Satnam Singh Bhamara, 19, who became the first Indian-born player to be drafted into America's professional basketball league, NBA, arrived in Ludhiana to a hero's welcome on Friday.
Bhamara, who stands apart with his 7feet 2inches height, drove straight to the Guru Nanak Dev Stadium from the airport as he said he could not wait to touch the ground where he spent years learning the game.
At the stadium, hundreds of students and teachers gathered to welcome their star, whose joy knew no bounds as he hugged his father, a flour mill owner, and other relatives and friends from Balloke, his native village, in Barnala district.
Before going to USA and getting selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the 52nd pick, Bhamara was part of the Ludhiana Basketball Academy since 2004.
"It was my passion and commitment for the game," an emotional Bhamara said, "that helped me in making a place in NBA."
Secretary of the Punjab Basketball Association, Teja Singh Dhaliwal, said Bhamara had lived up to the expectations of his coaches and family by putting in hard work and showing sincerity towards the game.
"He has shown the way to other players," Dhaliwal said.
'I still practice a lot'
The Basketball star, whose selection made front-page news in India, spoke about "good infrastructure and diet" the US government provides to its players, and called upon the government to do the same provide "so that Indian players can also enhance their performance".
"There are several things which need to done to promote and develop basketball in India. And to impart proper, specialised training to the players, the number of coaches should be increased," Bhamara said, adding that in the US the coach to player ratio was "1:1", which enabled the players to excel.
Bhamara urged other basketball players to give "your 100 percent" to reach the heights, but was candid to say he practiced a lot so that none could overtake him.
The basketball star later went to the Golden Temple, Amritsar, to pay obeisance.