Princepal's tryst with destiny

Princepal Singh has been honing his skills at the NBA Academy in Ludhiana. When he isn't playing for the senior national team or attending the national camps, he will complete his schooling, take special English lessons and train towards his dream of playing for NBA

Principal Singh has joined the NBA Global Academy in Ludhiana. [File image]   -  FIBA

They say destiny has a way of finding you. For Princepal Singh, basketball is his destiny.

On Tuesday, the 17-year-old from Ludhiana was selected for the senior national team for the Super Kung Sheung Cup International Championship to be held in Hong Kong from December 11 to 16. It was, however, not his first-choice sport.

It was with an intent of joining volleyball that Princepal walked into Ludhiana academy in 2014. Upon advice from coach Jaypal Singh, the teenager ended up enrolling for basketball.

The hoopster, standing tall at 6 ft 7 inches in 2016, outshone all at a selection trial at the Delhi Public School, Rajnandgaon and earned a three-year full scholarship to pursue the sport at Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, USA.

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His NBA dreams couldn't have found a better launchpad. It is the training site for US Olympic teams and many alumnis from the Institute have gone on to play in the NBA. Playing  NCAA, the collegiate level basketball, was almost a surety. Naturally, he was annointed as the next big basketball star from India.

Just a year earlier, in 2015, Satnam Singh Bhamara had become the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA when Dallas Maverics picked him.

It, however, proved to be too much too soon for the teenage sensation from Punjab. With his visa application getting rejected twice, he had to give up on Spire aspirations. "Even the institute tried its best. I don't know why it was rejected. I just couldn't go," he says. 

For a talented hoopster with a good physique (6'10'' now and still growing) to boost, Spire Institute was, after all, not going to be the only route to success. Opportunities galore. Destiny remained the same, just the course re-routed.

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After a trial, he joined the NBA Academy in Greater Noida in August, 2017. He then took part in the Basketball Without Borders programme where he proved his worth to earn selection for  the NBA Global Camp in Italy in June. It helped that he excelled for the junior national team in the FIBA U-16 Asian Championships in April where he averaged 22.7 points per game and 13 rebounds per game.

That put him on the radar of scouts looking for the 12 best players from across the world to train in the NBA Global Academy, considered "an elite basketball training center at BA’s Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra." 

That's where Princepal Singh has been honing his skills since October. That's where he will be camping for the next two years, completing his schooling, taking special English lessons and training harder towards his dream of playing for NBA, when he isn't playing for the senior national team or attending the national camps.