August 30, 2013

2013 Junior National Championship to tip off in Cuttack (Odisha) on September 1

Chhattisgarh's basketball squads will be the center of attention once again as they look to defend their title at the 64th National Basketball Championship for Junior Men and Women, set to be held in Cuttack (Odisha) from September 1-8, 2013. The tournament, which will pit India's finest Junior (U18) basketball players as they represent states and provinces from all across the country, will be organized by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) in association with the Odisha Basketball Association.

A total of 46 teams - 23 in each of the two divisions - will compete against each other for the crown. Matches are set to be held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Cuttack, with tip off early morning on Sunday.

A year ago, Chhattisgarh dominated the Junior Nationals winning gold medals in both the boys' and the girls' divisions in Puducherry. They will be amongst the favourites this year again, especially since they won another double gold in the Sub-Junior competition at the Nationals in Patna earlier this week. Maharashtra and Kerala (Girls) and Punjab and Madhya Pradesh (Boys) could be amongst the top challengers to Chhattisgarh's crown.

At the tournament's onset, the BFI's CEO Roopam Sharma said, “Basketball Federation of India is delighted to host the 64th Junior National Basketball Championship for Boys and Girls in Cuttack. The BFI is thankful to the Odisha Basketball Association for rendering their support in organizing and hosting the event. Young and dynamic players will be the path of success for basketball in the country. This event will showcase competitive games and a pool of talented players, who will comprise the next set of senior level players.

The tournament will be held on the league-cum-knockout basis, with the Finals scheduled for September 8.

Shot of the Century: How Ray Allen changed NBA history

Ray Allen has hit more threes than anyone in NBA history. But he saved arguably his biggest three – and one of the biggest threes in NBA history – for Game 6 2013 Finals. With just seconds left, it changed the course of history, snatching the trophy out of the hand of the San Antonio Spurs to the Miami Heat.

Click here to read full feature.

August 27, 2013

Questions, and the Answer

Earlier this week, Allen Iverson indicated that he would officially announce his retirement, bringing an end to years of speculation of whether he’ll ever get an opportunity to wear an NBA jersey again. It was the end to a career that ignited the basketball-loving world for most of the past decade.

In the near future, Iverson will probably receive his accolades, mostly from the Philadelphia fans who became an extension to his family. He will have the jersey retired and will hear words of respect from his peers. But no matter the tribute at his retirement parties, it could never truly capture the adulation that Allen Iverson’s career once deserved.

Click here to read full feature

August 25, 2013

Chhattisgarh dominate Sub-Jr National Championship to win two gold medals in Patna

Rarely in Indian basketball history has a state been so dominant. The final result was almost scripted from the very beginning. Chhattisgarh's Girls' U-14 basketball squad - who have won every Sub-Jr National title since 2002 - added a 12th consecutive gold medal at the 40th National Championship for Sub-Junior Boys and Girls by rolling past Tamil Nadu in Patna (Bihar) in a rematch of the 2012 final. But this year, the boys' squad joined in the celebration, as they also reached the Sub-Jr Nationals summit matching the girls' undefeated performance for a gold medal win against neighbouring Madhya Pradesh on Sunday.

The Sub-Jr Nationals - which are India's premier national basketball tournament for the federation's youngest members, the under-14s - was held this year at the Patliputra Sports Complex in Patna. Organized by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Bihar Basketball Association, the tournament tipped off on August 18th and featured competition between 24 boys' and 21 girls' squads from all across the country.

Led by a game-high 26 points by Gulabsha Ali in the Final, Chhattisgarh Girls snubbed any hopes that Tamil Nadu had of avenging last year's final in Goa. Chhattisgarh jumped to an energetic 19 point lead in the very first quarter and never looked back, eventually extending their advantage to a 79-42 victory. Manisha added 16 points for the winning side while TN were led by Srishti Suren (25).

In the boys' final, Madhya Pradesh, who has faced a surprising loss to West Bengal last year, had to settle for silver medal once again. In a lower-scoring battle, Binod scored more than half of his team's points for Chhattisgarh as he helped his squad keep a steady lead throughout and secure the gold with a 57-47 win. Binod ended up with 31 points, while MP were led by Himanshu's 21.

Earlier on the final day of the tournament, Rajasthan Boys had to come from behind to defeat Andhra Pradesh 87-66 to secure third place in the championship. Ashish Trivedi of Rajasthan was the best individual performer of the day, scoring 36 points, while Ashish Singh Bisht added 18 for the winners. AP, who held a first quarter lead before succumbing to Rajasthan's comeback, were led by Kunal (19).

In the Girls' third-place matchup, Divyani Gangewir scored 16 points to lead Madhya Pradesh to a 55-44 win over Maharashtra.

Indian film actor and Member of Parliament Shatrughan Sinha was invited as the chief guest at the prize distribution and closing ceremony of the tournament on August 25th.

On Saturday, Chhattisgarh Girls faced little trouble in their semi-final clash against Maharashtra, running past them to a 89-57 victory. Gulabsha Ali (22), Manisha (20), and Laxmi (19) were all part of Chhattisgarh's multi-pronged assault. In the J. Ishwarya (25 points) helped Tamil Nadu blew open a close game at halftime against Madhya Pradesh to cruise to a 70-50 victory in the other semi-final. K. Priya added 16 for TN, while MP's Divyani Gangewir countered with 20 points in the loss.

For Chhattisgarh, the hero of the boys' semi-final win was Binod, who perhaps foreshadowed his form that would carry on to the finale with a 39-point outburst that helped his side pace past Rajasthan to a 72-51 triumph. Ashish Trivedi's 21 and Ashish Singh Bisth's 20 weren't enough to save the tie for the Rajasthanis. The other boys' semi-final was a defensive master-class by Madhya Pradesh, who defeated Andhra Pradesh 72-35, limiting them to just 15 points after half-time. Himanshu (22) of MP was the game's leading scorer.

The eight-day tournament was initially marred with power issues, as electrical outages turned off the lights and the air-conditioners over the first few days. The young players often had to play in the dark or suspend their game until power returned.

Final Scores

Girls: Chhattisgarh (Gulabsha Ali 26, Manisha 16) bt. Tamil Nadu (Srishti Suren 25) 79-42 (29-10, 47-18, 66-30, 79-42).

Boys: Chhattisgarh (Binod 31) bt. Madhya Pradesh (Himanshu 21) 57-47 (23-17, 35-21, 47-39, 57-47).

Third-Place Matchups

Girls: Madhya Pradesh (Divyani Gangewir 16, Varsha 14) bt. Maharashtra (Sakshi 13) 55-44 (7-9, 23-18, 40-33, 55-44).

Boys: Rajasthan (Ashish Trivedi 36, Ashish Singh Bisht 18) bt Andhra Pradesh (Kunal 19) 87-66 (24-27, 43-38, 62-48, 87-66).

Final Standings


1. Chhattisgarh
2. Tamil Nadu
3. Madhya Pradesh
4. Maharashtra
5. Karnataka


1. Chhattisgarh
2. Madhya Pradesh
3. Rajasthan
4. Andhra Pradesh
5. Uttar Pradesh

August 24, 2013

China win double gold at Asian Youth Games 3x3 Basketball Tournament

China, hosts of 2nd Asian Youth Games in Nanjing, dominated the competition's 3x3 Basketball tournament, winning gold medals in both the boys' and girls' divisions, defeating Chinese Taipei in the final each time. It was China Boys' second consecutive gold in the competition while the Girls improved from their silver medal finish back in 2009.

A total of 18 boys teams and nine girls teams took part in the six-day tournament that tipped off on August 17th. Both the finals were held on August 22nd.

China's boys defeated Chinese Taipei 21-14 in the Final. Korea finished third in the tournament by defeating last year's boys' winners Iran 20-18 in the bronze medal game.

The girl's final was also between China and Chinese Taipei, won by the Chinese youngsters 16-10. Thailand clinched the bronze medal with an earlier victory over Uzbekistan, 16-4.

Athletes from a total of 44 Asian nations took part in the second iteration of Asian Youth Games. India, who finished 18th out of 20 teams in the boys' 3x3 basketball competition at the 1st Asian Youth Games in Singapore back in 2009, were banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) because of government interference in the election process of India's Olympic Committee. In other sports, Indian athletes took part in the competition under the flag of 'Independent Olympic Athletes', but courted more controversy when 17 of them were thrown out of the field for being over-age.

Horace Grant, Ron Harper, & Peja Stojakovic to bring championship flavour to NBA Jam in India

Put together 10 NBA championship rings, four All Star appearances, a Euroleague MVP award, and the experience of sharing the court nightly with the likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, and many more of the game's greats, and you could begin to sketch out the identities of the three former NBA stars who will be coming to India over the next month. The 2013 NBA Jam - an interactive travelling basketball festival which will be held in four Indian cities through September - will feature appearances by Horace Grant, Ron Harper, and Peja Stojakovic, three players with long and distinguished NBA careers over the last two and a half decades, all of whom were role players in various NBA title winning squads.

NBA India announced yesterday that Grant, Harper, and Stojakovic will attend the Mumbai stop of the NBA Jam from September 26th onwards and stay till the event's national finals in the same city on September 29th. Additionally, Grant will also be in Delhi for NBA Jam's earlier stop from September 19-21. In addition, the Boston Celtics cheerleading squad - the Celtics Dancers - will also be in Mumbai for the Finals. One source says that the Miami Heat mascot 'Burnie' will also be there, if you're into that sort of thing.

Grant, Harper, and Peja are not necessarily superstars, but for true NBA connoisseurs, there will be some pure geek-out pleasure in welcoming three players who have played bit parts in some of the league's biggest moments since the late 80s.

Picked eighth in the 1986 draft by the Cavaliers, Ron Harper came into the league as a high-flying player capable of playing multiple positions. He finished second in rookie of the year voting and was en route to becoming one of the top young players in the league. After three years in Cleveland, he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. After his first eight seasons in the league scoring nearly 20 points per game, Harper joined the Chicago Bulls as a free agent in 1994. Although his scoring numbers suffered, Harper reinvented himself as a role player in the backcourt, and when Michael Jordan return, the squad (with Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and more) won three more championships. In 1999, Harper followed his Chicago coach Phil Jackson to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers, where he won two more championships as a veteran. He retired from the Lakers in 2001.

Best remembered for his iconic on-court goggles, Horace Grant was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1987 with rookie Scottie Pippen. Both of them joined a squad that just so happened to field a certain rising superstar by the name of Michael Jordan. Grant became a regular starter for the Bulls when they traded Charles Oakley in 1989, and became the team's top rebounder and their third leading scorer behind Jordan and Pippen. He played a crucial role defending the post as the Bulls won three championships from 1991-93, and 1994, without Michael Jordan temporarily retiring from the game, Grant took a larger role in the team and became an All Star for the first time in his career. After posting career-best numbers (15.1 ppg, 11 rpg), Grant left Bulls for the Orlando Magic, and a year later, was in the NBA Finals again with a team that featured Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway. After five years in Orlando, Grant spent a season with the Supersonics before moving to the Lakers, to rejoin O'Neal in a team that also featured Kobe Bryant. In the midst of the Lakers' three-peat, Grant was part of the squad that won the championship in 2001. He briefly played with the Magic again before returning to the Lakers and retiring from the game in 2004.

One of the greatest three-point shooters of All Time, Serbian-Greek Peja Stojakovic was already a cult legend in Europe before joining the NBA. Playing with Greek side PAOK from 1994-98, Peja had won a Greek League MVP Award and been the top scorer in the EuroLeague before being drafted 14th by the Sacramento Kings in 1998. After two seasons on the bench with the Kings, Peja had his breakout season in 2001, winning the NBA's Most Improved Player Award and becoming a core part of a side with Chris Webber and Mike Bibby that played some of the most entertaining and dominating basketball in the league back in the early 2000s. From 2002-04, Peja played in three All Star games, and also won the Three Point Shooting Competition in two of those years. His best year was 2004, when he averaged career highs of 24.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Midway in 2006 he was traded to the Indiana Pacers for Ron Artest, and later that same year, he joined the New Orleans Hornets. Peja was traded to the Raptors in 2010, and two games later, joined the Dallas Mavericks. He would form the group of role players in Dallas around Dirk Nowitzki that made a magical run in the playoffs to reach the NBA Finals and clinch the 2011 championship. He retired after winning his first and only championship finishing at sixth All Time in three-point field goals made in the NBA.

This year's bigger and better NBA Jam in India was first announced by Miami Heat's Chris Bosh when he was in Mumbai last month. Nearly 500 teams are expected to participate in the 3x3 contests this year as opposed to 400 last year. This edition of the event will include women’s divisions for the first time. In each city, 120 teams will compete across two age divisions for men and women, 16-18 and 19-23. Winning teams from each city will be invited to the National Finals in Mumbai, where they will play in a small-scale replica NBA arena.

During the National Finals, fans will enjoy the first-ever live NBA experience in India. The players will compete in a small scale NBA arena with an emcee, lights, sound, video and a variety of on-court entertainment. The winning teams will have a chance to play 3-on-3 against the NBA legends at the National Finals. There will also be a National Finals for the three-point shooting contest and the winner will get to shoot against Stojakovic. The National Finals will be broadcast live on Sony SIX in India.

The 2013 NBA Jam will be held in Hyderabad from September 5-7, Bangalore from September 12-14, Delhi from September 19-21, and Mumbai from September 26-28, before the Finals in Mumbai on September 29. Music performances by leading Indian artists/DJs, clinics by NBA-India coaches, and dance and graffiti competitions will be held during the events.

August 23, 2013

ONGC & Southern Railway won Golden Eagle Blue Star All India Tournament in Chennai

Blessed with some of the most dominant India international player’s on their roster, Dehradun’s ONGC side blazed through the Golden Eagle Blue Star All India Invitational Basketball Tournament in Chennai, defeating Customs and Central Excise (Kochi) in the tournament's Men's final on Thursday, August 22nd. The Women's final was also held earlier on the same day, and home side Southern Railway added another feather to their successful cap by sweeping past Secunderabad's South Central Railway.

Eight Men's teams and six Women's squads, divided into two groups each, took part in the six-day tournament, which was held at the JJ Stadium in Chennai.

India's national squad Center Amrit Pal Singh continued his development as a superstar anchor in the middle, scoring 29 points in dominating performance in the final to lead ONGC to a 76-63 win. India's captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi added 16 points for the winning team. ONGC were able to withstand Customs and Central Excise's duo of Monish Wilson (21) and Eudrick Pereira (17) in their victory.

Southern Railway - who have been the glowing spark in India women's basketball led by the usual suspects Geethu Anna Jose and Anitha Paul Durai in recent years - had little trouble in cruising past South Central Railway 62-43 as they brought some cheers from the home crowd in their victory. Anitha had a game-high 23 points in the Women's final.

The Men's winners (ONGC) took home a cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh, while second place (Customs and Central Excise) were rewarded Rs. 60,000. Women's winners (Southern Railway) also won Rs. 75,000 and runners-up (South Central Railway) Rs. 40,000.

The group stage of the tournament was played in a league format, with the top two teams from each group qualifying for the knockout stages. The semi-finals were held on Wednesday. Amrit Pal Singh (22) and Bhriguvanshi (18) led ONGC to a 64-50 win over home side IOB. In a high-scoring second men's semi-final, Customs and Central Excise defeating Indian Army (Delhi) 89-80. Eudrick Perira (20), Monish Wilson (19) and Basil Phillip (18) led the winning side.

In the Women's section, Southern Railway entered the final by defeating Western Railway 65-49. Manda Meshram (20) and Jilna Jose (18) led South Central Railway to a 83-65 win over Eastern Railway (Kolkata). Madhu Kumari had a valiant performance with 30 points for Eastern Railway in a losing effort.

The finals were broadcast live on DD Sports in India. Another special shoutout here to Gopalakrishnan R., who did an incredible job in covering this tournament on SportsKeeda every day.

August 20, 2013

The Next Episode: Rooting for Greg Oden’s comeback

One time, in a whole different world many years ago, Greg Oden worked hard to climb his way up the charts to become the number one pick and a future NBA superstar. The success-story never came to fruition, but after years of injuries and speed-bumps, we may be able to witness something even more amazing: his return to the league as just a regular, minimum contract, player. The dream has been slightly amended, but it’s still alive. A basketball player gets to play basketball again.

Click here to read full feature.

August 19, 2013

Aiming for the Throne: Paul George wants to be the NBA’s best player

This feature was first published in the 112th edition (2013 - No. 15) of SLAM China magazine and my original English version was also uploaded on on August 13, 2013. Here is another look at the story.

It wasn’t that night in November against the Hornets when he broke Reggie Miller’s franchise record for most three-pointers in a game, going 9-13 from beyond the arc for a career-high 37 points. It wasn’t that game in February versus the Bobcats when he had his first career triple-double. It wasn’t when he heard about his first All Star selection, when he finished the season with career highs in points, rebounds, and assists, or when he was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Not his first playoff triple-double on the Hawks, or the dominant series against the Knicks, or the game-tying three in the Conference Finals against the Heat, or his monster dunk on Chris Anderson in Game 2. It wasn’t about his efforts in closely matching double MVP LeBron James every step of the way in a classic series.

Nope. When we asked Paul George in Wuhan, China, about his most memorable moment of the amazing, breakout 2012-13 season, he talked about a loss. And to be more precise, the most crushing loss that a player could be handed. It was Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals, after coming within just one game of the NBA Finals.

“Going through my first Game 7, you know it really brought the spotlight on me,” George said, “And being able to perform in that spotlight - that was a make or break situation – I think that was again another step in the right direction for me.”

But George couldn’t perform in that Game 7 spotlight. He had a game to forget, scoring only seven points and fouling out early in the fourth quarter. He and his teammates couldn’t find an answer to LeBron and Dwyane Wade, who carried the Heat to a blowout victory and into the Finals. And yet, it wasn’t all his successes over the exceptional past year that he chose to remember, but his failure at the biggest stage yet.

For every rising star in the NBA, there is always the ‘honeymoon’ period, when media and fans give them a benefit of the doubt, when their talents are celebrated and their weaknesses are generally masked or ignored. Think upcoming stars like Kyrie Irving, James Harden, or Stephen Curry. Because of their general ‘newness’ into the NBA’s biggest spotlights, many aspects of their game are still a secret to the mainstream. They escape criticism in favour of their potential, and it is only when they hit mainstream popularity, when they begin to find themselves in make-or-break situations at the highest stage, do we hold up a microscope to their shortcomings and mistakes.

Consider the honeymoon over for George. After the end of his third season, one that resulted in a lengthy playoff run, his game is no secret anymore. Sure, Indiana aren’t one of the NBA’s big national TV markets, or have the worldwide popularity of many of their rivals, but the accelerating talents of George couldn’t be kept hidden any longer. At just a few months past 23, he has already morphed into one of the NBA’s most impressive talents on both ends of the floor. We saw the potential in him, but few predicted he’d get there so soon.

And now, after tasting so much success so quickly, and heartbreak as well at the biggest stage, he plans to come back and do it all over again – only better.

“I love what I do, love getting better, love adding things to my game,” George said, “For the next season, I want work on being a leader, being efficient on the offensive end, and being a dominant scorer in the post. That’s probably what I’m working on most this summer.”

Before he looks forward to the next season, while still basking in the afterglow of the last, George spent a short time as the off-season kicked off in China, aiding the NBA with their NBA Nation events across the country, including towns like Wuhan where SLAM caught up with him. Amidst the basketball carnival resembling an NBA Jam Session and hundreds of fans lining up to catch the very glimpse of him, George spoke about his present trip, and looked ambitiously ahead at a bright future.

“Coming here [to China] is an experience for me too, to see that we have such big fans here in China. I hope I keep coming back here. It’s my first time in Wuhan, but second time in China. Fans here love the game as much as we do.”

Even casual fans know him now, and know all about his team. For the better part of the last decade, no single player from Indiana had brought the franchise to international fame so swiftly. The last time Indiana mattered, they were led by Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest. And the last Pacer to gain so much traction was a sharp-shooter by the name of Reggie Miller.

George’s arrival into the team as a rookie back in 2010-11 coincided with the team’s changing fortunes. With every season, they have gone one step further: First Round in 2011, Second Round in 2012, and Conference Finals in 2013. The expectations are now on the team to better themselves once again, and we ask George if his team is up to the challenge.

“Well, I think we answered that by losing to Miami, but at least getting to Game 7 of Conference Finals,” he said, “We’re a young team. It takes understanding to grow together, survive those early scares, and get better. We understand more now what it takes to get there. As a team, we have to strengthen up. All the guys have to get better, all of us have to know our roles. We just have to be a better team. We have played great together all year long already. Like it is with the Spurs, everything has to be in sync.”

Being ‘in sync’ is easier said than done. George’s breakout season was forthcoming, but it was pushed ahead earlier than schedule by Danny Granger’s injury, which forced Lance Stephenson into the starting lineup and George into the role of the primary perimeter scorer for the Pacers. Now, with Granger set to return next season, there will be some questions about how all three will continue to blossom together in the crowded swingman position.

“We cope so well together,” George says, “There are no egos, it’s not about who’s getting shots, who’s getting points. We can all create for ourselves and create for one another. I think [Granger’s return] just opens up everyone’s game. You can’t sag off Danny because he shoots the ball so well. And you can’t pressure up on Lance, because he has the ability to get to the rim. I think all three of us really have a knack for scoring the ball and creating for one another.”

At full strength, George’s teammates will feature two other former All Stars (Roy Hibbert, and David West), another former Most Improved Player (Granger), an up-and-coming point guard in George Hill and another athletic young talent in Lance Stephenson. Other teams in the East, like the reloaded Nets, the Knicks, and the healthy Bulls will be in their paths, too, but after getting to the Conference Finals, the Pacers should once more feel like Miami’s toughest challengers in the Eastern Conference. But the honeymoon period for Indiana as a team – just like for George as a player – is over too. Anything less than a return to the Conference Finals will be considered a disappointment.

And it is George who can be the difference between the Pacers being a good team or a great one. His individual improvements have coincided with the team’s rise over the last three years. And they will parallel his rising talents in the future too.

“I’m nowhere close to getting what I want to achieve,” he said, reflecting on his NBA journey so far, “But I think I’m taking the right steps and going in the right direction. I can see myself being an MVP in the league. I think, if I’m not in contention for an MVP award, or leading my team to the Championship, then I think I’d be selling myself short as a player. In the near future, I wanna have the MVP award, be in the Olympic team, be a perennial All Star, hopefully First Team All NBA as well.”

As we hear his plans, they sound at once ambitious and yet completely possible. Ambitious because he’s in a league with the LeBrons, Durants, and Carmelos, a league where there is cut-throat competition facing him every day at the swingman role, including in his own team, and a league where there is even lesser room for error for the Pacers as a team, as George learnt with the lack-luster Game 7 that cost them a Finals berth.

But George lays out his plans with complete assurance, a confidence in his voice that makes the implausible sound achievable. In three years, he has improved dramatically before our very eyes, over-lapping many of his other young contemporaries and gaining the respect of those he idolizes. His quick rise has surprised many in the past – but for a young star that so carefully dissects his past mistakes and meticulously plans out his ambitions ahead – nothing about the future should surprise us anymore.

August 17, 2013

India's finest next gen ballers show up for 40th Sub-Junior Nationals in Patna

A total of 45 teams representing various Indian states - 24 boys and 21 girls - have descended to Patna (Bihar), to take part in India's top competition for the youngest members of the official basketball fraternity. The 40th Sub-Junior National Basketball Championship for boys and girls - featuring the country's finest under-14 players - will be tipping off at the Patliputra Sports Complex in Patna on August 18th. The tournament, organized by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) in collaboration with the newly affiliated Bihar Basketball Association, will be held until August 25th.

The tournament's holding champions - West Bengal Boys and Chattisgarh Girls who won last year's championship in Goa - will be back to try and defend their titles this year.

While most of the matches will be held at the indoor courts at the Paltiputra Sports Complex, a few games have also been scheduled at the Bihar Military Police outdoor courts.

Here is the full list of participating teams in their groups:


Level 1
Group A: West Bengal, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu.
Group B: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Jharkhand.
Level 2
Group C: Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh.
Group D: Kerala, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir.
Group E: Odisha, Chandigarh, Karnataka, Uttarakhand.
Group F: Bihar, Assam, Mizoram, Tripura.


Level 1
Group A: Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Jharkhand.
Group B: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab.
Level 2
Group C: West Bengal, Chandigarh, Delhi.
Group D: Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan.
Group E: Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir.

Anticipating a successful tournament ahead, the BFI's CEO, Roopam Sharma, said: "The BFI is thankful to the Bihar Basketball Association for rendering their support in organizing and hosting the event. With the popularity of the sport growing in leaps and bounds, I am certain that this tournament will showcase competitive games and a pool of young talented players.”

Click here for the full list of fixtures at the championship.

August 14, 2013

BFI to conduct national training camp for India's U16 boys & girls

India's best under-16 (youth-level) boys and girls basketball players will be in national training camps from next week, in preparation for their respective FIBA Asia Basketball Championships. The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has listed 16 probables for the boys' squad and 25 for the girls' team to report to their respective camps from all across the nation. The boys' camp will be held at the SAI courts in NSWC, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, while the girls' camp will be held at STC Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Both camps are scheduled from August 19 - September 15 this year.

India's U16 boys are scheduled to participate in the 3rd FIBA Asia U16 Championship in Tehran (Iran) from September 25 - October 4. Upon completion of their training camp in Gandhinagar, the final 12-man roster will travel to Dongguan (China) for an exposure trip against various Chinese clubs, before heading to Iran. India qualified for the championship in Tehran after winning the SABA Qualifiers against South Asian rivals in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a month ago.

The 3rd FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women is set to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from November 17-24, 2011. India qualified for this championship after finishing fifth at the previous edition of the U16 Women's ABC in Jinan (2011), and thus remaining in the competition's Level I.

India's foreign head coaches Scott Flemming & Francisco Garcia will be overlooking the boys' and girls' squads respectively, while Tritesh Guha (Boys) and TD Biju (Girls) have also been named coaches for the teams.

India's Boys U16 Probables

- Mahipal Singh (Rajasthan)
- Akhilesh Kumar (Rajasthan)
- Yogesh Kaneriya (Rajasthan)
- Prabhnoor Singh (Punjab)
- Rahul Memla (Punjab)
- Jaipal Singh (Punjab)
- Bitto (Delhi)
- Ashish Briggs (Madhya Pradesh)
- Vishal Kumar Gupta (Delhi)
- Sunil (Delhi)
- M. David Boon (Andhra Pradesh)
- Mithun Das (Chhattisgarh)
- Dhimant Sahi (Tamil Nadu)
- Ashutosh Kumar Singh (Uttar Pradesh)
- Erash Hooda (Karnataka)
- Arjun Pandit (Delhi)

International Coach: Scott Flemming
Coach: Tritesh Guha
Assistant Coach: RS Gaur
Strength and Conditioning Coach Zak Penwell

India's Girls U16 Probables

- Vandana Arya (Chhattisgarh)
- Riya Verma (Chhattisgarh)
- P. Divya (Chhattisgarh)
- Divyangna Singh (Delhi)
- Tannu Hooda (Haryana)
- Namrata Hooda (Haryana)
- Bhandanya HM (Karnataka)
- Lopamudra Thimmayam K (Karnataka)
- Sandhya CR (Karnataka)
- India Nelson (Kerala)
- Mayukha KT (Kerala)
- Nimmy Mathew (Kerala)
- Anitha PV (Kerala)
- Sakshi Pandey (Madhya Pradesh)
- Shreya Salian (Maharashtra)
- Sakshi Arora (Maharashtra)
- Shreya Joshi (Maharashtra)
- Mugda Amroolkar (Maharashtra)
- Gangandeep Kaur (Punjab)
- V Srividhya (Tamil Nadu)
- MG Shinu (Tamil Nadu)
- K Prithi (Tamil Nadu)
- Urvashi Malik (Odhisa)
- Pallavi Kumari (West Bengal)
- Vimmy Varkey (Kerala)

International Coach: Francisco Garcia
Coach: TD Biju
Assistant Coach: Abay Chawan
Strength and Conditioning Coach: Zak Penwell

August 12, 2013

Hadaddi leads Iran to 2013 FIBA Asia Basketball Gold; India finish 11th

From improbable comebacks to shocking upsets, the basketball-manic home crowd at Manila, Philippines, played host to the most unpredictable FIBA Asia Basketball tournament in recent memory. Backed by the fervent home support, the Philippines even marched its way to the Final of the tournament on Sunday, August 12. But Asia’s premier basketball competition finally ended with the most deserving and finest squad – Iran – walking home with their third gold medal.

Iran were undefeated through the course of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, running through all their opponents in the first two rounds before an easy sweep of Jordan and Chinese Taipei in the knockout stages to set up the finale against the Philippines. The motivated hosts – playing in their first gold medal game in 27 years – gave Iran their toughest fight yet. Iran held on to just a one point lead at halftime, but began to steadily pull away in the second period. A dominant second half by Hamed Hadaddi helped Iran clinch an 85-71 victory and make it three gold medals in the past four iterations of the championship.

Hadaddi – who last played for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA – scored 18 of his game-high 29 points to go with 16 rebounds to lead Iran and also secure his own third MVP award at the FIBA Asia Championship. The 7-2 Center led the tournament in points (18.8 ppg) and rebounds (10 rpg). Samad Nikkah Bahrami added 19 points for Iran. The Philippines were led in the final by point guard Jayson William, who had 18 points in the loss.

With the Finals’ appearance, both Iran and Philippines automatically qualified for the FIBA Basketball World Cup to be held in Spain next year.

Earlier on Sunday, the competition’s unlikely Cinderella team, Chinese Taipei, faced off against Korea in the bronze medal game. The game was crucial to determine the third team from Asia to play in the 2014 World Cup. Korea started the game in dominant fashion, taking a 29-13 first quarter lead, en route to an easy 75-67 victory. Min Goo Kim had 21 points for Korea off the bench.

On Saturday, the Philippines defeated Korea in a highly-entertaining semi-final clash 86-79 behind 17 points by Jayson William and 16 by Jean Marc Pingris. Korea’s Min Goo Kim was again on fire, scoring 27 points in the loss. After surprisingly trailing by nine in the first quarter, Iran came back strong to win their semi-final clash 79-60 against Chinese Taipei behind big performances by Mahdi Kamrany (19) and Hadaddi (17 points, 14 rebounds). Naturalized American player Quincy Davis had 16 points for Chinese Taipei.

Taipei’s run to fourth place was highlighted by a memorable win over ‘big brother’ China, their first ever victory over the Asian powerhouses. China – winners of 15 gold medals at the FIBA ABCs and holding champions – surprisingly struggled throughout the tournament in Manila, finishing third in their group and showing signs of weaknesses despite boasting of former NBA player Yi Jianlian. In the Quarter-Final clash between China and Chinese Taipei, the former held an 17-point first half lead, only to see it stolen away as Taipei came back to win by 18!

The tournament was also a breathtaking roller-coaster for India, who arrived as one of the minnows after a 14th place finish back in 2011. Led by new head coach Scott Flemming, India were placed in a relatively easier group with Kazakhstan, Bahrain, and Thailand. Flemming aimed to make it to the Second Round and then home for miracles ahead, and needing only one win in the Preliminary Stage, this aim seemed achievable.

India faced Bahrain in the first game, and were looking completely in-charge of matters as they came back from an early deficit to hold a seven point lead in the game’s final minute. That is when Bahrain rallied back to shock the Indians and tie the game at 70-70 with the aid of some squandered chances by India and big shots on the other end. The game went into overtime, and Bahrain took full opportunity of this second life to inch to a 82-80 victory. Mohamed Kawaid had 25 points for the winning side. Narender Grewal scored 25 and Amjyot Singh had 16 points to go with 14 rebounds for India.

Luckily, there was no hangover the very next day for the Indians as they started strong against Thailand and blew them out early for an impressive 89-65 win. Grewal continued his hot streak to lead all scorers with 24. India's captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi added 20 points to go with eight rebounds. This game was significant because it became the first ever Indian basketball game - domestic or international - to be shown live on cable TV in India. Neo Prime continued to show other games from the tournament via FIBA TV broadcast live in India from here forth.

Kazakhstan - the group leaders - were up next for India, and Flemming's young side were unfazed for one half against the bigger Kazakhi side. But the efforts of Mikhail Yevstigneyev (21) and Jerri Jonson (16) led Kazakshtan to completely dominate the third quarter. A fourth quarter comeback seemed out of reach and India lost the game 80-67. Bhriguvanshi scored 19 points.

India were thus in the Second Round, carrying on their standings from the first and readying to face some Asian powerhouses. First up were eventual winners Iran, who showed no mercy in handing India their worst loss of the competition, 102-58. Hamed Afagh scored 16 to lead Iran's balanced attack.

Next up to demolish the Indian side were China. Playing extremely stingy defense, China held India to their worst offensive performance as they won the game 79-45. India were just 1-11 from three-point distance. Young Chinese prodigy Wang Zhelin had 18 points and nine rebounds while Ailin Guo added 16 off the bench. India's only double-digit scorer was young big man Amjyot Singh, with 16.

Another slaughter followed the very next day, as Korea used a balanced, efficient attack to defeat India 95-54. Pratham Singh had 18 points off the bench for India.

Out of the knockout stages, India had to settle for the 9-12 place matches. They seemed to be revitalized and primed for an upset over Japan, leading 25-16 after the first quarter and 41-29 at halftime. But Japan turned the tables around in the second half, and - just like in their loss to Bahrain - India once again managed to let a victory slip away between their fingers. Japan took their first lead with three minutes left and then never looked back. Reckless turnovers by India and Japan's dominance on the boards led to a 73-64 Japan win.

India's last game of the tournament - to determine 11th place - was against the team they had played and lost to in their very first game: Bahrain. It was India's opportunity for vengeance and to end the tournament on a positive note. They didn't disappoint: after leading by just two points at the end of three quarters, India finally found the confidence to close out a game and win 75-65. Bhriguvanshi led India with 19 points and seven rebounds while Pratham Singh scored 16.

India thus finished the tournament with a 2-6 record and at 11th place, an improvement on the 14th place finish from the 2011 championship in Wuhan (China).

Still, despite the improved performances, most Indian fans will believe that the team could've - and should've - done much better. Despite being the better team on the floor for most of the duration, India lost two games - against Bahrain in the Preliminary Round and against Japan in the 9-12 place game - through pure carelessness and a lack of nerves. Coach Flemming has indeed been a calm and collected presence on the bench for India and helped them improve both their ball-movement and defensive effort, but the squad still has a long way to go. We could attribute some of India's deficiencies to inexperience: apart from Bhriguvanshi, most of the major minutes were played by younger and newer talent to the team, like streaky shooter Grewal, guard Joginder Singh, and the big man combo of Amjyot Singh and Amrit Pal Singh. Most of India's bigs are still in their early 20s (or younger) and this experience will aid them as they improve both mentally and physically in coming years. Flemming has helped the team take a baby step forward at least, and we hope that he is around providing some continuity (as he promised) to oversee more improvements in the future.

Bhriguvanshi, who had a nightmare tournament two years ago, somewhat redeemed himself in Philippines as India's best player, leading the squad in scoring (13.1 ppg) and also adding 5.9 rebounds per game. Narender Grewal cooled down after a hot start to average 11 points per game while a major breakthrough was made by Amjyot Singh, who led the team in rebounds (6.9 rpg) while also scoring 9.6 points per contest. Surprisingly, India's teenage 7-2 phenom Satnam Singh Bhamara didn't get many opportunities to showcase his developing skills. Bhamara was mostly a bench-warmer at the tournament and was only given a chance to play in blowout situations. Still, the youngster has already played in two senior FIBA Asia championships before touching 18, and we hope that the experience goes a long way to prepare him as a potential future star for the squad.

On another note, the tournament marked an important breakthrough, as it was the first time that women referees were chosen to officiate in FIBA Asia Men's games. The two referees chosen were India's very own Snehal Bendke and China's Li Peng. 

Final Standings

1. Iran
2. Philippines
3. Korea
4. Chinese Taipei
5. China

All Tournament Team

Jayson William - Philippines
Min Goo Kim - Korea
Lin Chih-chieh - Chinese Taipei
Oshin Sahakian - Iran
Hamed Hadaddi - Iran - MVP

August 10, 2013

IOB & South Western Railway win 1st Midhun Markose All India Basketball Tournament in Thiruvanathapuram

IOB (Chennai) Men and South Western Railway (Hubli) Women won their respective Finals matchups and took home the trophy at the end of the 1st Midhun Markose TDBA All India Basketball Tournament, held in Thiruvanathapuram (Kerala) from August 4-9. The finals were held on Friday, August 9 at the Central Stadium in the city.

The Men's final was a close contest as Vijaya Bank (Bangalore) led IOB 32-29 at halftime, but IOB made a comeback in the second half behind 19 points by A. Aravind to win 68-63. Vijaya Bank had their own Aravind who added 21 points in a losing cause.

In the Women's final, the eventual winners found themselves in a similar predicament midway. Hubli's South Western Railway trailed 28-19 at halftime to KSEB, but turned the score around in a thrilling finish to inch away to a 63-60 win. Savitha LS scored 24 points for the winning side eclipsing 19 points by KSEB's Merlin Baby.

Actress Gouthami Nair and international footballer Joe Paul Archery were amongst the celebrities attending the Finals.

Customs and Central Excise took the third spot as they defeated Indian Army 88-64 after leading 44-36 at the half time. Customs which had lost to Indian Army in the League round thus avenged their defeat as it worked today as an cohesive unit with 6 of them scoring in double digits. Gopal Ram had 19 points for Indian Army in the loss while Suresh Kumar added 16.

August 8, 2013

Breakout Ballers: 5 Young Players to Watch Next Season

Here are my top five players – in teams currently that did not qualify for last season’s playoffs – whom you should keep your eye out on for the next season. They could be the NBA’s hidden gems that beckon a League Pass subscription in case you get bored of the same old LeBron-Kobe-Durant-Dwight overdose. These are the next season’s breakout ballers

Click here to read full feature

August 6, 2013

One small step for Indian Basketball on cable TV...

On August 2, 2013, India's Men's basketball squad played against Thailand at the Preliminary Round of the 27th FIBA Asia Championship in Manila (Philippines). It was the second game for both teams at the championship, and both were coming off losses. The game tipped off late, at 10:30 PM local time, and at the primetime hour of 8 PM for fans back in India who were checking in on an otherwise fairly regular Thursday night. India, under coach Scott Flemming, came out motivated and blew Thailand out the gates, running away to a 89-65 victory.

For those who have closely followed the course of Indian Basketball in the past years, or even the past decades, there was nothing unusual about this night. India have played in 22 FIBA Asia Championships around the continent in the past, and dozens more if you count the Women's, Junior, and Youth divisions. The national teams have played in hundreds of more games around the world in various other tournaments and competitions. Domestically, Indian basketball players take part in scores of national-level, state-level, district level, or club invitational tournaments annually.

But there was something truly special about that Thursday evening game on the 2nd of August.

When India's Men's Senior National Basketball squad took on Thailand in Manila on that day, it became the first ever Indian basketball game - domestic or international - to be broadcast on cable TV in India. The Neo Prime channel, part of the Nimbus Communications Limited family, bought the rights to broadcast a live feed from FIBA TV of the games from the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship. FIBA has been feeding games live in various tournaments for years, but never before has a cable channel in India taken the risk to show Indian hoops. Since the advent of cable television in the country, channels like ESPN, Star Sports, Ten Sports, and SONY PIX/SIX over the years have shown NBA basketball, NCAA tournaments, or basketball from the European leagues. Indian basketball, including domestic tournaments or rare international matches, were limited only to state-owned Doordarshan and shown on DD Sports. The coverage on DD Sports (as many watchers will attest) is amateurish, the production value cheap, and commentary unreliable, and the chance of a live fourth quarter humdinger getting randomly replaced by last night's Ranji Trophy highlights highly probable.

Since the first game against Thailand, Neo Prime has been showing more of India's games at the tournaments and a few of the other games as well. It is obviously not the most watched sports channel in India, but it is at least another option. It's a small step for Indian hoops, but it may pave the way forward for further mainstream alignment of the sport to the Indian audiences in the future.

Whenever I've posted information about Indian basketball events - domestic or international - the most common question has been by fans has been "Where will it be broadcast?" Fans in the country here about India's best players often - the Vishesh Bhriguvanshis, the Geethu Anna Joses, the Satnam Singh Bhamaras, and the Anitha Pauldurais often - but they rarely get a chance to watch them in action. The result is that Indian basketball fans base most of their knowledge of the game on the NBA, which has been easily available on TV for years and now, on the internet too. News of Indian basketball is only limited to box scores and text recaps and the live performances of our stars has to be left only to our imaginations.

This hurts both long-time hardcore fans and potential new fans of the game. Hardcore fans who truly want to dedicate a career either playing basketball or being connected with the game in another way rarely get to see the workings of the system and the ability of Indian players in action, and thus, find it difficult to find something to aim for in India. They are left with forlorn fantasies of the NBA instead of even taking a look at the level of the game in their own backyards. Most of the people who watch basketball games in India are the participating players themselves, players who attend a tournament become the audience to the other games at the same tournament. To the rest of the world, the tournament passes by unseen. Legendary comebacks, game-winning baskets, heroic individual performances, and emotional victory celebrations have all taken place numerous times year and year on basketball courts around India, or by Indian players in basketball courts around the world, and virtually none of us have been able to watch them.

Secondly, every day, young people turn on the sports channels on TV to find something to watch. They find cricket (a lot of cricket), they find tennis, they find football (mostly from Europe, but fortunately, now from India too), they find hockey, and they find increasing coverage of NBA basketball, too. A slew of other sports which don't earn advertising rupees on cable TV find their way in the darker halls of DD Sports. These include domestic Indian basketball tournaments, for which, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) actually has to pay the channel to cover them. Outside of those who are actively seeking to find these games, very few other TV watchers in India come across the action on DD. A whole generation of potential new fans are lost year after year. They start supporting the Lakers, Heat, Celtics and the Bulls. They rarely ever get the chance to cheer for India. Many of them aren't even aware that India has a team.

The FIBA Asia Championships are the most important basketball tournaments for India's Men and Women teams, so it is a no-brainer to prioritize them for broadcast. The FIBA feed has been decent, with good commentary and better production value than anything you'll find on Doordarshan. But there is other potentially exciting news ahead: for years, the launch of India's first-ever professional basketball league has been on the horizon. When the league eventually comes into existence, it will not survive without a growing supportive audience, and such as audience will not exist without regular, exciting, and well-programmed cable TV broadcasts. In the past, TV channels have been rightfully hesitant to invest on domestic basketball for the national audience, but if early experiments like the current championship on Neo Prime can be mildly successful, it may help pave the way for more channels to be interested in promoting the game further and supporting any future broadcast plans of the pro league.

Neo Prime's coverage has the potential to slowly (very slowly) start making a difference. From the moment it was announced by BFI that the games from the FIBA Asia Championship will be shown on Neo, a number of fans have been checking in daily to support those in the Philippines proudly sporting 'India' jerseys in action. Our players might not be the world's best or most exciting basketball stars, but they still represent our country several times a year. They need our support and we want to support them.

It's a win-win situation, just as long as the economics of broadcasting these shows can keep the TV channel happy. This is no charity case, and every programming decision is eventually about the bottom line: profits. So hopefully, the more fans tune in to watch the games, the more advertisers will support the broadcast, and in turn, the channels will be more likely to keep showing more games. Basketball audience in India is still quite young, so the process above is going to be a lot tougher than it sounds, but we must keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best ahead.

August 2, 2013

Thiruvanathapuram to host 1st Midhun Markose All India Basketball Tournament

"God's Own Country", India's southern state of Kerala, has long been known for being a hotbed for basketball, featuring some of the country's finest players and basketball tournaments. Yet, it took 13 years for an All India club tournament to return to the state's capital and largest city, Thiruvanathapuram. Starting from Sunday, August 4th, that wait will be over. The Thiruvanathapuram District Basketball Association (TDBA) will launch the first ever Midhun Markose TDBA All India Basketball Tournament for Men & Women at the Central Stadium in the city. The tournament, featuring seven Men's teams and four women's teams from across the nation, will be held from August 4-9.

Kerala's Minister of Health VS Sivakumar will be present as a special guest on the opening day of the matches to greet the players.

Here is the list of participating teams:


Group A: Indian Overseas Bank (Chennai), Vijaya Bank (Bangalore), Kerala Police (Thiruvanathapuram).
Group B: Indian Army, Customs & Central Excise (Kochi), KSEB (Thiruvanathapuram), Mar Baselios College of Engineering (Thiruvanathapuram).

Women: KSEB (Thiruvanathapuram), Kerala Police, Central Railway (Mumbai), South Western Railway (Hubli).

Although many of India's top male players are currently in Manila with the national team for the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, the tournament in Thiruvanathapuram should feature enough star power amongst the remaining male and female players.

The championship will reward a total prize money of Rs. 1.5 lakhs.