The NBA dream came one step closer to Kolkata with the ACG NBA Jump Tryouts at the Boys Training Association, Kalighat.
Here's an interview with Scott Flemming, Head Coach/Technical Director of NBA Academy India, also formerly NBA India’s senior director of basketball operations and head coach of the Indian men's basketball team.
"It's been great for me to travel around India and see the new talent at the #ACGNBAJump tryouts. I've been gone for over 2 years, and a whole new group of kids are now coming up. It's especially been great seeing some of these young players because some of them will have about three or four years at the NBA Academy India. That's kind of the goal, we'll look at older players but we're focusing on younger players because they can be there longer," said Coach Flemming.
It is especially heartwarming to see another step towards the normal in the new normal after the pandemic halted hoop dreams. Apart from the thousands of kids inspired, the NBA Academy has also given us talents like Palpreet Singh and Princepal Singh, both of whom have been drafted into the NBA G League.
"We've had 4 #ACGNBAJump Tryouts. This is our 5th here in Kolkata and we're heading to Chennai. We're probably going to see around 1,500 players in total. It's a step-by-step process. We'll probably pick around 40 players for the final tryouts at the NBA Academy India, and from those, we'll pick 13 to join the academy," he added.
Coach Flemming also spoke of some of the ways basketball is moving forward in India.
"There's a lot more going on now in India with basketball, including with BFI, the NBA, other independent groups. We already brought an NBA game here to India. Those things were unheard of when I first came to India. We already have 8 of our NBA Academy players that have received scholarships to either prep schools or colleges in the west."
"Before the NBA Academy India, no one had done that from here. We've had several play professional basketball, those are really good signs that things are coming up. There's a long way to go but there's definitely progress."
"It's highly important to identify young talent. All the coaching academies, all the things I do here, I always say, in India, we need to start them even at 8/9/10 years of age. That's what we do in the US. That's why there's kind of a jump there because they start so young."
Having youngsters exposed to basketball under the right guidance is one of the first steps towards having more Indians play professional basketball worldwide. "I usually tell the story of Amritpal Singh from Punjab. He started playing at 19 years of age, and in four years he was my starting center on the Indian national team. He's a really good player, and I tell people that if he had started at 12/13 years of age, he might have been in the NBA. Hopefully, we'll have someone like him in the 2008/9 category that can come up a few years from now," said Coach Flemming.
Under Coach Scott, India defeated China for the first time at the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, and also won gold at the 2014 Lusofonia Games. As good an eye as anyone could ask for to spot upcoming basketball talent in India.
"With girls, we don't have a full-time academy yet, but we always have an academy camp for them. Eight of those girls have gone on to play college basketball in the US at some point," said Coach Flemming.
Here's a list of NBA Academy India alumni who have committed to prep schools and colleges in the United States.
Boys- Pranav Prince, Amaan Sandhu, Riyanshu Negi, Harshwardhan Tomar, Lalhnehpuia Chhakchhuak, Aashay Verma, Pritish Kokate
Girls - Sanjana Ramesh, Sunishka Karthik, Khushi Dongre, Asmat Taunque, Harsimran Kaur, Siya Deodhar and Ann Mary Zachariah
The NBA Finals are underway with the Boston Celtics taking on the Golden State Warriors. Jayson Tatum of the Celtics is potentially 3 wins away from becoming an NBA Champion. His godfather Larry Hughes played in the NBA, and through him Jayson was able to make his NBA dream more tangible. “When a kid sees that a dream is real, it’s easier, but not easy, to chase that dream. I was glad that he was able to see that making the NBA was possible. I’m hoping he earns his award.”- said Larry Hughes of Tatum, reported by Marc J Spears for Andscape.
The #ACGNBAJump tryouts for the NBA Academy India are a strong step towards making the NBA dream tangible for over a thousand kids across India.