NBA Academy India: A Review & Top prospects

On 28th July 2020, during the much-maligned COVID-19 outbreak, news broke that a promising Indian athlete had been selected to play in the NBA G League next season. The fact that Princepal Singh, a 19-year-old forward from Punjab standing 6’10” tall, is the first-ever NBA Academy Graduate to be signed by an NBA G League team, shows the work and progress of the NBA Academy Program. There have been a couple of Indians in the past, Satnam Singh and Amjyot Singh, who have both been tried out in the NBA, neither of whom could, unfortunately, make it in the biggest basketball league in the world.

Their shortcomings, however, have not deterred the NBA from their plan of putting an Indian name on the global basketball scene. This vision is highly important to their overall objective of growing the Indian market as had been done quite successfully in the past with China. Simply put, India has a massive, sport crazy population, a majority of which, sadly hasn’t been exposed to the highs and lows of the most global basketball league in the world. The NBA has always had a very clear vision: of growing and maintaining its global fanbase and spreading the love for basketball across the world. From scouting players from across the world to develop a culture for basketball in underprivileged areas, the NBA’s development programs have been strategic and carefully planned out.

NBA Academy

When it comes to India, the model is quite clear. The NBA Academy India was launched in May 2017 and builds on the NBA’s existing basketball and youth development initiatives in India. An elite basketball training centre at the Jaypee Greens Integrated Sports Complex in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR), the NBA Academy selects and trains the best young talent in the country and provides them with world-class coaching and training, as well as academic support and an emphasis on life skills. All the students selected to train at this Academy not only benefit from the expert coaching and guidance that India has lacked for so long, but also train at a world-class facility, are exposed to regular training camps from the world’s best players and coaches, and have the opportunity to compete against athletes of their age from the NBA Academies across the world. This exposure at such a developmental stage of their careers sets them apart from all the other athletes their age and equips them with the required fundamental and basic skills and knowledge of the game.

3 years on from the Academy’s initial establishment in the country and we can begin to see the progress that has already been made. Princepal Singh is the first of what could be many Indian names to be seen on the global stage in the future. Following are some details about Prince, and some of the other top prospects coming out of the NBA Academy in India:

Princepal Singh

Princepal Singh

Princepal was part of the first batch of the NBA Academy in India in 2017 and came from the prestigious Ludhiana Basketball Academy, Punjab, which has produced several Indian National Team players. In November 2018, Singh transitioned to The NBA Global Academy – the league’s hub for top male and female prospects from outside the U.S. – in Canberra, Australia, where he continued his development. Throughout his time in the NBA Academy program, Singh participated in several high-profile international basketball events, including Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Asia 2018, BWB Global 2018 and the NBA Global Camp 2018. He also represented India in international competitions as part of the Indian Men’s Senior National Team. The opportunity to sign with an NBA G League team is massive for Singh, who becomes the NBA India Academy’s first-ever player to sign a professional contract.

Amaan Sandhu

Amaan Sandhu

Another top product of the Ludhiana Basketball Academy, Amaan Sandhu is a 17-year-old, 6’11” tall beast! Also, part of the batch of 2017, Sandhu and his game, have grown by leaps-and-bounds over the years. Hailing from a basketball-crazy family who have also played the sport professionally, at just 17, (and wearing shoes of size 17!), Sandhu has managed to win the Junior Nationals for Punjab, get selected for the Basketball Without Borders camp and also make the Senior National Team squad, having the privilege to share a room with highly experienced Indian captain Vishesh Briguvanshi. With age on his side, Amaan could still develop physically as he continues to improve his game, making him one of the most promising Indian basketball players in recent times.

Harsimran Kaur

Harsimran Kaur

At 17, Harsimran Kaur is 6’3” tall. Blessed with not just above average height for an Indian female athlete, Kaur’s genetics also include sporting DNA, with her father having played basketball for his state and her mother having represented the country in volleyball. One of the top female prospects of the NBA Academy, Kaur has had an amazing last year leading up to July 2020. From having represented her state in the Senior Nationals to becoming the first non-Australian prospect selected from the NBA Academies’ Women’s Programme to attend NBA Global Academy at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) centre of excellence in Canberra, she capped off a fine year by receiving a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 Basketball Scholarship from the University of San Diego.

Apart from these 3, the NBA Academy has produced an overflowing handful of amazing players that could go on to achieve big things in the world of basketball. Siya Deodhar, Ann Mary Zachariah, Pranav Prince, Jagshaanbir Singh, Harsh Dagar, Achintya Krishna and many others represent a group of high profile, talented and committed youngsters who can make a very real career playing Basketball. Seeing them develop and grow further at this stage is extremely interesting for any Indian Basketball fan who hopes to see the country improve in its global standings.

Thinking of all this progress, beckons the million-dollar question, why is it so important for the NBA to produce a homegrown talent to represent the country? The answer lies in the question itself. A global sport with a global fanbase needs a local name to get attached to. Way back when the Houston Rockets picked Yao Ming as the #1 draft pick, the Chinese population exploded into the NBA fanbase. To this date, China has a higher number of viewers of the NBA than the United States. Back in 2003, 200 million Chinese viewers watched Yao’s debut against the LA Lakers, an exponential growth compared to the measly average of 9.9 million American viewers who had tuned into the 2003 NBA Finals. India is the next big market for the NBA. Could Princepal, or Amaan, or Kaur, be the next Yao?

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