Standing in a t-shirt and sports pants and holding a basketball, Satnam Singh Bhamra would be like any other 16-year-old who likes to shoot a little bit. That is, of course, if he wasn't wearing size 19 flip-flops, towering a foot above this writer at 7'2" and weighing in at 135 kilos. Bhamra's massive proportions are matched only by his king-sized dreams of a career in the NBA and international events.
The soft-spoken Bhamra was selected in late 2010 as one of eight Indian boys to train at the IMG Academy at Brandleton, Florida as part of the academy's tie-up with Reliance. The boy from Barnala, Punjab was hailed as India's answer to the 7'6" tall Chinese basketball star Yao Ming at the time, but has unfortunately found himself having more in common with Ming than just his size.
On May 9, Bhamra underwent surgery on his left knee to repair the damage done by a loose piece of cartilage that had lodged itself in the knee joint and caused severe pain. Even before that, Bhamra had been forced to cut down time on the court, playing just 3 months over last year. Ming's NBA career was thwarted by injuries.
With his knee on the mend, however, Satnam is looking ahead to the future that involves more than just basketball. "Playing basketball and all is fine but I want to make sure I study as well. I want to try and go to college too," Bhamra told HT. "I have work to do as far as my English is concerned." Bhamra is aiming to become eligible for admission to an American university on a sports scholarship after finishing school. It's a commonly used platform for players aspiring to make it to the NBA.
The youngster also has a clear idea of the kind of game he wants to develop. "I want to be effective from anywhere on the court, and not just close to the basket," he said. "For this, it is most important for me to focus on my footwork."
While accepting the cultural differences in the coaching styles in the US compared to India, Bhamra feels the encouraging attitude of coaches in America has helped his development. “Coaches here have a tendency to talk a little too much," said Bhamra. "In America, coaches let players play however they want as long as they play hard and fair and then they will talk to them about where they need improvement."
Bhamra is heading back to Florida for another four-month stint at the academy, with the hope that his injury is just a minor speed bump on his way up to basketball's bright lights.