Aspirants underwent an intense session of basketball training as experts shepherded them as part of the NBA’s initiative, Basketball Without Borders, at the Jaypee Greens Sports Complex on Wednesday. Boys and girls from the Asia-Oceania region in the U-17 age category gained access to learn from some of the best in the business.
Despite the overwhelming presence of stars of the game and seasoned coaches from the U.S., the young campers were able to identify themselves with NBA aspirants — the towering Satnam Singh and Amjyot Singh. Young players from India and elsewhere took photos with the two Indian basketball icons.
Satnam, who was part of a similar camp in 2010, observed that it was a fantastic opportunity for the young players to have the camp in India, and that they should “make the best use of it.” He felt such initiatives would help Indian basketball progress quicker to achieve better standards in the game. Amjyot noted that players like him took longer to reach where they have because learning opportunities were minimal earlier.
“It is not important to train for five to six hours a day. You have to train with intensity and 100 per cent commitment even if it is only for an hour or so. In a four-day camp, the young players will be taught what to do and what not to do. It is their desire to get better and the international competition that would help them progress,” Amjyot said.
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Looking at his own career, Amjyot, who plays for Oklahoma City Blue in the NBA minor league in the U.S., said, “I’m not at all satisfied with [what] I have achieved. I want to be the first Indian to play in the NBA.”
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The camp, featuring about 60-odd players, also had a number of professional players, coaches and other experts, with Patrick Hunt, the president of the World Association of Basketball Coaches, as the camp director. “The talent is great. I didn’t expect this sort of athleticism. Anything is possible for these young guys, if they put in the hard work with dedication,” said Caris LeVert of the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA. “The camp teaches them the fundamentals and good attitude. If you want to reach the NBA some day, you first need a good attitude,” LeVert added.
The 23-year-old LeVert said he loved to play and teach the sport, and that it was up to the campers to grasp the training imparted. “I am like an open book. I’m willing to give whatever I can,” he said. LeVert felt it was only a “matter of time” before India had more players competing at a higher level.
Along with three other players — Corey Brewer of Oklahoma City Thunder, Kelly Olnyk of Miami Heat and Dwight Powell of Dallas Mavericks — LeVert had visited the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Akshardham Temple in Delhi upon reaching India. “The temple was amazing. It was a great experience visiting the Taj Mahal,” he remarked.
If anything, the Americans and the other basketball experts have been impressed by the enthusiasm for basketball and the “energy levels in India.”