National coach VeselinMatic believes youngsters capable of helping India climb up the FIBA rankings

From 53 in 2015, the Indian men are now ranked 82 in the FIBA rankings while the women have also slipped more than 10 rungs to 79.

Published : Apr 07, 2024 22:10 IST , KOCHI - 3 MINS READ

Chief National basketball coach Veselin Matic at Alappuzha.
Chief National basketball coach Veselin Matic at Alappuzha. | Photo Credit: Stan Rayan

Chief National basketball coach Veselin Matic at Alappuzha. | Photo Credit: Stan Rayan

India may have slipped badly in FIBA’s world basketball rankings in the last 10 years but National chief coach Veselin Matic believes that the country has bright youngsters who are capable of helping the country climb up again. But the country needs to be patient.

From 53 in 2015, the Indian men are now at 82 while the women have also slipped more than 10 rungs to 79 but while other countries have invested heavily in basketball and brought about major changes, India has not given the sport the big push.

“India is not even investing 0.1% of what Philippines is pumping into basketball,” said Matic, who will be completing his fifth year as the National coach this month, in a chat with Sportstar on the sidelines of the coaches’ clinic at the Alappuzha YMCA.

“In the Philippines, basketball is religion but they had worked for 50 years. They have a professional league, college league and high school league and they have four to five top-level air-conditioned arenas, we don’t have anything. In China, basketball is a top sport and billions are invested into it.”

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In contrast, after decades of waiting, the Indian League INBL ran for just one season and players have not had a league for more than a year. That also affects the country’s world rankings.

When the Indian pro league returns, Matic feels that it should have foreign players.

“Other countries have six local players and four foreigners in their league. Australia (which now comes under FIBA Asia like New Zealand) has allowed one Asian player in its league. India also can do that, have an Asian player and an OCI player apart from two other foreigners. Allow two foreigners on the court for limited time, say 25 minutes. You can make such rules for your league,” said the Serb who had been the national coach for Iran and Syria earlier.

“And maybe, with the presence of the OCI players there will be pressure on the Government to accept these OCI passports and include them in our national team.”

Young players need to be encouraged and given exposure.

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“College basketball, the main force of the country, is not properly organised. And when you go for the senior Nationals, you will not see youngsters playing .... every player is around 30. Only now, some teams have started including young players, like (Harsh) Dagar, Kushal (Singh), (Sahaji) Sekhon after they played for the National team. Before that, anyone who is around 20-21 will not be in the team. That will not move Indian basketball forward. It is important to have a regulation, how many senior players should be in the team (in leagues and nationals) and how many other youngsters can play.

“And our players don’t have exposure, we only go for the organised competition where we must go or FIBA will suspend you.”

The Basketball Federation of India is now headed by a former player who understands the situation well.

It is now time for the sport’s top bosses to get things moving... and moving fast too.

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