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India’s aspiring basketball players dream big as NBA academy opens doors in Noida

The NBA Academy India is the NBA’s fifth elite training centre globally and the first of its kind in the country, fully funded by the NBA - the predominant men’s professional basketball league in North America.

other sports Updated: May 09, 2017 21:41 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Amaan Sandhu,Basketball,NBA
Amaan Sandhu is among the 21 players in the age group 13-17 to be drafted into the NBA India Academy. (HT Photo )

Amaan Sandhu often watches NBA (National Basketball Association) matches on TV. His dream of being associated with North America’ major professional league came true as he is among the 21 players in the age group 13-17 to be drafted in the NBA Academy. The facility officially threw open its doors at the Jaypee Greens Integrated Sports Complex on Tuesday.

The 6’9” cager from Punjab is the tallest in the group along with Jagshaanbir Singh, 16.

(Read | Patna boy chosen for NBA academy)

Amaan, 14, who hails from Mohali, says he is fortunate to make the cut. “I have been playing for two years but hope the new system will be more meaningful,” said the teenager whose idol is Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

Sport, particularly basketball, runs deep in the Sandhu family.

Father, Gurcharanjeet, is a retired international while mother, Rajinder, played the domestic circuit for over a decade. Amaan felt the opportunity is a step towards achieving his goal of playing the NBA League. “Like every player, I dream of playing in the big league. Hopefully, with this opportunity I should achieve my goal,” he told HT.

Besides Amaan and Jagshaanbir, over a dozen players are above six feet.

(Watch: Bhangra fever hits basketball courts, NBA half-time video goes viral)

According to Yannick Colaco, managing director, NBA India, the players were selected during trials held across the country over three months. “The residential academy will be a good opportunity to learn more. There are good facilities like indoor basketball courts, gym and swimming pool,” he added.

The NBA also plans to set up a women’s academy. “It’s in the pipeline, and we have nominated Jennifer Azzi as technical director for the girls’ programme,” said NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.

The academy will focus on improving skills and provide sound education as well. “Both have to go on simultaneously for overall development,” said Tatum.

The boys’ academy’s technical director Ray Farrell, who has vast coaching experience at the collegiate level in the US, will oversee the programme. He will be assisted by Jacques Vandescure, a former professional player and NBA scout, and Todd Gates (strength and conditioning coach).

“The first step towards our goal is to improve basics,” said development coach Jacques Vandescure, adding it is never too late to learn.

“The players have the potential and are eager to learn. We have structured the programme for overall development. Under it, the players will compete through the year and get to play in international tournaments.”

First Published: May 09, 2017 21:04 IST