Originally published on 31 Dec, 2017 on www.ubaindia.com
"I'm really excited to play here. I never imagined this, to get to be able to be a part of a professional league in India. A lot of people watch the league and it is a great opportunity in India," -Satnam Singh.
Satnam let out a primal yell and slapped the wall after a play, seemingly releasing years of bottled-up frustration from raring to compete. He had just grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled coast-to-coast like a guard, lost his defender with a hesitation dribble and finished inside while getting fouled with three players swarming him. The 3rd UBA US Pro Performance Camp was in session, featuring the best UBA players from India and around the world. The players, divided into four teams, were competing in the Million Rupees Challenge, and Satnam was showing something new every day.
Watch the video here.
In the same game, Pierre Newton of Pune Peshwas tried to put Satnam on a poster with a tomahawk dunk. It did not go as he planned, as he ended up crashing to the floor after Satnam rejected his attempt. "It's like crashing into a brick wall, it really is. The brick wall wins every time," said Newton of the block. "He's definitely bringing the experience, he played in the NBA G-League and he's been around NBA competition. He's going to be a tough matchup," he added.
Ever since Satnam became the first Indian to have been drafted in the NBA, he's had a spotlight on him off the court and a bit of a target on his back with people trying to measure themselves against him, "A lot of people tried testing me," said Satnam. "If not here, in NBA, everywhere. Everyone tries to attack me, but I control myself and try to block the shot or foul. Never be scared. Just push and shove right back."
The thing is, even when Satnam is not trying to push or shove his opponents on the court, his colossal size makes a gentle nudge land as hard as a sledgehammer swung by the Hulk. The word 'Big' seems too small to describe the 7'2" Satnam Singh. One's comprehension of the word 'Big' undergoes a deep self-reflective revision when looking at him for the first time. A gentle giant off the court, he transforms into a rampaging behemoth on the court, albeit one with finesse.
"That's what I love about him more than anything else, he's the biggest guy out there and he's letting everybody know it," said A.C. Green, Lakers legend and UBA's Director of Sport. Dubbed the 'International man of mystery' by Boston Celtics' GM Danny Ainge, Satnam's larger than life aura is magnified more by his size and because opportunities to watch him in action have been few and far between.
That is about to change in a big way.
With Satnam Singh making his UBA debut in the upcoming Season 5, India will get to see him play on live TV. When it comes to basketball in India, Satnam Singh knows what it is like to carry the hopes of a nation of a billion plus. Satnam is by far the most famous basketball player in India, being the only Indian to have been drafted in the NBA when Dallas Mavericks selected him with the 52nd pick in 2015 NBA Draft. Satnam’s experience on and off the court is something which also helps the players around him. “He's the big player and the face of Indian basketball, being the first Indian drafted in NBA. Having him around us feels really good and very motivating," Ajinkya Mane (Pune Peshwas).
That carries a heavy weight of expectations, luckily Satnam Singh has shoulders broad enough to carry them, and have room for more. Standing 7'2", Satnam towers above the big men in basketball and eclipses the sun over the average Joe on the street. As the adage goes, 'You can't teach height.'
"I'm so happy to be here with UBA, I want to improve my game, I have worked hard and this camp has helped me improve. Really excited to train to play in the league,"- Satnam.
In the UBA US Pro Performance Camp, Satnam got a chance to train alongside his friends and fellow Indian basketball players from India and from the Ludhiana Basketball Academy, including his mentor Jagdeep Bains (Mumbai Challengers). "Jagdeep to me is the best player in India. When he started basketball, I think in 2002, and I started in 2004 when I came to Ludhiana Basketball Academy. I know him for like 10-14 years. He's my role model in India. He's my best friend, and in my mind and heart he's my role model every day," said Satnam.
"I'm so happy Satnam is here in the camp. It is very good to train together and prepare for the next UBA season. Really excited for it,” said Jagdeep. In addition to Jagdeep, Satnam is also reunited at the camp and in UBA with other players from LBA including Yadwinder Singh (Haryana Gold), Palpreet Brar (Bengaluru Beast), Garry Gill (Punjab Steelers), Loveneet Singh Atwal and Khushmeet Singh Atwal (both Bengaluru Beast).
While he is young himself, Satnam has trained among the best in the business. And he took the time to mentor Khushmeet during the camp. "I'm used to playing with Satnam from when we were in LBA. We played and studied together. It's nice to play with him again," said Khushmeet.
Satnam Singh is just 22 years of age and was 19 when he was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2015 NBA Draft. For context, Tim Duncan was 21 years old when he was drafted in the NBA. Playing time in competitive contests is something which Satnam has been raring for over the years. He's trained at the top training facilities along with NBA G-League players and has worked extensively on his game and physique. Now he’s raring to put that on display when he makes his UBA debut in Season 5. Satnam was almost six feet tall when he came to train at the Ludhiana Basketball Academy under the late Dr. Subramanian. While global basketball is undergoing a positional revolution with the role of big men evolving seemingly every day, Satnam had the benefit of a farsighted coach who trained him in fundamentals which allowed him to have a broad skill set.
Another newcomer to the league, the 6’10” Isaac Allen, found out while going against Satnam that 6’10” is not as big as he thought. "I grabbed his hands and I was like 'Man, I thought I had some big hands’, he beat me." On his second day in the camp, Satnam dunked on the rim so hard it bent out of shape and players had to jump and pound the backboard to spring it back into shape. "I slept really well last night, so I'm more comfortable today, have more energy. I feel better but I think rim always doesn't feel better because everyone hits him," said Satnam on that day.
Satnam came to the camp ready to train hard and work to take his game to the next level. "My teammates are doing a really good job and I'm really comfortable with the players. Doesn't matter if it’s my second day or first day, you have to be comfortable with your teammates, the ball and with your coaches, that's very important,” said Satnam.
In his second game in the competition, Satnam looked comfortable and as a result, his opponents did not. Satnam scored a dominant 31 points, helping Team Gumbo defeat Team Savages 120-104. He broke out spin moves and hook shots among an ever-expanding repertoire of moves.
Satnam, along with 11 other UBA players from India and more from all over the world, trained with UBA Director of Coaching Jody Basye, UBA League Assistant Coach Jon Kimberlin and Pro Advantage Systems' owner Keith Wilson at Ability 360 Sports and Fitness Center, Phoenix.
The 3rd Annual UBA US Pro Performance Camp saw some of the top UBA players and others from around the world participating in an intense, two-week camp designed to maximize their skills as a basketball player, increase their overall strength as an athlete and learn to train in ways which they can maintain when returning home.
Stay tuned for more on the top UBA players who've trained abroad in the UBA US Pro Performance Camp.