Talent identification critical to growth of basketball in India: Sacramento Kings assistant coach

First-year assistant coach at Sacramento Kings, Roy Rana, weighed in on his team's NBA season so far, challenges of resuming action and ways to popularise basketball in India.

A ‘rollercoaster ride’ is how the Sacramento Kings’ assistant coach Roy Rana describes his first season in the NBA.   -  Special Arrangement

After starting the season with a five-game losing streak, Sacramento Kings had made a significant recovery - winning seven of its last 10 games - and stood a chance of making it to its first playoffs since 2006 when the NBA season came to a halt in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A ‘rollercoaster ride’ is how the Kings’ assistant coach Roy Rana describes his first season in the NBA, having made the move from his role as the head coach at the Ryerson University and the Canadian national basketball team last year. The Kings on Monday reopened its facilities with a no-contact training programme for the players. On return to practice, Rana said, “What we're doing is we're following to a tee, the directives that have been passed on through our local health professionals and the NBA and then obviously, our internal team. And I think I would say so far, it's going very smoothly and the players and staff are equally as committed to creating the safest environment we possibly can for our players. It's a new normal, it's different.”

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With 18 regular-season games left to play, Roy feels it will be a unique challenge "for every single team in the league to find a way to get back to maybe performing at the level they were when the season was suspended. And for our players, you focus on what you can control. You get your players back, get them fit and ready. You prepare them as you would always prepare them. And hopefully, we're ready to perform at a high level and the chemistry that we've built throughout the year continues to express itself when we come back.”

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Spotting talent

Rana, who has over 10 years of successful coaching experience with Ryerson and at junior international levels, felt talent identification and coaching development are key to the growth of basketball in India.

“Talent identification is going to become hugely critical.” he pointed out. “And that has to happen probably at an earlier age. I don't know what age it starts in India, but I think looking at 13 and 14-year-old kids and trying to see who has potential and help them learn, giving them more exposure to the sport at a younger age would be helpful. So I think there needs to be a coordinated, designed effort and there's alignment in teaching the game across the country.

“So how do you do that? So how do you identify players at a younger age? How do you build alignment in the teaching and tactical training at a younger age, more technical than tactical, and then coach development? All of this is really about coaches. The better you develop your coaches the better you develop your talents.” 

The Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program launched in 2013 has engaged more than 10 million youth (U-14 category) across 13,000 schools and trained more than 13,000 physical education instructors nationwide.

The 2018-19 program was the largest to date, reaching more than 6.5 million youths from 7,900 schools across 34 cities.

And the impact of the program is significant that 13 players who were and are part of the NBA Academy India were first spotted at the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program including Achintya Krishna, Pranav Prince, Pritish Kokate, Janmejay Singh, Lalhneupia Chhakchuak, Lokendra Singh and Jagshaanbir Singh among others.

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