UBA puts Indian basketball in a league of its own

The United Basketball Alliance Pro League, into its fourth season, has infused the strong dose of professionalism basketball has sorely lacked down the decades.

UBA

Basketball players in action during the selection trials for the second edition of the UBA league.   -  Special Arrangement

The United Basketball Alliance (UBA) Pro League, into its fourth season, has come as a boon for the game of wits and hoops in the country.

It has infused the strong dose of professionalism the sport sorely lacked down the decades. While it may take a while to assume the high profile of cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL), little effort is spared to take it places. As with any showpiece event, the rules have been tweaked to make the action more exciting. “The format is a lot more offence-oriented,” Joseph John, Game Commissioner, told Sportstar.

“Zone defence has been done away with in favour of man-to-man marking. So strict is the enforcement of a defence violation that a defender must not be more than two meters away from the offender he’s assigned to specifically mark,” he said.

“Everyone is forced to shoot more. Since defence is tight, no player can relax and passing has improved consistently. To boost on-court quality, 10 players from the US are playing alongside their Indian counterparts this season. Working in tandem with the NBA (National Basketball Association) Development League, our players have begun to imitate the big guns,” observed the seasoned former FIBA referee.

As a result, scores of each side have soared over 100 points in most of the games. “Such is the pace of the action; one must see it to believe it. It may be a bit incredible that this is the same set of players that figured in the national championships,” said John.

Enhancement

Quality enhancement has been steady. Players have been enrolled on a season-to-season basis or on annual contracts, the latter extended to those with long-term potential. Players fly from venue to venue, a luxury rare for them, except those with leading sides/companies/organisations.

“Pay packets and accommodation are good. In each of the three seasons so far, a dozen of the most promising cagers have been flown to the U.S. for exposure to the Mecca of the game - the NBA. They have been coached and trained by some leading lights there,” a senior official said.

Against the on-and-off television coverage from Doordarshan for the Basketball Federation of India’s (BFI) events, every edition of the UBA has been beamed live, the latest coming from Ten Sports 3 and HD. This season, broadcaster involvement has gone up, perhaps owing to the fact that the cream of Indian basketball is in the fray.

Spectator interest has skyrocketed too. For instance, in the ongoing leg of the league at Chennai’s Satyabhama University (that runs till March 1), the galleries are full. “Since the venue is packed, five giant screens have been put up outside it,” said John. “The ambience inside, the arrangements made, are world class,” he added.

The playoffs will be staged at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium, Bambolim, Goa from March 10 to 16.