Recuperating from a career-threatening back injury, young cager Princepal Singh has described the last six months as the “lowest point” of his life, not long after experiencing the high of becoming the first Indian to feature in an NBA title-winning team.
The 6-foot-9 inch forward from Gurdaspur, Punjab, who was part of the Sacramento Kings side that won the 2021 NBA Summer League title in August 2021, suffered the injury while training in the USA in October last year.
“I was training in Ohio, USA in October last year when I had a back injury. I have been in rehab since then. It is the lowest point of my life. It was a serious injury. I was doing weight training and sustained the injury,” Singh told PTI during an interview.
“I am almost ready now, maybe perhaps another month I will be back to my full fitness. I just want to come back to the game. I am talking to some foreign leagues like the Summer League or in Europe. I want to play professionally as soon as possible.”
Singh’s next assignment will be the Elite Pro Basketball League, comprising 16 teams, which is scheduled to be held from March 11 to 20 at Noida Indoor Stadium.
“When I was training, I had improved so much in shooting, dribble. But now I haven’t gone to a basketball court for the last 5-6 months. So I will have to restart everything, but I am looking forward to the league,” said Singh, who will turn up for Mumbai Stars.
“We need such leagues which will give a platform to the youngsters to pursue basketball in India.”
His ascendency from a volleyball enthusiast at 14 years of age to a top-level Indian basketball player happened quite smoothly.
It was in 2014 that Singh ended up enrolling for basketball at the Ludhina Academy, after he had gone there for a tryout in volleyball. His coach Jaipal Singh gave him the initial lessons in the sport.
Soon, a three-year full scholarship to play at SPIRE Institute and Academy in Geneva, Ohio came his way, but visa issues dashed his dreams. However, he trained at NBA Academy India in New Delhi for 18 months before earning a call-up to the NBA Global in Canberra in 2017.
“I stayed in Australia for two years, everything was super easy. I had no issues. After training there, I was in India when I got a one-year contract with NBA G League Ignite in 2020. It was during the COVID-19 lockdown, so I was happy but everything was shut. So, I couldn’t practice much at home. I was not at the level which was needed in the G league. I used to feel that I am perhaps not ready but soon things started improving. I trained for a month in Ludhiana and then started training in the USA in October 2020. I played in the 2021 G league hub season.
“But the summer league win for the Kings was the highest point for me. We were the champions. It was a great experience.”
Singh was drafted for Stockton Kings, and later, at New Zealand breakers in November 2021, but he couldn’t continue and parted ways.
“There were some personal issues, I had to let it go. I played one or two matches for New Zealand breakers but left in January last year,” he said.
Asked about his stint in G League, he said, “It was a life-changing experience. I was around such quality players. They play so hard. I learnt how hard I have to work to compete at this level. How the professional players conduct themselves, how they go about their job, their work ethics.”
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