Princepal can make it to the top level, says NBA G League chief
Though he is likely to figure only in 12 exhibition matches outside the competition’s traditional structure as part of a one-year development programme, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, president of National Basketball Association’s (NBA) G League, feels Indian basketball player Princepal Singh has taken the right decision by joining the Select Team managed by the league itself.
Princepal has been selected as one of the elite prospects who are eligible to play in the NBA G League but not yet eligible for the NBA. He will be part of the Select Team that would be based in Walnut Creek, California, and will be coached by former NBA player and coach Brian Shaw.
The NBA G League has clarified that not every player in Select Team will be earning $500,000. (According to them Princepal is likely to earn less). The contract includes robust opportunities for development and the top graded ones among the elite players are likely to earn $500,000 (approx Rs 3.74 crore at current rate) for the five-month season starting in November.
The selected elite prospects will play alongside veteran players on a select team that will take part in training and 10 to 12 exhibition games against other G League teams, foreign national teams and NBA academies.
Princepal has signed this contract along with some top college basketball prospects like Jalen Green, considered the best shooting guard in the 2020, Jonathan Kuminga, a 17-year-old from Congo considered the top small forward in the 2020 class; Daishen Nix, one of the best point guards on the school circuit; Kai Sotto, a 7 ft 2 in centre from Philippines and Isaiah Todd, one of the best power guards in the junior circuit in the United states, foregoing for one year the chance to play in the collegiate league.
Abdur-Rahim says this is a good decision for Princepal as being part of the G-League Select Team will give him opportunities to grow as a player and help him forge a reputation that will help him get closer to fulfilling his dream of playing in the NBA.
“Being part of the Select Team will allow us take a more direct interest in Princepal and other players’ growth. A regular G-League team will have its own problems and Princepal may not get the undivided interest of the coaching staff that he deserves. We believe that this is a great opportunity for all players in the Select Team to development into top professional players,” Abdur-Rahim said during an online interaction with select India media.
“In NBA, scouts are intrigued by young talent; we build the skills, fundamentals and create a foundation that helps you in the game. The G League helps the players to develop and I think this is a great opportunity for Princepal.
“I know that there will be unbelievable scouting opportunities with this team, not only the games but even the practice (sessions). With this team, Princepal will be with several other highly-talented prospects that are expected to go high in the 2021 NBA draft. This team will get a significant amount of interest more than any other team because these are young players that will be heading towards the NBA draft. With this team we have the ability to build a program for each player, we will also ensure that these players get the attention they need on and off the court,” said the NBA g League president who is a former NBA All-Star player and Olympic gold medallist (at Sydney 2000).
However, the G League experience has not been that great for Indian players as two predecessors of Princepal - Satnam Singh Bhamara and Amjyot Singh Gill managed to play only couple of seasons each. However, Abdur-Rahim and Troy Justice, vice-president and Head of International Basketball Development at NBA, said the same may not be the case with Princepal.
“All players have a different journey and they get different opportunities. In the case of Princepal we will have the opportunity to have a direct approach. Many times in our league the teams will have different priorities. We will take a direct interest in Princepal’s growth. He has shown dedication and work ethic to succeed. We are really hopeful, excited and optimistic about his development here,” said Abdur-Rahim.
Troy Justice, who was involved with NBA operations in India as a coach for five years (2010-15) says Princepal’s game and skill-set has undergone tremendous improvement in the last few years.
“Princepal has an incredible opportunity in front of him and he is been working hard for 3 years in the NBA Academy program and in the system. Every year we have seen incredible growth, he has improved year on year not only in fundamental, skills, athleticism and strength. His ability as a basketball player to continue to get better is a great sign for his future.
“I think he now has the opportunity with this NBA G League select team, he has to continue on the path he started and he is already working towards, so it will be a year on year and day by day process to improve, grow and work hard for his dream,” he said.
Troy Justice said the NBA Academy has really helped Princepal develop into an all-round player.
“First of all, Princepal is 6 feet 10 inches. He has some incredible natural instincts and skills that you can’t teach. He has got high basketball IQ, he has got athleticism. What we really focussed on is the whole concept of fundamentals and his skill set. So just the basics—balance, footwork, positioning and there’s a lot of detailed work that we have done with him in Australia. The coaching staff has done an incredible job of really helping him grow as a player and a lot of that has been through the fine detailed nuances of the game, passing along those details have allowed him to be successful.
“When he first came in, he was pretty singular in his approach; he could do one or two things pretty good. But now the coaches have helped him to open up his game. He can play with his back to the basket, he can play facing up, he can play short corner, and he can play from the free-throw line. Now, he has a wide range of aspects in his game. He is capable of executing various skills, which he has learned in training, in a match situation against top-level players,” Troy Justice added.
Though the G League Select Team’s matches will be devoid of competitive element as they will be exhibition matches, Abdur-Rahim said the programme is developed in such a way that this aspect does not impact the overall growth of the players.
“The team will be a part of the G League, but the focus will be on the development of the young players. On the competitions front we have international tournaments participation. We are the League and we will focus on the overall growth, ensuring that there is a right balance between competitive format and development structure.”
Abdur-Rahim said the 19-year-old Princepal is on the same level as that of top school prospects -- Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd and Kai Sotto, who are all part of the Select Team. “I think he’s in that same area, they’re all young players and, you know, different parts of their game happening. They have to grow. And they are in the same category. They all have their journey and path.”
Ask about what the future holds for Princepal, Abdur-Rahim said like the other Elite Prospects in the Select Team, the Indian star will have the opportunity to get into the NBA draft. “So these players sign a one-year contract and then from there, they decide on what’s next for them and what they want to do. In many cases, they’ll prepare and make their announcement for the NBA Draft. Others may have, you know, they may choose a different path.”
Both Abdur-Rahim and Troy Justice hoped Princepal will make the most of the opportunity that has come his way and make it to the NBA one day.