngstown State. He also held positions as an assistant coach/player personnel director for the CBA’s Columbus Horizon, a head coach for the Cape Breton Breakers (Nova Scotia) in the Canadian-based National Basketball League and as player personnel director and scout for the WBL.

And in 1994, he was back in the NBA. Natt has 13 years of NBA coaching experience He spent nine seasons (1994-95 – 2003-04) on legendary coach Jerry Sloan’s staff with the Utah Jazz. He was responsible for the on-court skills development of frontcourt players as well as preparing video breakdowns for game preparations of upcoming opponents. He was a member of the coaching staff that led the Jazz, led by Karl Malone and John Stockton, to the playoffs in eight of his nine seasons in Utah. Natt was on the bench as the Jazz made runs to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, losing only to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls side both times.

Natt spent the three seasons (2004-2007) as an assistant coach to Mike Brown at the Cleveland Cavaliers, helping the Cavaliers reach the 2007 NBA Finals. Led by a young LeBron James, this defensive-minded team was swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals.

Natt was named to the coaching staff of newly-appointed Sacramento Kings head coach and former Kansas City Kings teammate Reggie Theus in 2007. After Theus was fired in 2008, Natt was named interim head coach of the young, inexperienced, and ultimately unsuccessful Sacramento Kings for the 2008-09 season.

It’s was no doubt then that, with such an impressive CV, Natt instantly earned the attention and respect of the Indian players that he met at the National Coaching camp in New Delhi. “The players look at me and respect me,” he says, “This helps my job because, to have their respect is to have their attention, and if I have their attention then it makes it easier for me to teach them.”

In less than a week, Natt discovered the obvious differences in the ‘Indian basketball’ way, as compared to his past experiences. “The players in India are very willing to learn,” he says, “Yes, they might not be as many tall players here as there are in the USA, but these players have a heart and determination that is very encouraging. I did my homework before coming here, watching the game tapes of the Indian side from past championships, and it was obvious to see that even in losing efforts the players showed courage and a hunger to keep competing.”

Natt’s first challenge with the team would be to lead them into the FIBA Asia Basketball Championship in Wuhan (China) in September this year. By then, Natt hopes to get through to his players as well as he can to prepare them. “We will be successful if we play an up-tempo and organised style of basketball,” Natt says, “We also have good, experienced big men in Jagdeep Singh and Yadwinder Singh – we will get the ball inside to play off them.”

Natt has noticed that the Indian side have shown signs of the defensive principals taught by their former coach, Bill Harris. He is hoping that with more time in his hands, he will be able to bring more organisation and discipline into the team. “It’s important that the players are happy and confident,” he says, “If they’re confident, they’ll compete harder against some of the Asian powerhouses.”

“It will be a long time before we’re in the same league China or Japan – but we will focus on making progress from today. It took China a long time of focus on developing the game for them to get where they are now. The FIBA Asia Championship is the first step in a long journey for us – the important thing is to see progress and put up improved performances.”

Along with the two Punjabi ‘Singh’ Twin Towers in Yadwinder and Jagdeep, Natt says that in the early days with the team, the likes of Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Trideep Rai have left an impression on him because of their leadership and experience.

In the past though, the same Indian side has suffered due to several fundamental errors – Natt recognises these and has a plan for helping the team overcome them. “The players have to learn to master the basic fundamentals, something I will help them with,” he says, “We have to repeat the basic drills often to get rid of concentration lapses that occur in big games.”

In addition, Natt also expressed joy that, for the first time, the Indian National teams will have a Strength and Conditioning specialist coach in Zak Penwell, who will help the players improve their fitness and endurance to match some of Asia’s best.

“It will take some time, and I’m excited for this opportunity,” Natt says, adding that besides the National team, he will focus his attention in helping the future of Indian basketball coaching and playing, too. “I am looking forward to taking part in a ‘Feeder System’, where I coach the coaches, and then they go back to coach the best players. I’m also excited to see some of the Youth-level talent in India: it is this younger crop who need to be imbedded with the right basketball fundamentals now so that they can become stars of the future.”

A 1.2 billion population. The largest youth-population in the world. A country at the brink of becoming the next big thing in basketball, ready to mature from infancy into a basketball-playing and basketball-loving nation. And an opportunity to rekindle the purest form of joy as a basketball coach: teaching.

Add it up, and you’ll see that the question that anyone should be asked is, “Why not India?”

June 13, 2011

Dallas Mavericks are the 2011 NBA Champions

I doubted them from the start. This year, they proved me wrong on every step.

On June 12, 2011, The Dallas Mavericks ended a 31-year barren run, after being founded in 1980, to finally lift the NBA Championship, beating the Miami Heat 4-2 in the NBA Finals. Averaging 27 points, 9.4 rebounds, hitting countless clutch shots, and surviving a tough fever-ridden night, Dirk Nowitzki was deservingly won the Finals MVP award. The Mavs lifted the trophy in Miami after winning Game 6 on the road, 105-95.

It seems eons ago now, but when the Playoffs began two months ago, back in mid-April, the Mavericks meant little to me. I had them ranked behind the Lakers, Bulls, Heat, Celtics, and Spurs as my title favourites. To me, they were equal to the Magic, and on certain cocky days, I even pretended that the youthful Thunder could get the better of them.

I had reason for my doubts: Five years ago, the Mavs were near the top of the basketball mountain, leading 2-0 over the same Miami Heat (with many different characters), and planning a victory parade. It all came crashing down, and the Dirk/Mavs choker tag took shape. The next season, Nowitzki won MVP, the Mavericks won a season-best 67 games, but their season came crashing down after an embarrassing 1st round meltdown against the Golden State Warriors. A year ago, now ranked 2nd in the West, facing the 7th place Spurs, the 'choke' happened again. Mavs went out in the first round.

So I thought, why wouldn't history repeat itself, right? Hell, if you look back at my first round predictions now, you'll see that I predicted that the sixth-placed Blazers, the pre-playoff surest bet of the strongest lower seed, would upset the Mavs. Of course, that upset didn't happen, and many others did. Then, I thought that the reigning champs Lakers were going to cruise in the Mavs series, but the exact opposite took place, as the Mavericks swept LA in impressive fashion, 4-0. They were mostly unstoppable against the OKC Thunder in the Conference Finals, reaching the Finals with ease. And even then, I bet against them. I bet that a more defensive minded team - a Bulls side or a Heat side - would defeat the 'softer' Mavs, led by their 'softer' leader Dirk. But Dirk didn't let that happen either. Game after game, the Mavs showed against resilience to bounce back over and over again, and upturned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead.

Through this incredible journey, the Mavs embodied everything that people expected an old-school 'team' to embody. In Jason Kidd, they had the league's elder-statesman, a 38-year-old point guard using his savvy instead of his athleticism to get the better of his opponents. They brought in an amazing addition in Tyson Chandler, who offered the team previously missing confidence and toughness in the post. They lost Caron Butler - who I believed to be their second-best player on paper, early in the season, but his shoes were filled aptly by Shaun Marion, who saved his best performance on both ends of the floor against Miami in the Finals. They boasted of the best support players in the league, getting invaluable contributions from JJ Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood, Peja Stojacovic, and even 'The Custodian', aka, Brian Cardinal. Their bench was obviously led by none other than Jason Terry, who stepped up to the plank when required to secure the ring.

And the leader of this crew, the undisputed MVP of this squad, was Dirk Nowitzki. In the list of active NBA players who have spent their entire career with just one team, Nowitzki stands third, only behind Kobe Bryant (15 years) and Tim Duncan (14), after spending 13 years with the Mavericks. He's tied with Paul Pierce (13 years with Celtics), and now, all four of those names have a championship.

Behind Dirk's mental toughness, this team has buried that 'soft/choker' tag in style. They made improbable comebacks, hit big shots, and won by DEFENSE at the end of several close games. They beat everyone who came their way and used every weapon they had. They became deserving champions.

Nowitzki is not only the Finals MVP, but in my book, the Playoffs MVP too. He averaged 28.1 ppg during the playoffs along with 8 rebounds a game. Countless things have already been said about how, Nowitzki, with this win, buries over a decade of mockery and haunting meltdowns. From a skinny, quiet German, with one unmatched skill (a seven-footer with a jump-shot), Nowitzki added more and more every year to his resume. He added leadership, he added toughness, he added rebounding, he added the ability to attack the basket, and more than anything this year, he added resilience, a quality that trickled down to the rest of the team.

This win also ends an arduous road for Jason Kidd, who got bounced around from Dallas to Phoenix to New Jersey and then back to Dallas for his search of the promised land. Before June 12th, he ranked at the top of the list as the player with most playoff games played without a championship (141). Nowitzki was 2nd with 123. You get the sense that this win had a long, long way coming.

And now, what happens to this team next? Well, they only get stronger. They get Caron Butler back. They hope to resign Tyson Chandler. They hope to entice other veteran free agents to jump on the bandwagon for another year.

I used to believe, before the 2011 playoffs, that the Mavs were a perfect roster, with a perfect coach in Rick Carlisle, and a good owner in Mark Cuban, but their only weakness was their mental toughness. This year, they have shattered that notion. This team could easily repeat it next year.

And of course, we can't end the talk of the Finals without a mention to the losing side. The Miami heat were a seven-minute meltdown away from a 2-0 series advantage. Instead, Game 2 changed everything. Miami lost a double-digit lead in the game's last seven minutes, and even though they won Game 3, the belief was in Dallas that they could overcome any adversity. Miami, who looked like the far better team after the first three games, lost their swagger in the last three.

Dwyane Wade, Miami's most valuable player in the Finals, goes back unsuccessful in his attempt to repeat the 2006 Finals domination over the same squad. But that doesn't say that he didn't try - before a leg injury altered his aggressiveness in the last 2 games, Wade was the best player of the series, threatening to carry this squad, almost single-handedly to another title. In the end, Wade was just not good enough. Blame injury, or blame pressure, Wade screwed up too many times in end of game situations, and as he shouldered most of the weight of this team, he is showered in most of the scorn of their defeat.

Of course, he shouldn't have had to do it single-handedly, right? A certain 2-time MVP's meltdown in front of the world's eyes made sure that Wade was mostly all alone. LeBron James, considered by many to be the NBA's most talented basketball player, and considered foolishly to be the next (or better) Michael Jordan in Scottie Pippen's eyes, was anything but great in this series. He was barely 'good'. James continued his awful NBA Finals record, and the world will look back at the last two weeks and wonder what the hell happened!!! James TOTALED 18 points in the six four quarters of the Finals, averaging just 3 points a game in the fourth. He was passive, he was the incredible 'Shrinking Superstar', he was third-best to Chris Bosh in his team. This happened after a near-perfect performance in the Conference Finals over reigning MVP Derrick Rose. This shocked everyone, even ardent LeBron haters. This happened in the Finals, the biggest stage of his career, and playing with the strongest NBA team he's ever played for.

If this is the world's most talented player, then the world has a very wrong notion of what 'talent' is.

Miami will bounce back, of course. They're too 'talented' not too. Just like Nowitzki learnt from years of near-success, LeBron will learn and come back stronger, too. And he has Wade on his side. And he has Bosh, or the trade value of Bosh, on his side. We must not forget that, after all, this team has essentially only been together for less than one year. Champions aren't formed overnight - the Celtics Big Three did it in 2008, and the Heat nearly did it this year, and we should give them credit for getting a winning, defensive team mentality so soon.

But today, they stand second best to the Mavericks, who have finally avenged 2006 and now stand alone as NBA Champions.

I'm not going to ponder any further about what will happen next season, because I don't even know if the next season will happen. The Lockout is a very clear and frightening possibility. I'm too depressed by the potential notion of the 'L-Word' to even think about it - as long as I block the thought from my head and remain ignorant, it's not going to happen. Unless the day it happens, of course.

So if these Finals were the last act of NBA basketball before a longer-than-usual intermission, then they were a fitting exciting finish. Let's celebrate the Mavericks' achievement now - next season is next season.

June 11, 2011

NBA-India’s Troy Justice holds camp for coaches and players in Kerala

Troy Justice, the Director of Basketball Operations of NBA-India, held a three-day basket ball clinic concluded at the Central Stadium at Thiruvanathpuram which concluded on Wednesday, June 8th. The clinic brought together 100 coaches and 40 players from around Kerala.

“The clinic was organised by Kerala Basketball Association (KBA) with the help of Kerala State Sports Council (KSSC). Troy came to Thiruvanathpuram with his aim or the aim of NBA in India which is to spread basketball at the grassroots level which would encourage more kids to play the game,” said P J Sunny, chairman of the selection committee.

The camp was held from June 6th - June 8th. Justice has indicated three priorities for the growth of Indian basketball: To ensure the growth of the game throughout the country, to provide a focus on the grassroots programme to encourage more kids to play the game, and then to train and develop quality coaches and players.

"The coaches were very engaged and had a strong desire to learn the technical aspects of the game," said Justice, "We covered a lot of advanced training with them in just a 3-day period. It was a very effective clinic and I felt very good about it."

He added: "We had high level players that were going through the drills and practices with us - So the clinic was very practical and hands/on, and involved some of the top players in the state."

Justice was assisted by Eban Hyams, a professional player playing in the Australian Basketball league. Hyams has represented Coastal Georgia Club, Sydney Kings, Singapore Slingers and also played for Galil Elyon Club in the ULEB Cup in the European circuit. He had his basketball schooling in America as well as Australia.

The three-day camp was also attended by few coaches from outside Kerala, including two international referees. One of these referees was Ramesh Kumar from Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, who runs a Rural Basketball Trust. The camp also got the support from the players of KSEB, Kerala Police and the U-18 Girl’s team.

The last day went off with continuity offence, out of bounce moves, zone defense and offences. Players and Coaches had the chance to share their views and suggestions with Troy during the concluding session. Participants were given away certificates by Justice

June 8, 2011

24th FIBA Asia Championship for Women: India’s Group & Schedule

The schedule of games for the Preliminary Round of the 24th FIBA Asia Championship for Women has been announced. The championship will be taking place in Omura and Nagasaki in Japan from August 21-28th, 2011.

Indian Senior Women’s team have been placed in Level I, along with champions China, hosts Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Lebanon. In Level II, the teams are Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Singapore.

Hosts Japan will take on newly promoted Lebanon on the first day of the competition on Aug 21 with defending champions China taking on last edition’s runners-up and archrivals Korea. Chinese Taipei meet India to complete the day once proceedings.

India’s Preliminary Round Schedule

  • 21st Aug, 2011 (Sunday): India vs. Chinese Taipei
  • 22nd Aug, 2011 (Monday): India vs. Korea
  • 23rd Aug, 2011 (Tuesday): India vs. China
  • 24th Aug, 2011 (Wednesday): India vs. Japan
  • 25th Aug, 2011 (Thursday): India vs. Lebanon

    The Semi-Finals of the tournament will be held on 27th Aug, 2011 (Saturday), and the Finals on 28th Aug, 2011 (Sunday). Click here for Complete Preliminary Round Schedule.

    About 24th FIBA Asia Championship for Women

    Omura, a castle town from where Catholic saint St. Marina de Omura hailed will play host to the 12 top women basketball teams in Asia from Aug 21-28, 2011. Six teams will form the Elite Level I, from where the champions will be decided.

    The champions of the 24th FIBA Asia Championship for Women will earn an automatic entry to the 2012 London Olympics. The teams finishing second and third will earn the opportunity to represent FIBA Asia in the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers.

    Six other teams will play in the Qualifying Level II with the top two attempting to earn promotion to next edition’s Level I.

    India were the hosts of previous FIBA Asia Championship for Women, which was held in 2009 in Chennai and won by China.
  • June 7, 2011

    Indian Youth Probables (Boys & Girls) called for coaching camp in New Delhi

    32 Boys and 31 Girls of the Indian Youth (under-16) division have been called up for a coaching camp to be held at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall in New Delhi from June 15th – July 29th. A selection committee of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) have selected these probables based on their performance at the 28th Youth National Basketball Championship for Boys & Girls in Nagpur from May 26th-June 2, 2011.

    The camp in Delhi will determine India’s Youth National teams for FIBA Asia U16 Championships later in the year. The Indian U16 Boys side will get an opportunity to qualify for the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Boys in Nha Trang City (Vietnam) from October 18-28, 2011. The Indian U16 Girls side will participate in the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Girls in Urumqui (China) from October 5-12, 2011.

    In addition to the players selected from the Youth Nationals, the eight Indian youngsters currently getting training at the IMG-Academy in Bradenton, Florida (USA) have also been invited to the camp in New Delhi.

    Youth Probables


    Om Jaiswal (Chhattisgarh)
    Akash Bhasin (Chhattisgarh)
    P. Murli (Chhattisgarh)
    Ajay Pratap Singh (Chhattisgarh)
    Dinesh Mishra (IMG Academy / Chhattisgarh)
    Sanjeev Kumar (IMG Academy / Chhattisgarh)
    Lawkesh Sharma (Chhattisgarh)
    Narender (Delhi)
    Akimjeet Singh Sohal (Delhi)
    Pradeep Kumar (Delhi)
    Panjak Rathee (Delhi)
    Gaurav Ohlyan (Delhi)
    Rohan Pethani (Gujarat)
    Rajesh Sangwan (Haryana)
    Himanshu Sharma (Haryana)
    Vivek Sandhu (Haryana)
    Shubham Mishra (Madhya Pradesh)
    Syed Anam Ali (Madhya Pradesh)
    Gopal Singh Rathee (Madhya Pradesh)
    Ashiv Jain (IMG Academy / Madhya Pradesh)
    Jagtap Rohan Ramesh (Maharashtra)
    Shaikh Ibrahim Riyaz (Maharashtra)
    Malik Saleem Mohd. Ibrahim (Maharashtra)
    Kushmeet Singh (Punjab)
    Loveneet Singh (Punjab)
    Satnam Singh Bhamara (IMG Academy / Punjab)
    Akashdeep Hazra (Punjab)
    Navjot Singh (Rajasthan)
    S. Karthickeyan (Tamil Nadu)
    Himanshu Singh (Uttar Pradesh)
    Abhishek Rai (Uttar Pradesh)
    Sagar Joshi (West Bengal)


    Sangeeta Das (Chhattisgarh)
    Anjana Daisy Ekka (Chhattisgarh)
    Poonam Chaturvedi (Chhattisgarh)
    Pooja Ambishta (IMG Academy / Chhattisgarh)
    A. Kavita (IMG Academy / Chhattisgarh)
    Sangeetha Kaur (Chhattisgarh)
    Sharanjeet Kaur (Chhattisgarh)
    Soumya Babbar (IMG Academy / Delhi)
    Rimpy Hooda (Haryana)
    Anju Bhalotlia (Haryana)
    Bharti Sihag (Haryana)
    Komal Yadav (Haryana)
    Praneetha S (Karnataka)
    Karishma Rajan (Karnataka)
    Prami P. Lal (Kerala)
    Elizabeth Hilarious (Kerala)
    Anathy Vimal (Kerala)
    Poojamol KS (Kerala)
    Ashwathy S. Thampi (Kerala)
    Monika Gurjar (Madhya Pradesh)
    Sruthi Menon (Maharashtra)
    Ishwari Pingle (Maharashtra)
    Krithika Divadkar (Maharashtra)
    Shireen Limaye (Maharashtra)
    Nirmal Kaur (Punjab)
    Kulwinder Kaur (Punjab)
    K. Devi Rajalaksmi (Tamil Nadu)
    R. Sharmila (Tamil Nadu)
    Shruti (Uttar Pradesh)
    Barkha Sonkar (IMG Academy / Uttar Pradesh)
    Madhu Kumari (West Bengal)

    Definitely some interesting young players on the list - several of them have been in the fray for a while now, and a few made their mark at the Nagpur Youth Nationals recently.

    First off, these are the kids who are at the IMG Academy in the USA, and will definitely be playing at the highest level because of their training and competition level - Boys: Satnam Singh Bhamara, Sanjeev Kumar, Dinesh Mishra, and Ashiv Jain. Girls: Barkha Sonkar, Pooja Ambishta, Soumya Babbar, and A. Kavita. These eight kids have been studying and playing there for almost a year now. The standout name amongst them is obviously of 7 foot 1 youngster Satnam Singh Bhamara, who, with his combination of size, skill, and youth, has become the Big Indian Basketball Hope.

    Amongst the girls, the other star youngster is Maharashtra's Shireen Limaye, who is also the youngest player to be called up for India's Sr. Women's camp. Highly experienced at her age, Shireen will be one of the superstars of India's U16 Girls' squad.

    Other players who had impressive outings at the Nagpur Youth Nationals are Kerala's Poojamal, who scored 40 points to go with 13 rebounds to lead her team to a gold medal win in the Girls' final, Chhattisgarh's Anjana Ekka, Maharashtra's Sruthi Menon, and Haryana's Rimpy Hooda.

    One of the most interesting names in the girls' probables is of Poonam Chaturvedi, who at 6 foot 6 inches, is India's tallest female basketball player, and is still almost a month short of her 16th birthday. Originally from UP, Chaturvedi played for Chhattisgarh at the Youth Nationals, and despite her inexperience, was a major force in helping her team bag the silver medal.

    In the Boys' list, there are several players from the gold winners Delhi, including Akimjeet Singh Sohal, Narendar, and Pradeep Kumar. Runners-up MP are represented by 3 players, including Syed Anam Ali and sharpshooter Shubham Mishra. Punjab's high-scoring 'Singh duo' of Loveneet and Kushmeet will also be attending. Other impressive performers were Akash Bhasin (Chhattisgarh), Saleem Ibrahim (Maharashtra), and Rakesh Sangwan (Haryana).