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Pune’s rising 16-year-old ‘NBA star’ all set to slam dunk his club through district tourney

Kokate is one of eight Indian players chosen for the ACG-NBA jump national finals - India’s first-ever national basketball talent search programme.

pune Updated: May 22, 2018 16:12 IST
Pranav Shahney
Pranav Shahney
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pritish Kokate in action for his club, Sharp Shooters, at Deccan Gymkhana on Monday.(HT PHOTO)

Sixteen-year-old Pritish Kokate is the only basketball player from Pune who has been chosen for the ACG-NBA jump national finals - India’s first-ever national basketball talent search programme.

That Kokate has been picked by the National Basketball Association is worth noting, because he is one of only eight players chosen from across India. Brook Lopez of the US NBA team, the Los Angeles Lakers, no less, was part of the panel that picked eight basketball players from across India. Kokate is one of the chosen.

Still, even as the towering teenager from the Kamalnayan Bajaj school, who has just finished putting pen to paper on his NBA India contract, may be one of the hottest basketball talents in the country, he has not forgotten his city, school or club, all places that first taught him to play the game.

Speaking to HT before getting on the court to play point guard for his club Sharpshooters in the ongoing under-16 district championship at the Deccan Gymkhana courts, Kokate says: “It’s like a dream come true for me. I started playing the sport in Class 4 because I found it interesting and entertaining, but I did not know that it would take me so far. I am extremely humbled and grateful to all those who helped me get here.”

“My parents supported me since day one and that is exactly what I needed to hone my skills and continue to develop as a player. My coaches have also played a huge role in making me the player I am today, and without their guidance I would not have been picked for the NBA finals event.”

Kokate wants to play basketball at a professional level and will use the ACG-NBA national finals as a platform to elevate his game and make a name for himself on the international stage.

Kokate is also motivated to continue his education along with the basketball. He will be moving to Noida within a few weeks to join the NBA camp and plans to continue his Class 11 and Class 12 education there.

“Yes, I aim to make it big in basketball, but not at the expense of my academics. I believe both can be done simultaneously,” said Kokate.

The ACG Jump Nationals is an NBA-organised event for up-and-coming basketball players in the country. Selections took place through scouts visiting national-level games, while some players got picked by sending in their dribbling, shooting and skills videos. Only eight players chosen will attend an ACG NBA Jump camp, where training is going to be a-la NBA standards and is expected to take the players on to the international level.

First Published: May 22, 2018 16:12 IST