December 31, 2015

Neha Dhupia chilled with Jimmy Butler at the Bulls' win last night

Neha Dhupia is known for being Miss India, and for big roles in small films or small roles in big films. But in recent years, the Kochi born Bollywood actress is starting to make a name for herself in certain circles as one of the India's few celebrity NBA fans.

In a year when Abhishek Bachchan of all people became India's first major representative at the NBA All Star Weekend (he played bit minutes in the All Star Celebrity Game), Dhupia has followed in his footsteps to make an appearance at a couple of NBA games near the end of 2015. Last night, she visited the hallowed United Center in Chicago to watch the Bulls take on the Indiana Pacers.

The game turned out to be an exciting affair between the two strong Eastern Conference teams, eventually won by the Bulls in overtime after a heroic performance by their All Star guard Jimmy Butler. Butler scored a game-high 28 points, had several big plays in the clutch, and hit a huge late tip-in in OT to give the Bulls a 102-100 victory.

For his troubles, Butler's reward was a postgame meeting with Dhupia, and he also gave the actress a signed Bulls hat.

(Last I checked, Dhupia is a LeBron fan - from Miami to Cleveland. That may not go down too well with Butler).

So is there place in the 2016 All Star Celebrity Team for a former Femina Miss India? And can Dhupia extend her good-luck charming to Butler's Chicago teammate Derrick Rose as well? That guy's been a little under the weather over the past four years, that's all.

December 29, 2015

Boris Diaw's 2011 trip to India inspired him to become a serious wildlife photographer

Boris Diaw is a lot of things. He's a 6-foot-8 chubby remix of a ballerina on the basketball court who has shown the ability to play all five positions with equal clunky grace. He's a legend of the French national team, bagging big medals in international tournaments over the past decade. He's a crucial part of the funky and selfless depth for the NBA's San Antonio Spurs, a 2014 NBA champion who will be challenging for the title once again in 2016. He's a connoisseur of good food, good wine, and frogging.

He's also a serious wildlife photographer, who takes safari trips to Africa nearly every off-season and returns with a litter of wonderful images of animals and scenery observed by his expert eye and captured by his ever-improving camera skills. Back in 2012, ESPN profiled Diaw's fascination towards photography and shared some of his best images in an article by Theresa Manahan. The story also featured that how a 2011 trip to India as a photographer's intern boosted his love for the art.

Earlier this week, in an interview with CBS Sports' Ananth Pandian, Diaw further expanded on how India inspired him to become a serious wildlife photographer. Diaw accepted a week-long internship under National Geographic photographer Steve Winter, who went to India in 2011 to capture images of tigers at the famous Bandavgarh National Park in Umaria, Madhya Pradesh. Diaw 'passed' the internship with flying colours, which soon led to his own partnership with National Geographic.

Via CBS Sports

Diaw has been regularly going on safaris since his rookie year, taking pictures and marveling at the wildlife. In fact, it was after shadowing acclaimed National Geographic photographer Steve Winter on a trip to India to photograph tigers that Diaw took his passion for photography to next level. Winter complimented Diaw's work and encouraged him to continue taking pictures, so he did.

"The first step was that I reached out to the NBPA (NBA Players Association) to get in contact with National Geographic a few years ago because I wanted to do some kind of internship with them. They put me in touch with a photographer named Steve Winter, who takes a lot of photos of big cats like tigers.
When I was talking with him, he said that he was going to India on a Tuesday for a story on tigers. So I said I'm coming with and booked a flight for that Monday and went to India to take pictures with him. He told me that he first started doing kid books for Nat Geo kids before working with Nat Geo, so that also helped plant the seed for me to come out with a kids book.

With an area of 105 square kilometers, Bandhavgarh is one of the most popular national parks in India. The density of the tiger population at Bandhavgarh is one of the highest known in India, and the park also has a large number leopards and various species of deer.

Unfortunately, not much more is known of Diaw's week in India. Did he take a selfie with a real white tiger in honour of Aravind Adiga? Did he go out and try some Daal Bafla in Madhya Pradesh? Did he head over to Khajuraho and blush in front of the ancient erotic temples?

Ananth's article above won't have those answers, but you should skip over to CBS Sports to read the rest of the interview to learn about Diaw's passion for photography, animals, wildlife preservation, and more! Indian Spurs fans can have yet another reason to cheer along during Diaw's next "slow break".

December 28, 2015

2015: The Year in Indian Basketball

Bring on the fireworks and crank up the party music. Another year has come to an end and every passing moment leads the countdown closer to 2016. But before we look ahead at the future, let's look back and celebrate the past. Indian basketball's stock has been rising exponentially for the last few years, and 2015 became one of the biggest year's for the sport in the country so far.

There have been several major individual success stories, crucial off-court developments, and national and international team triumphs over the past 12 months, news that has been good, bad, ugly, or inspiring. Let's take a quick look back at the biggest India Basketball stories in 2015.

- India's most-prestigious domestic basketball trophy - the Senior National Championship - is usually scheduled to be at stake to kick off the year, and 2015 for Indian basketball began with the conclusion of the Senior Nationals in Bhilwara (Rajasthan) on January 5. In the Women's section, Chhattisgarh repeated after 2014's surprise win to once again win the gold. In the Men's tournament, 2013 champions Uttarakhand bounced back to reclaim their place at the top. Chhattisgarh's Poonam Chaturvedi recovered from a brain tumor to win the tournament's MVP in the women's division, while Uttarkhand's Amrit Pal Singh was the Men's MVP.

- Mumbai's prestigious invitational tournament Savio Cup held its 10th edition from January 11-18th and was won by ONGC (Men) and Chhattisgarh (Women).

- The Universal Basketball Alliance (UBA) acquired the rights to hold the All India Inter University Basketball Tournament. The Men's championship was held in Chennai and won by hometown Madras University on January 19. Former NBA player Cedric Ceballos came to India as a special guest for this tournament.

- WNBA and Olympic basketball champion Tamika Catchings was in India during the last week of January, and she was present to tip off the Mumbai city championship of the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Programme at the Dominic Savio School in Andheri East on Wednesday, January 28th.

- Bollywood superstar Abhishek Bachchan - one of the most recognizable faces of Indian cinema and a known supporter of basketball/NBA in India - was chosen for the roster of the Celebrity Game at the NBA All-Star Weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York on February 13. He wasn't very good.

- The basketball tournament of the 35th National Games in Kerala came to a conclusion on February 13 with Uttarkhand (Men) and hosts Kerala (Women) winning the respective titles.

- Also in Kerala about 10 days later, IOB (Men) and KSEB (Women) won the 2015 JCI Basketball Tournament at Athirampuzha.

- Former NBA player Shandon Anderson was randomly a chief guest at a sports fest in Bengaluru on March 11.

- Income Tax (Men) and Southern Railway (Women) won 2015 All India Jeppiaar Basketball Trophy at Chennai's Jeppiaar Institute of Technology on March 14.

- India's first and freshest basketball podcast - Hoopdarshan - was launched by yours truly! Co-hosted by Kaushik Lakshman and I, Karan Madhok, Hoopdarshan has dropped 23 episodes over the past nine months, featuring guests like Satnam Singh, Scott Flemming, Amjyot Singh, Francisco Garcia, JD Walsh, Prashanti Singh, and many more!

- The Basketball Federation of India's (BFI) backroom squabbles finally spilled all over into the national news. In late March, around the tip-off of the 2015 Federation Cup in Pune, two rival groups held two different Annual General Meetings (AGMs) on two consecutive days in two different cities (Bengaluru and Pune) to form two separate executive committees to head the BFI. The Bengaluru one appointed K Govindraj as President and Chander Mukhi Sharma as Secretary-General, while in Pune, Poonam Mahajan was named as President and Roopam Sharma as Secretary-General. For the rest of the year, the battle between Team Govindraj and Team Mahajan became the ugly backdrop that created an ugly blotch on the progress of Indian hoops.

- The 2015 Federation Cup concluded in Pune on April 2. ONGC (Men) made it a three-peat of titles, while Southern Railway (Women) won gold in their division.

- Sim Bhullar became the first player of Indian-origin to play in an NBA game, featuring in the dying seconds of the Sacramento Kings' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 7.

- Satnam Singh, the 7-footed teenage basketball phenom from Punjab in India, declared for the 2015 NBA Draft in late April.

- Sim Bhullar made his first official visit to his ancestral home in India with the NBA. He visited Mumbai, Noida, Amritsar, and Chandigarh between May 2-7, interacting with fans, visiting the Golden Temple, taking part in charity events, and conducting an NBA clinic at the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Elite National Camp.

- Scott Flemming, the Coach who guided India to a historic win over China in summer 2014, left the Indian national Men's team with an unmatched legacy after not renewing his contract with the BFI.

- The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) recognized Team Govindraj to be the rightful leaders of the BFI in late May, but the fiasco didn't clear up.

- Contracts of India's foreign coaches Francisco Garcia (Women's Senior National team) and Tommy Heffelfinger (Strength and Conditioning Coach) were not extended and the two left India at the end of May.

- India's Punjabi big man duo of Amjyot Singh and Amrit Pal Singh brought pride to the nation as they were selected to play for Hyogo Impulse in the Japan's BJ Summer League in early June.

- Aiming to give a voice to Indian basketball players - current and past - the Indian Basketball Players Association (IBPA) was officially formed in New Delhi in mid-June. The IBPA expanded to several other Indian cities through the course of the year.

- After continued infighting between different factions of the BFI over the control of the federation's executive committee, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs in India put on hold the conduct of all official basketball events in India in mid-June until the office bearers of the BFI would be recognized by the government. The two sides were called for a meeting in Mid-July (and several times thereafter) by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), but reconciliation consistently failed. In October, FIBA had to urge the Sports Ministry in India to grant immediate recognition to Team Govindraj.

- On June 25, Satnam Singh made history by becoming the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA. He was selected 52nd by the Dallas Mavericks.

- India hosted the 4th South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) Championship in Bengaluru and won it in style, with a perfect 5-0 record over Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka to qualify for the upcoming FIBA Asia Basketball Championship (ABC).

- Spaniard Francisco Garcia was temporarily reinstated by Team Govindraj and returned to coach India's Women's team for the FIBA Asia Women in early July.

- The Universal Basketball Alliance - UBA India - launched the 2015 UBA Basketball League to be held in Hyderabad from July 17 to July 30. Eight teams representing different Indian cities took part. The Chennai Slam won the inaugural edition of this tournament on July 30.

- Satnam Singh played in the Summer League for the Dallas Mavericks. He stumbled, stuttered, and took baby steps forward.

- Six Indian coaches were chosen for Basketball Without Borders programme in South Africa from July 29-August 1.

- In early August, Satnam Singh returned to India for the first time after being drafted for a fortnight. He toured the Golden Temple in Amritsar, spent time in his village Ballo Ke, returned to the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, the court where he first honed his game as a pre-adolescent. He trained young players in Punjab, Rajasthan, and more.

- China won the FIBA Asia U16 Championship again (in Medan, Indonesia). India went winless and fell to Level II.

- In mid August, Indian Army (Men) and Chhattisgarh (Women) won the PSG and CRI Pumps trophies in Coimbatore.

- Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh dominated Japan's Summer League and, as a reward, were both signed by Tokyo Excellence of Japan's Basketball D-League.

- Japan won 2015 FIBA Asia Women's Championship again in Wuhan (China); winless India fell to Level 2. One of the positives for India was the performance of Jeena PS, who scored 14.3 ppg for India and was one of the top young players at the tournament. Coach Garcia left India after this tournament.

- In mid-September, the IOA created an ad-hoc committee to oversee Indian Basketball and create a new executive committee for the BFI, but Team Govindraj - who had been leading the BFI for most of the year - called the committee 'illegal'.

- Rain disrupted the 2015 Youth (U16) Nationals in Bhavnagar (Gujarat). The final on September 21 was washed out and Tamil Nadu/Delhi (Boys) and Tamil Nadu/Chhattisgarh (Girls) were declared joint winners.

- At Asia's biggest Men's basketball tournament - the FIBA Asia Championship in Changhsa, China - hosts China romped their way to a gold medal at top, but India ended the tournament with something to smile about, too. Behind Amjyot Singh's breakout dominant performances, India made the quarter-final stage for the first time in 2003 and finished at an encouraging 8th place.

- At the 2015 Junior (U18) National Championship in Ludhiana (Punjab) which concluded on October 9, Tamil Nadu won the boys' gold while Chhattisgarh made it a threepeat in the girls' division.

- Income Tax (Chennai) won 2015 Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty Basketball Tournament in Bengaluru on October 11.

- The NBA in India partnered with ACG Worldwide Group to launch the 'ACG-NBA Jump' from October 26 in New Delhi. The programme is set to provide basketball players between the ages of 18-22 from around the country the opportunity to develop their skills and one top player from the programme would also receive the opportunity to attend the NBA Development League (NBA D-League) National Tryout in the United States Over three phases in the course of several months, the programme will choose the best players from six Indian cities, and then, sieve out the best from among the best to train him for the D-League tryout.

- India's largest interactive youth basketball festival - NBA Jam - tipped off its third season on October 28th in Jalandhar (Punjab). Satnam Singh and former NBA player Jason Richardson were among the guests to help promote the event around the country. This year's NBA Jam aimed at a record 24 Indian cities and more than a million young players.

- The 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Men was held in Jakarta (Indonesia) in early Novemnber. Korea won the tournament, ending China's monopoly in this championship. India's U16 team ended the tournament with a 2-3 record and dropped to 13th place.

- Satnam Singh was named to the roster of Dallas Mavericks' D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. He made his D-League debut on Legends' opening night.

- Calicut University of Malappuram (Kerala) won the 2015 All India Inter University Basketball Tournament for Women on November 19 in New Delhi.

- NBA India launched the 2015-16 season of the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme in Mumbai on December 9 with the promise to engage over 1.5 million young players in a record 14 cities. The programme will run till March 2016.

- WNBA star Briann January arrived in India on December 12 for ACG-NBA Jump camp in Mumbai.

- Member of India's U16 national team Harshwardhan Tomar - a 14-year-old center/forward from Madhya Pradesh - joined the Stellazzurra Basketball Academy in Rome (Italy). If he performs will, he could land a full scholarship to study and play basketball in Italy on a long term basis.

It was indeed a year to remember for India's individual potential, as the big Punjabi Singhs - Satnam, Amjyot, Amrit Pal - took big strides to further their careers as professional players. Meanwhile, the NBA continued to expand its presence in India, while the UBA introduced themselves as new players in the puzzle. India's international FIBA performances were a mixed bag, but even the positives abroad were overshadowed by drama at home, where the fighting factions of the BFI placed politics ahead of basketball.

Overall, the outlook for the future looks better than the past, and hopefully the smog of political drama can clear up so that Indian basketball can continue soaring higher in 2016. Happy New Year everyone!

December 27, 2015

The NBA All Stars we deserve

Even though his performances this season have been inherently the exact opposite of what defines a 'star'm we can't talk about the NBA All Star Game without talking about Kobe Bryant. The Kobe Bryant who has been of the NBA's greatest ever players and winners and is now in his amazing 20th season in the league. The Kobe Bryant who plays for one of the league's most popular franchises and has been an NBA All Star 17 times. The Kobe Bryant who has a record four All Star MVP awards, started more games than anyone (14), scored more points in the game than anyone (280) and was even a Slam Dunk champion at the 1998 All Star Weekend.

That Kobe Bryant has aged and suffered injuries and is not a good or efficient basketball player anymore. After two decades, he has announced his farewell to the game of basketball, and as the horizon nears to the end of his career, his fans grew more fervent in their idol worship. He doesn't deserve to be an All Star this season. But as the first returns of the fan ballot indicate, he is - unsurprisingly, as one of the most popular players in history - going to be an All Star this season.

Kobe is leading the fan voting so far by a fan margin, far ahead of the NBA's new golden child Stephen Curry and with more votes than LeBron James and Kevin Durant combined. The balance between 'deserving' and 'popular' players has forever been a matter of debate in the fan community, and even though I believe that only the most deserving 12 players per conference should be All Stars, I vote for my favourite players (whether they deserve it or not) when I fill the ballot!

So yes, Kobe Bryant is going to be an All Star this season. But before we accept and embrace that eventuality, let's celebrate the NBA's top players through the first two months of the season and name the players who actually deserve to make the 2016 NBA All Star teams in Toronto.

  • Starters: Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James, Paul George, Andre Drummond.
  • Bench: Avery Bradley, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Paul Millsap, Kemba Walker.
LeBron James is so brilliant that despite being the best player in the East so far, the four-time MVP is being overlooked because of the high standards he has set for himself. His Cavs have the best record in the conference. Paul George bounced back from a terrible leg injury better than ever, and would've been the NBA's most amazing stories had it not been for the Warriors' blistering start. Kyle Lowry has carried the Raptors to the best record in the Atlantic Division and is the unlikely best point guard in the East right now. He will get a lot of home-team love in Toronto. Jimmy Butler is one of the best two-way players in the league as he leads the Bulls in scoring while also being their hardest-working anchor on defense. Andre Drummond is a double-double machine and has racked up 20-20 games this season, too. He currently enjoys a huge lead in the rebounding bracket over the rest of the league.

Don't be shocked that I named Avery Bradley as an All Star. The 16-13 Celtics have played surprisingly well this season, and while Isaiah Thomas has been their team's leading scorer, Bradley has been the team's most consistent performer on both ends of the floor. Carmelo Anthony continues to do what he does for the Knicks, putting up big scoring numbers on a mediocre team. Pau Gasol has been the Bulls' second-best player after Butler and is one of the team's most consistent performers night to night. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have both played at a high level all season and deserve to be All Stars for the surging Heat. The Atlanta Hawks, as usual, are chugging steadily along, and their points/rebounds leader Paul Millsap has been the team's best player. Kemba Walker has enjoyed a fantastic breakout year so far for the Hornets and should become an All Star for the first time in his career.

  • Starters: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin.
  • Bench: James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins, Dirk Nowitzki, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Chris Paul, LaMarcus Aldridge.
Most of the West starters are no-brainers. Stephen Curry is a basketball supernova right now, the best player on planet Earth, and the MVP favourite by a wide margin. Kawhi Leonard has been absolutely brilliant as well, and second only to Curry as my MVP favourite this season. He's scoring a team and career high in points and is the reigning DPOY might be a DPOY favourite again. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have carried the Thunder mostly on their exceptional talent alone, and take turns from night to night alternating as the MVP favourites of their own team. While the Clippers have been a little slower out the gates this year, Blake Griffin hasn't skipped a beat, and has shown the ability to be unstoppable offensively on most nights.

Despite the Rockets' slow start, they have found some semblance of form of late on the back of James Harden, who continues to pour in MVP-type numbers on the offensive end. Ditto can be said about DeMarcus Cousins who has performed exceptionally well for a Sacramento team that started slow but has improved a little off late, especially when he is on the floor. Dirk Nowitzki refuses to age, climbing up to sixth in the NBA's All Time scoring records while his Mavericks continue to be a pleasant surprise early in the season. Draymond Green may be one of the most important players in the NBA, an elite defender capable of guarding all five positions in the league, the assists leader of his own team, and a player capable of putting up double-doubles on a regular basis. Green keeps the stellar Warriors chugging along, and his teammate Klay Thompson has pushed his own form to the elite level in recent weeks to be considered for All Star status again. Chris Paul is slightly slower but still one of the best PGs in the NBA for the Clippers, while LaMarcus Aldridge continues to become a better fit for the 25-6 Spurs game after game in the post.

Snubs: Kevin Love, Reggie Jackson, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis... and Kobe Bryant!

Well, the lists above are the players who I feel have performed at either a) the highest level, b) at a high level for the best teams or c) both. But when I fill my own fan ballot, I don't necessarily vote for the starters as mentioned above. Once again, I have continued my tradition of voting for players best on bias and favouritism instead of talent and value. Here is how I've filled out my own All Star ballots:

East: Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol.
West: Ricky Rubio, Deron Williams, Metta World Peace, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins.

Don't ask me for an explanation; these are my favourite players - you can have your own!

December 25, 2015

FIBA referees clinic to be held during India's Senior Nationals from January 14-16

The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) in association with the Karnataka State Basketball Association (KSBBA) will be organizing the FIBA Asia Development Plan - Referees clinic at Mysore, Karnataka from January 14-16, 2016. The clinic will be conducted by Heros Avanesian, Head of Competition – Asia, International Basketball Federation, FIBA Asia.

As per the FIBA Asia directives & guidelines it is mandatory for all National and FIBA Active referees to participate in the clinic.

Keeping with past practice, the clinic will be held alongside the Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women at the Chamundi Vihar Indoor Stadium in Mysore from January 9-16, 2016.

Indian youth basketball prospect Harshwardhan Tomar joins Italy's Stellazzurra Academy

Harshwardhan Tomar had a year to remember, and as we close the chapter on 2015, his ascent, potential, and success mirrored the story of India basketball as a whole.

Tomar, a 14-year-old 6-foot-7 power-forward/center, who hails from Madhya Pradesh's Bhind district and was a starter for India's U16 team at the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship, received news earlier this week that he has been recruited to the Stellazzurra Basketball Academy in Rome (Italy). Tomar will become the first Indian national to have this opportunity in Italy and joins a growing list of young Indian talents who have started to make their mark in basketball programmes abroad this year. Tomar, who was scouted by Stellazzurra based on his talent and potential at the U16 FIBA ABC, has been invited to train at the academy for the next three months. If he can impress his academy's coaches, he will land a full scholarship to study and play basketball in Italy on a long term basis.

Based out of Rome, Italy, the Stellazzurra Basketball Academy has been in existence since 1938. The Stella Azzura basketball club plays in the third division Serie B in Italy. Current NBA player Andrea Bargnani - the 2006 number one draft pick - is a notable alumnus of the academy.

The Academy is known to focus on international talent and already has players from 19 different countries. Among other facilities, the Academy boasts of three basketball courts, a swimming pool, a physical work area, player analysis rooms, boarding facilities for up to 50 players, a canteen, an external playground, homework area. Their recruitment programme from the Asian region began a year ago and continues to grow with its network of talent scouts in the region. The Academy also recruits players from Europe and Northern Africa. It emphasizes education alongside basketball for its recruits and has a tie up with the Marymount International School in the city.

As he rose to prominence for Madhya Pradesh's Sub-Junior team this year, Tomar was scouted and chosen for India's U16 roster that headed to Jakarta (Indonesia) for the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship. His per-game stats (5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks per game) weren't eye-popping, but Tomar started and played big minutes for the Indian team that finished at 13th place in the tournament and did enough to impress scouts with his potential, size, and athleticism. He received attention from many European clubs, but ultimately picked Stellazzurra for their reputation of developing international talents.

Tomar flew out of India on Wednesday, December 23. He will be training with the Academy team, and playing in some unofficial matches to gain exposure and adjust to the system in Europe. Depending on how he does, he would be invited for full-time Academy student.

"It will be a little bit different," Tomar said on taking his talents abroad, "But I am focused towards my ultimate target of playing in the NBA."

Stellazzurra's Basketball Academy Operations Manager for Asia, Mauro Matteo, said, “The arrival of Harsh at Stellazzurra Academy is the first piece of the puzzle we started building a year ago together with Director of Basketball Operations, Giacomo Rossi. Despite the competition from top European clubs, we managed to make it clear to everyone involved in Harsh's decision that our programme on the guy goes beyond creating a top player for European level, it also means giving him an academic of the highest level. We want to give him a chance to be master of his destiny. Recruiting the No. 1 prospect of a country that is interested in basketball like India, with a population of 1 billion three hundred million people, could mean huge showcase for Stellazzurra Basketball Academy, but above all the chance to play a key-role in a very important geographic area."

Stellazzurra's Director of Basketball Operations, Giacomo Rossi said, “One of the goals we have to implement our Academy is to explore some 'basketball market' little known but of enormous potential. To be able to start already with a very interesting player from a country like India is very exciting. For us it's a chance to improve ourselves even at home, now we will have a guy from another culture more than those already host. We will be able to make him feel at once a “stellino” to start technical, physical and academic work about him."

Tomar’s imminent international move comes on the heels of numerous Indian talents who have quietly moved abroad for exposure at the high school, college and professional level. In June, Punjab's Satnam Singh became the first Indian to be drafted to the NBA when he went 52nd in the 2015 NBA Draft to the Dallas Mavericks. He's now playing for the Mavericks' D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. Two other Punjabi young giants - Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh - were chosen to play in the Japanese BJ Summer League earlier this year and are now playing professionally for Tokyo Excellence of Japan's D-League. There are also other Indian basketballers who have privately pursued opportunities at the school and college level. Prominent among them is Kavita Akula (India women’s point guard who has joined a junior college in Kansas) and Ambati Prudhvishwar Reddy (junior Indian men’s team who joined a Barcelona based Academy before switching to a high school in the US).

Speaking about the positive development, president of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) K Govindaraj said, "This is a big step for Indian basketball and its players. This recognition will only help spread the game across India as more families gain a better understand of the benefits of basketball. We wish Harsh the best luck and we look forward to his continued success."

December 16, 2015

2015 Kerala Basketball Championship: Title for Ernakulum Men and Thiruvanthapuram Women

Although the 60th Kerala Senior State Basketball Championship for Men and Women started off with multiple contenders and exciting talent from across the spectrum of districts in the state, the conclusion of the 2015 edition of the tournament was much like how the tournament concluded one year ago. The championship ended on the evening of Tuesday, December 15, at Kanhangad with familiar faces raising the winners' trophy. With victories in their respective Finals, Ernakulum Men and Thiruvanathapuram Women repeated their feats from last year and retained their titles to be crowned champions of Kerala once again.

The championship was held at the Green Valley School in Kanhangad.

Anchored by three Senior Internationals - Jeena PS, Anjana PG and Stephy Nixon - Thiruvanathapuram defeated Palakkad 57-44 to retain the Women's title on Tuesday. Nixon scored 18 while Jeena added 17 for the winning side. Thiruvanathapuram led by 39-28 at halftime and held on to their lead in a defensive second half to secure the victory.

In the boys' final, spearheaded with the experience players from Customs and Central Excise in Kochi, Ernakulum defeated the young outfit of Kozhikode 54-38. Internationally-experienced player Basil Philip was the lead scorer in the game, pacing Ernakulum with 18.

In the bronze medal games earlier in the day, Thiruvanathapuram Men defeated Kottayam 46-32 to finish at third place. Thrissur Women were paced by Grima Merlin Varghese's 22 points en route to their 50-45 bronze medal victory over Kozhikode.

The Kerala State Basketball Association (KSBA) honoured the state's representatives to India's national teams in the 2015 calendar year, including coaches Sebastian PJ and Aju Jacob and players Jeena PS, Stephy Nixon, Anjana PG, Poojamol KS, Basil Philip, Muhammed Shiras and Joshua J George.

December 14, 2015

India's first NBA draft pick Satnam Singh awarded by US India Chamber of Commerce

When Satnam Singh became the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of fans in the country of a billion went nuts. It was a watershed moment in Indian basketball history, and Satnam's achievement connected with every basketball and NBA fan back home.

But his drafting struck a special crowd with yet another audience. Satnam was picked by the Dallas Mavericks, a franchise with a relatively successful recent basketball history and positive management. He was also brought to an area with one of the largest populations of Indian-Americans in the USA. Dallas and Fort Worth together in Texas is home to over a hundred thousand people of Indian descent, ensuring that Satnam would never be too far away from a familiar accent or a plate of fresh samosas.

On Satnam's 20th birthday - December 10th - he received an extra special gift. The US-India Chamber of Commerce (USICOC), based out of Dallas-Fort Worth, held their 16th Annual Awards Banquet on December 10th, and Satnam was invited to receive an award in 'Outstanding Industry Leadership in Sports and Entertainment'. He shared the stage with several Indian-origin dignitaries at the event, and even got a chance to speak to Desiplaza TV. Check out his interview below.

USICOC is a non-profit organization created by Americans of Indian origin wanting to further encourage and facilitate trade between the United States and India. In addition to international trade, the USICOC promotes commerce in local markets, helping member companies network and grow their businesses, sell to mainstream America as well as other Indian Businesses and do business with local, state and federal government agencies.

Satnam was drafted 52nd by the Mavericks in June this year and is currently playing for their affiliate team in the NBA D-League, the Texas Legends.

December 13, 2015

Hoopdarshan Episode 22: Coach JD Walsh observes the ascent of Indian Basketball

In 2007, after coaching around the world from the USA to China and Europe, JD Walsh descended to India. Walsh's "JDBasketball" movement spread quickly to all corners of the country, influencing thousands of Indian players and coaches. On Episode 22 of the Hoopdarshan podcast, Walsh joins hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok to talk about the past, present, and future of Indian Basketball, the state of his hometown New York Knicks, and the Pandavs starting 5 from The Mahabharat.

JD Walsh is an American basketball coach who graduated and played for the University of Maryland before coaching everywhere from High School and professional training in the USA to worldwide camps, clubs, and work with national teams in eight countries on three continents. He has received funding from the US Dept. of State as a 'sports diplomat', has worked with several NGOs, and has taken coaching clinics of Indian coaches to train them in the US at the George Mason University. He's now based between New York and DC. Over 15,000 participants have been involved in the JDBasketball school around the world. In India, Walsh has worked in all four corners of the country, conducting over 75 camps in cities such as Srinagar, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Midnapore, Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune, Patiala, and Trivandrum for over 5,000 Indian youth. He's currently based in New York.

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

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

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    Budding UP basketball player commits suicide after suffering harassment

    A budding basketball life in Uttar Pradesh was tragically cut short in Kanpur yesterday. Arzoo Shukla, an 18-year-old Class 12 student, was the captain of her school basketball team, played for UP state at the national level, and won a silver medal at an All India school tournament in Gujarat earlier this year. But harassment by an acquaintance and family conflicts led her to depression, and eventually, suicide, on Saturday, December 12th.

    Since the event is so recent, the news is still murky and there's a big gap between the alleged facts and the truth. But it was reported in various media outlets this morning that Shukla's body was found hanging at her house in Kanpur's Chakeri area, a day after her classmate - Dinesh Sankhwar - allegedly attempted to rape her. Her brother Shiva first reported finding her body hanging from the ceiling fan in her bedroom.

    Just a day earlier, Shiva had lodged an FIR against Sankahvar, accusing him of a rape attempt. Times NOW reported that there may have been some disagreements between brother and sister about Deepesh or Arzoo's depression over the harassment/rape attempt that led to her suicide.

    Whatever the cause, it was unsavoury, and it needlessly led to the tragic early end of a very youthful life. Basketball in Kanpur, in Uttar Pradesh, and all over India has lost a young talent, and more importantly, a family has lost a daughter and a sister. There is an imminent need in the country for further conversation about support and care for victims of harassment and depression before it gets too late - as it was in Arzoo's case.

    December 11, 2015

    WNBA star Briann January arrives in India for ACG-NBA Jump camp in Mumbai

    The search for a diamond in India's populated haystack, for the first player from the country to make an NBA debut, continues this week in Mumbai. The next iteration of the 'ACG-NBA Jump' - a talent search programme organized by NBA India to find the country's best young player for a chance at an NBA D-League tryout - will be held on Saturday, December 12, at the Central Railway Ground in Parel. While dozens of young Indian aspirants are expected to show up to make the final cut of the programme, there will also be a special guest from across the pond to help mentor and inspire the players.

    Briann January, point guard for the WNBA's Indiana Fever and a former WNBA champion and All Star, arrived in India early on Friday and is expected to observe the showcase of young talents at the Mumbai leg of the ACG-NBA Jump.

    January was a star in college for the Arizona State University and was drafted sixth by the Fever in the 2009 WNBA Draft. She was an essential starter in the Fever side that won the 2012 WNBA championship and was named to her first WNBA All Star Team in 2014. She has also played internationally in Israel and Turkey.

    Aside from attending the ACG-Jump camp, I'm sure that January may also be invited to attend other NBA India events in or around Mumbai, like the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme.

    The ACG-NBA Jump programme is set to provide basketball players between the ages of 18-22 from around the country the opportunity to develop their skills and one top player from the programme would also receive the opportunity to attend the NBA Development League (NBA D-League) National Tryout in the United States. The programme would be split into three phases. In the first phase, six regional, one-day elite camps will be held in six cities: Delhi (Oct 26), Chandigarh (Nov 21), Hyderabad (Nov 28), Mumbai (Dec 12), Kolkata (Jan 9), and Chennai (Jan 16). The second phase would consist of a national elite training camp where 32 players selected from the six regional camps would assemble for a four-day training period. In the third and final phase, one top player from the national elite training camp would be selected to attend the NBDL Tryout in the USA for the opportunity to earn a spot on a D-League roster. The selected player would continue to undergo training up until the tryout in June 2016. Sony SIX, the official broadcaster of the NBA in India, will create a feature around ACG-NBA Jump, following the programme through its various stages and tracking the winner till his NBA D-league tryout.

    December 10, 2015

    300+ schools to participate as 2015-16 Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme tipped off in Mumbai

    The new season of the national Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme in India started in late September in Kerala with ambitions to reach over 1.5 million Indian youth in thousands of schools around the country. As the programme shifted its attention to Mumbai this week, it's incredible reach to young Indian basketball enthusiasts continues to grow. In Mumbai, the 2015-16 Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme tipped off on Wednesday, December 9, at the Dominic Savio School in Andheri East.

    After a 'Train the Trainers' programme at Goshala Municipal School in Mumbai on December 5, the programme launched in full swing on Wednesday at the Dominic Savio School with 300 participating schools, including 180 Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) schools.

    The programme, a comprehensive youth basketball initiative that applies the values of basketball to positively impact the lives of Indian boys and girls, expects to engage more than 1.5 million boys and girls and 2,700 physical education instructors and coaches in 2015-16. After being hosted in eight cities last year, the programme will expand to a further 14 for 2015-16: Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Chennai, Delhi, Kochi, Kottayam, Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Lucknow and Hyderabad. It will run until March 2016.

    “We are delighted that the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program is expanding to more cities and reaching more children,” said Reliance Foundation Head Jagannata Kumar. “This programme has used the sport of basketball to greatly impact the lives of Indian children. We are grateful to the NBA for sharing their world-class expertise and resources, and to the schools, coaches and physical education instructors who continue to support this initiative.”

    “The Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme continues our goal of providing Indian youth with a platform to stay active and learn the values of basketball, including leadership, teamwork, and healthy living,” said NBA India Vice President & Managing Director Yannick Colaco. “On the heels of Sim Bhullar becoming the first player of Indian descent to play in the NBA and Satnam Singh becoming the first Indian-born player to be drafted into the NBA, children in India are as excited as ever about trying the game, and the growth of our program will ensure we get basketballs in the hands of even more boys and girls across the country.”

    The programme, which remains free for participants, will include a train the trainer initiative for local coaches, in-school basketball clinics, elite training camps and finals in each city featuring 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 competitions. NBA International Basketball Operations staff will be based in each of the cities for three months to oversee the program. Each participating school will receive essential equipment to encourage and facilitate participation among its students, including an India-specific coaching guide with curricula for in-school and after-school programs, basketballs, cones, and a Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA poster. In addition, each participating city will host three youth oriented basketball festivals featuring mini hoops for kids aged 6-10.

    More than 1 million youth in over 1,000 schools across nine cities have participated in the program since its launch in 2013. In addition, more than 15,000 basketballs and 300 basketball rims have been distributed and installed through the program, and NBA International Basketball Operations staff has trained more than 2,000 physical education teachers across the country.

    December 9, 2015

    Supreme Courts: No Sleep in Nagpada

    This feature was first published in my column for Ekalavyas on November 6, 2015. Click here to read the original article.

    The gates to the Late Bachookhan Municipal Playground in Nagpada remain closed – bolted and locked – when a sputter of half dozen children of all shapes and sizes show up outside. It’s still only 5:15 PM and the court isn’t destined to be opened till 5:30. While they wait, the children talk smack to each other in a mixture of Hindi, Marathi, and local Mumbai slang, goats and chicken excuse themselves and wade their way across the road, the sounds of bouncing basketball are only overshadowed by honking cars on the main road, and the smell of some of the best kebabs in the city floats across the thick air.

    Minutes before the most storied basketball court in Mumbai – and perhaps, one of the most famous courts in all of India – opens up for another evening of hoops, the entire neighbourhood seems to descend around its four walls. They come from high-risers, they come from chawls, and they come from slums, but all together, they come for their united love for basketball.


    Apart from being the country’s financial capital, Mumbai is one of India’s most passionate basketball cities. In the Maximum City, basketball truly never stops all year round. Top national championships like the Ramu Memorial Basketball Tournament (RMBT) and the Savio Cup hit the city every spring with a bang. Invitational tournaments in Andheri, Bandra, Ghatkopar, and more dot the city’s basketball landscape. Whenever there is a major grassroots basketball event in India – like the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme, NBA Jam, the discontinued NBA Mahindra Challenge, BFI/Reliance School/College leagues, or visits from NBA superstars – Mumbai is always among the first city’s on the itinerary. Bollywood is nearby, and celebrities like Abhishek Bachchan, Neetu Chandra, and more get into the act around the city to promote the game, too. Strong pick-up games can be found in playgrounds around the city, from Mastan to Andheri and Bandra to Dadar, and more. When the NBA opened its official India office, it chose Mumbai as its host.

    But Mumbai – like its ‘maximum’ nickname – is a city that goes further than you think it does, and then a little more. Dig a little deeper into the city, away from the posh South Mumbai neighbourhoods, the high-risers, the hustle and bustle of capitalism, the jam-packed local trains, the celebrity homes, and the scores of humans that live in the popular residential neighbourhoods in the North or the suburbs, and you’ll find Nagpada. And in this region – little known to many in the city – you’ll find more passion for basketball than almost anywhere else in the country.

    Wading through the thin streets of this neighbourhood, you are faced with a zoo of animals, an apothecary of different scents both delightful and disgusting, mounds of trash, mouth-watering restaurants, hordes of passing crowds, and a myriad of colours and culture. But the last thing you expect to find here is a basketball court. And yet, there stands the Bachookhan Municipal Playground, hope to the Nagpada Basketball Association (with the swagger-rific acronym of NBA), the birthing place of some of India’s finest basketball players, host to many of Mumbai’s top basketball tournaments, and a safe haven from the chaos outside.

    Nagpada today primarily is home to the city’s Muslim population in its various chawls around the court. It was in the 50s that American missionaries introduced basketball to the city and to the locals in this neighbourhood, and the foundation stone for this court were laid a decade later. Soon, the court became the heartbeat of the mohalla, and while the rest of the country swayed towards other sports, Nagpada’s biggest icons were its basketball players.

    Over the years, Nagpada’s storied court produced many great players, such as former India captain and Arjuna Award winner Abbas Moontasir, Afzal Khan, and eight Chhatrapati Award winners. Noor Khan, the Secretary of the NBA, further told me that there have been a total of 22 India internationals and more than a hundred players who have played at the national level to have honed their game at this court.

    The court received several major facelifts in the 70s and then in the ensuing decades, most recently by its namesake NBA (America’s National Basketball Association) in 2007, who revamped the ground with a fresh rubber turf.

    Khan said that many All India tournaments have been hosted in Nagpada over the years, and in the current day, the court hosts the Nagpada Invitational Tournament. Celebrities of the big and small screen are known to make regular visits, too. On big nights – when there are major tournaments, national-level players, or rivalry games against the Mastan players nearby – thousands of fans rush in to provide the most electric and unique atmosphere you’ll find at any basketball event in India.

    In the past, the court and the neighbourhood also gained notoriety for being a home to some of India’s underworld criminals, such as Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel, Aalam Zeb, Ahmed Kashmiri, Asif Baatla, and more. For decades, the little neighbourhood played host to mafia activities, street fights, shootouts, and police encounters. In an interview with Mid Day, basketball legend Moontasir mentioned that even the gangsters were united into neighbourhood activities through basketball and didn’t act to harm the mohalla or its favourite sport.

    In recent years, however, a different type of problem has afflicted the basketball activities at the court: many individuals have moved into jhoparpattis, or slums, around the court, and NBA secretary Khan claimed that the court’s attendance and attraction has taken a hit due to them. This is a two-fold problem: the local government authorities haven’t done enough to provide social security or alternative living options to the poorest members of our society, and now, they aren’t acting to assist the community who are complaining against it, either.


    Sharp at 5:30, the gate is opened by a woman who lives – ironically – in a jhoparpatti, and children storm inside eager to get their first shots up for the day. The children are from high-risers in Nagpada, from the chawls, and from the slums, too, and they all know the language and rules of basketball. Social structures are broken and basketball fundamentals temporarily provide a refreshing even ground.

    Earlier in the evening, the ‘mini’ level talent – kids under 14 – play games among each other and then are coached by seniors who play in the same court. They play with extreme enthusiasm and a sharp sense of the game, instilled early in their lives through regular clashes on court. The ‘minis’ are followed by the youth players, many of whom have dreams that the game will be a way out to find financial stability through a government job one day. The senior team rolls in last with their eye-catching basketball gifts and athleticism. The court has made them into great players, and they keep slogging here every day to continue to get better.

    Across the road from Nagpada, less than a two minute walk away from the Bachookhan Ground, is the Mastan neighbourhood, and their own famous Mastan YMCA court. This is a larger, better maintained space, and because of the close vicinity of the two basketball communities, a heated rivalry has grown between teams of the two courts over several decades. In interviews with many old and young players, I was told that the rivalry started in the 60s and 70s and still continues – though not as feverishly as before – into present day. Once the game finishes however, the off-court friendships of the two neighbourhoods thaw out the icy relations of the game.

    Until recently, the Bachookhan Ground was known to encourage participation of several excellent girls’ teams, too, who competed well against the best in the city. In recent years, however, female basketball participation in Nagpada has unfortunately dwindled away. I wasn’t given any clear answers to why this happened: the girls claimed that they wanted to play but the community elders frowned upon them, NBA officials said that many parents didn’t feel it was appropriate for their daughters to be playing the game, and parents simply pointed the fingers back at the community at large. Whatever the reason, the unfortunate loser has been the growth of girls’ basketball, which could be brimming with potential in Nagpada.


    The night grows deeper. It is past dinner time for many and past bedtime for some. Outside the court, the darkness hides hints of menace in its shadows, but none of it seems to effect the basketball community-at-large. The game goes on, unabated. Players sweat, run, shoot, hustle, and sweat some more.

    At 11 PM, the Bachhookhan Ground is finally cleared out. Balls stop bouncing and the floodlights are turned off. Despite the fervent requests of the game’s biggest addicts, the gates are locked and bolted and basketball ends for the night.

    But even after the court closes, basketball doesn’t sleep. The game haunts the dreams of the players – young and old – who can only think of returning to play the next day again. Because in Nagpada, even when the game stops on court, it remains the heartbeat of this basketball-crazed neighbourhood.

    And just before 5:30 PM the next day, a crowd of enthusiastic ballers line up outside the gate again. They cheer, and they holler, and then the gates open for another day of hoops.


    Late Bachookhan Municipal Playground – Nagpada, Mumbai: Fact-Box
    • Constructed: circa 1960s.
    • Major Renovations: By the city in 1970s, and by the NBA in 2007.
    • Major Tournament hosted: Nagpada Invitational Tournament, usually in November/December.
    • Top international talents from the court: Abbas Moontasir, Afzal Khan, 8 Chhatrapati Award winners, 22 India internationals.
    • Fan capacity: Around 2000-3000.
    • Local Team: Nagpada, overseen by the Nagpada Basketball Association (NBA).
    • Entry cost: Free!
    • Court opening timings: 17:30 – 23:00 daily.

    December 7, 2015

    Soaring up, Crashing Down - 6 NBA early season surprises and shocks

    Before the season began, NBA fans and analysts such as myself had rough premonitions of how the future could unfold, of which teams would perform well and which ones will disappoint. While those at the top (Warriors) and the bottom (76ers) have fallen in their predictable places, there has been a lot of unforeseen movement of teams in the middle.

    Click here for my post on SportsKeeda, on the teams soaring up and crashing down in surprises and shocks early in the 2015-16 NBA season.

    December 3, 2015

    Indian basketball family raises Rs. 2.75 lakhs for player Sandeep Singh's brain tumour surgery

    As the Ekalavyas Facebook page photo caption so succinctly and beautifully put in, faith in humanity has been restored.

    A few months ago, Punjab's basketball player Sandeep Singh was diagnosed with a brain tumour which needed a surgery. Being from a low-income household, there was no way that Sandeep or his family could afford the 2 lakh rupees required for his life-saving surgery. So his close friend and basketball player Kuldiptita Tita turned to social media to plea for help in late November.

    Tita's post went viral, and the Indian basketball family, from the star players to organizers and fans, responded in hordes. In less than a week, Ekalavyas reported that Rs. 2.75 lakhs were raised for Sandeep, who was admitted to hospital for surgery on November 30th.

    Kudos to Tita for keeping track of the donations and supporting Sandeep through this whole process. India national team captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi also helped the efforts by promoting the fund-raising campaign and getting together other national players to donate money.

    I wish the best to Sandeep for his future, and I'm glad that in the Indian basketball family has come together to show their strength and support for each other.

    December 2, 2015

    Dear Kobe: A song in 8 * 24

    Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest, most popular, and most intriuging basketball players of All Time announced his retirement at the end of this NBA season a few days ago, via a poem entitled ‘Dear Basketball’ on The Players Tribune.

    Here is my song for Kobe - on SportsKeeda.

    December 1, 2015

    Hoopdarshan Episode 21: From Bengaluru to Team India with Coach GRL Prasad

    For decades, Coach R L Prasad Guntupalli - known popularly as GLR Prasad - has been a popular face in the Indian basketball circles, from club-level competitions in Bengaluru to advising from the bench as Team India defeated China in Wuhan last year. On Episode 21 of Hoopdarshan, Prasad joins hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok to talk being Scott Flemming's assistant for the Men's National team, coaching India to victory at 2015 SABA Qualifiers, and the growing basketball scene in Karnataka. Additionally, Kaushik and Karan talk in great detail about the exciting new NBA season, including the Warriors, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett.

    Prasad was the assistant of India's former Head Coach Scott Flemming for two and a half years and is currently coaching the Indian Army team. He regularly works in the school, college, and senior club circuit in Karnataka. In our interview, he discussed Team India's improvement to 8th place the recent FIBA Asia Championship and his hopes for the future of Indian basketball. In the NBA section of our discussion, the Hoopdarshan hosts tackle numerous topics, like rooting for Stephen Curry, our growing Kawhi Leonard mancrushes, the Rockets impatient firing of Kevin McHale, and why Tim Duncan is like a glass of pure Himalayan water.

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

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

    Hoopdarshan can be found on...

      New cycle of FIBA Coaching Certification courses successfully underway across India

      For the third consecutive year, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has sent their expert basketball instructor Nelson Isley to continue the teaching of FIBA Coaching Certification courses in India in an attempt to spread the highest level of basketball teaching to as many Indian coaches as possible. This year, Level 1 and Level 2 courses began on November 18th and will conclude on December 20th, with five Indian cities on the schedule of FIBA and the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

      Two Level 1 courses have already concluded in Lucknow and Bengaluru, while three Level 2 courses are scheduled to be held in Chandigarh, Hyderabad, and Kolkata from Thursday, December 3 onwards. Each clinic is a 5-day course of 2 sessions per day, consisting of theoretical as well as practical sessions and also includes a written and practical evaluation.

      These courses are being held in line with BFI and FIBA’s long-term coaching development strategy, and active interest has been shown in current and aspiring basketball coaches from around India who hope to coach the national team or help develop basketball in the grassroots. FIBA's Nelson Isley has over 40 years of international basketball experience as a player, coach and instructor. This is the American's fifth visit in India after several such clinics in the past.

      The BFI stated that, compared to previous years, this time around, the emphasis is on practical demonstration as against theory. Coaches themselves are being made to showcase their skills on the court.

      “There’s one thing certain about life, that if you can’t do something [yourself] you can’t teach it,” said Isley, "Indian coaches are very interested in learning… and have been very respectful… The hope is that eventually not only will you get Indian players that are ‘exportable’ so to speak… but that India can become an exporter of coaches.”

      Isley confirmed that India, along with China, Nigeria, South Africa and Brazil, are priority countries for FIBA because of their sizeable populations and high number of talented athletes.

      Previous years’ clinics were conducted in Mumbai (Level 1), Ranchi (Level 1), Delhi (Level 1 & 2), Chennai (Level 1 & 2), Hyderabad (Level 1), Chandigarh (Level 1), Ahmedabad (Level 1), Assam (Level 1), Kochi (Level 1), Ludhiana (Level 1), Patna (Level 1), and Pune (Level 1).

      Not including the coaches who are expected to clear the 2015 clinics, there are currently 212 Level 1 and 27 Level 2 certified coaches in the country.

      Schedule of 2015 FIBA Coaching Certification Courses
      • Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) - November 18-22 - Level 1.
      • Bengaluru (Karnataka) - November 25-29 - Level 1.
      • Chandigarh - December 3-8 - Level 2.
      • Hyderabad (Telangana) December 10-15 - Level 2.
      • Kolkata (West Bengal) December 16-20 - Level 2.