October 19, 2017

India U16 Women's team ready to host FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship in Bengaluru - Roster, Schedule, and Preview


Three months ago, Bengaluru proved its place as a worthy basketball host city, as the city's iconic Sri Kantaveera Stadium hosted the FIBA Asia Women's Cup. This was the first major FIBA basketball event to be held in India in eight years, and in front of the home fans, Team India finished the tournament in style by winning promotion to Division A.

Now, India's youth squad will be hoping that the same arena, in the same city, can provide them the boost that the country's leading ladies received, too. From October 22-28, India will host the FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship in Bengaluru, featuring the top youth teams from around Asia and Oceania in the youngest FIBA international tournament. India's U16 team, which fell to Division B at the previous iteration of this tournament, will hope to return to the higher stage by the end of next week.

Fifteen teams, divided into two levels of two groups each, will take part in this tournament. In 2015 in Medan (Indonesia), China completed a three-peat at this championship with a win over Japan in the final. India finished the group stage losing all five preliminary round games, and then losing their playoff match against Hong Kong to fall to Division B.

Participating Teams
  • Division A - Group A: Australia, Korea, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand.
  • Division A - Group B: China, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong.
  • Division B - Group A: India, Sri Lanka, Iran Nepal.
  • Division B - Group B: Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Maldives.

Team India will be led by Zoran Visic, the experienced basketball coach from Serbia who also led India's Senior Women's team at the FIBA Asia Women's Cup earlier this year. Visic's assistant coach will be his captain from the senior team - the basketball star Anitha Paul Durai - for whom this will be the first foray into international coaching. The squad is completely changed from the one that played in Medan two years ago. Some of the top players that made a mark in recent Youth and Sub Junior nationals will be featured in this roster, including Vaishnavi Yadav, Ann Mary Zacharaiah, and Elijabet Ekka.

Team India Roster
  • Vaishnavi Yadav
  • Riya Baliyan
  • Ann Mary Zachariah
  • Neha Karwa
  • Khushi Sanjay Dongre
  • Elijabet Ekka
  • Monica Jayakumar
  • Pushpa Senthil Kumar
  • Grishma Niranjan
  • Sreekala Rani
  • Asmat Taunque
  • Sanjana Ramesh
  • Head Coach: Zoran Visic
  • Assistant Coach: Anitha Paul Durai

India will top to top their group in the preliminary round, and then defeat the top squad from Group B of their Division in a playoff, to secure Division A promotion.

India's Preliminary Round Schedule - All timings IST
  • October 22 - India vs. Nepal - 8 PM
  • October 23 - Iran vs. India - 8 PM
  • October 24 - India vs. Sri Lanka - 8 PM

India is the highest ranked team in this group and their entire division. They should be able to cruise past Nepal, although Iran, whose women's teams haven't played in international tournaments for many years, will be the wildcards. Sri Lanka will pose somewhat of a threat, but hopefully, India can propel past them, too. Group B feature two legitimate challenges to India's promotion ambitions: Malaysia and Kazakhstan. The Senior Women's team had to slay the Kazakhs in dramatic fashion in their final game in July; there's a good chance that one of these teams could be testing India to the limit at the FIBA U16 Women's Asia Championship, too.

Meanwhile, the Division A matches should add for some intrigue as now Oceania's powerhouse Australia will challenging China and Japan's place at the top of this fray. Korea and Chinese Taipei are two other teams that could make some noise in this tournament. India's demotion to Division B is a pity, but it could give the home fans the opportunity to see India notch up more victories and end up with a good record - even if it only comes against worse teams.

October 16, 2017

Sony plans to broadcast 100 NBA games with Hindi commentary in India this season


After a short, eventful off-season where (thankfully) it felt like the NBA never really went away, the new season is almost here, tipping off on October 17 - or the morning of October 18 if you are watching from India. There are going to be a number of players in new jerseys this season, and many teams literally wearing new jersey designs, and the potential of new legends to be made.

In India, there is also going to be a lot more NBA in Hindi.

With a mission to penetrate the popularity of the game deeper into the Indian market, the NBA and its Indian broadcast partner Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) have decided to air almost a 100 regular season games with Hindi commentary this season. The games will also, of course, continue to be simulcast in English as usual in Sony's other sports channels live.

According to the Economic Times, the move comes on the back of a trial period last season, when fourteen playoff games were broadcast with Hindi commentary on the Ten 1 channel. As per data provided by NBA India, the games with Hindi commentary were viewed on TV by 8.9 million people in India.

Sony SIX and Sony SIX HD, for the last few seasons, have broadcast two live games almost every morning during the NBA season in India in English. Now, two games per week - during the weekends - will be broadcast on Sony Ten 3 and Sony Ten 3 HD in Hindi, along with the Live wraparound show ‘Around the Hoop’

More via The Economic Times:

“India is one of the top 2 priority markets for us,” said NBA India managing director Yannick Colaco. “We want to popularise the game of basketball and NBA in India. That means we should make it more accessible for the audiences. With this move, we will be able to engage with not just existing, but also potential fans.”
Talking about statistics from last season’s trial run, Colaco said in the Hindi-speaking markets (HSM), the viewership of the telecast with Hindi commentary was double of that with English commentary.

A panel of expert commentators has been engaged to deliver analysis in Hindi for each game, said Rajesh Kaul, president of sports and distribution business at SPN.
The commentators have undergone training to fine tune their abilities in presenting NBA games, which included personalised training by long-time Indiana Pacers’ play-by-play announcer Chris Denari.

चलो बहुत अच्छी बात है. अब पहले से और ज़्यादा प्रशानशक NBA बॅस्केटबॉल का आनंद ले सकेंगे. With the Warriors sure to make another deep playoff run, I'm waiting to see who will be the first commentator to call Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson the छिड़कना-वाले भाईलोग #Splash Brothers.

Rajasthan (Boys) and Tamil Nadu (Girls) win 2017 Sub Junior Nationals in Didwana, Rajasthan


The annual gathering of India's finest, youngest national-level basketball players - the 44th Sub Junior National Basketball Championship for Boys and Girls - came to a conclusion in Didwana, Rajasthan, on Saturday, October 14 with some celebrations for the home side. Rajasthan boys got sweet vengeance in the final over Madhya Pradesh, who had defeated them in last year's final. Tamil Nadu girls also upset Chattisgarh's hopes of retaining their 2016 title with a final win earlier in the day.

The Sub-Junior Nationals - also known as the "minis" - featured 30 boys' teams and 24 girls' teams in the U14 age group from various Indian States and Union territories competing from October 8-14 this year at Didwana's Bangour College Stadium. The Championship was organised by the Rajasthan Basketball Association under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

Madhya Pradesh boys, the winners from last year, came into the finals with hopes of adding another jewel in their crown. But backed by an enthusiastic home crowd, Rajasthan came out fired up, taking a 28-17 lead in the first quarter and extending the game to a blowout by the end of the third. Prashant (28) and Lokendra (21) led Rajasthan to an impressive 87-59 win and a gold medal. MP were led by Rishikesh's 16 points.

The girls' final was a close, fast-paced game, where Tamil Nadu's rising star Sathya stole the show, dropping 43 points for her squad. Chattisgarh, looking to repeat their 2017 win, were leading 37-29 at halftime, but a 39-22 third quarter run by TN turned the scores around, and TN held on the final period to win 88-81. Kirti (24) and Ruksar (18) led the way for Chhattisgarh in the loss.

Earlier in the day, Chhattisgarh's boys defeated Uttar Pradesh to secure the bronze medal. The girls' 3rd-place game was won by Maharashtra, who defeated the host team Rajasthan.

Final Scores
  • Boys: Rajasthan (Prashant 28, Lokendra 21) bt Madhya Pradesh (Rishikesh 16, Bhagat 14) 87-59 [28-17, 7-10, 31-18, 21-14].
  • Girls: Tamil Nadu (Sathya 43) bt Chhattisgarh (Kirti 24, Ruksar 18) 88-81 [18-18, 11-19, 39-22, 20-22].

Final Standings

Boys
  • 1. Rajasthan
  • 2. Madhya Pradesh
  • 3. Chhattisgarh
  • 4. Uttar Pradesh
  • 5. Punjab

Girls
  • 1. Tamil Nadu
  • 2. Chhattisgarh
  • 3. Maharashtra
  • 4. Rajasthan
  • 5. Karnataka

October 14, 2017

2017 SLAM Top 50: Paul George, No. 9


In a new role on a new team, Paul George is in position to reach his lofty goals.

This article was first published in my #SLAMTop50 contribution for SLAMOnline.com on October 4, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

Four summers ago, I interviewed a 23-year-old Paul George at an NBA carnival in China. It was the ‘NBA Nation’ in Wuhan, a fan-event in the most populous city in central China featuring basketball clinics, Pop-a-Shot games, and the Phoenix Suns Dance Team. The main event, however, was George. Then a rising star for the Indiana Pacers, PG was coming off a breakout 2012-13 season where he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, became an All Star for the first time, and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. But just months before, his magical season had ended in heart-breaking fashion as the Pacers went down to the Heat in a memorable seven-game Eastern Conference Finals.

In going up against the best in the League, George had gotten his first whiff of success, and he sounded confident when he told me that his rise to superstardom was just getting started. “I’m nowhere close to getting what I want to achieve,” he said, reflecting on his NBA journey so far. “But I think I’m taking the right steps and going in the right direction. I can see myself being an MVP in the League. I think, if I’m not in contention for an MVP award, or leading my team to the Championship, then I think I’d be selling myself short as a player. In the near future, I wanna have the MVP award, be on the Olympic team, be a perennial All-Star, hopefully First-Team All-NBA as well.”

But sometimes, even the best laid plans of a super-athletic swingmen can go awry. A year later, George suffered a horrific compound fracture on both bones of his lower right leg during a 2014 FIBA World Cup scrimmage in Las Vegas. The setback virtually cost him an entire season of progress and raised questions if he could ever soar towards greatness again.

It put his ‘Wuhan Checklist’ on hold. MVP award? Nope. Championship? Not close. First Team All NBA? Nah.

But by 2015-16, George bounced back with a bang, playing 81 games and averaging career highs in scoring and assists. Last summer, he fulfilled his wish of playing in the Olympics and helped bring back a Gold medal from Rio. In 2016-17, he continued his rampage and boosted his scoring output to a career-high 23.7 points per game. The ‘perennial All Star’ wish had also been fulfilled. George put up an unstoppable performance in last season’s playoffs with 28 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists over nearly 43 minutes per game. Just like in the old days however, it was that old foe—LeBron James—that proved to be the thorn in PG’s side, and the Cavaliers swept the Pacers in the First Round.

Despite the loss, George’s comeback from the career-threatening leg injury was complete. Even if he doesn’t have quite the athletic hops he did in his younger days, PG has matured into a better scorer and smarter defender.

But with a drastic change of scenery, he will now find himself evolving into an exciting new role: George was traded over the offseason to Oklahoma City to join reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, not long before OKC pulled off another heist and presented Carmelo Anthony to the explosive Thunder mix, too.

He may no longer be the first option, or on many nights, even the second option on offense. But as the ideal two-way player who can be an elite perimeter defender, an offensive threat, and effect the game without the ball in his hands, George could have the Thunder soaring this season. None of that confidence I saw in Wuhan has wavered. George is still gunning for that MVP trophy. With Westbrook and ‘Melo by his side, he has said that the Thunder have the feel “of a championships team.”

Playing in a different NBA jersey for the first time in his career, this isn’t going to be the 2013 “Rising Star” PG, or the 2015 “Hobbled with Injury” PG, or even the 2016-17 “Bounce Back To Scoring Stardom” PG. The OKC version of Paul George will be something we’ve never seen before. Still only 27, we are going to see PG enter his prime years, a superstar in a new role. A man on a mission to complete his checklist.

October 9, 2017

Lt. Col. Makkolath Rajan, legendary former Indian basketball coach, passes away at 83


One of the most successful and distinguished basketball coaches in India, Lt. Col. Makkolath Rajan passed away at age 83 in Kozhikode (Kerala) on Sunday, October 9. Rajan, who made his mark for India on both the national and international stage and coached India's only Olympic basketball team, had been hospitalised with pneumonia symptoms in Kozhikode a few weeks ago.

Rajan was the head coach of Team India's men's national team for the country's most famous international basketball outing: the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. The team lost all seven games they played in Russia but their place in Indian hoops history was secured with this historic accomplishment. Rajan also coached India at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi, plus the FIBA Asia Basketball Championships in 1973 (Manila), 1985 (Kuala Lumpur) and 1989 (Beijing).

Rajan is the winningest coach in India's national basketball championships, with many gold medals collected in the 70s and 80s with Services. He coached Madhya Pradesh and served as Associate Secretary of the Kerala Basketball Association (KBA) from 1976-85. He held several posts with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) over the years.

Rajan was a distinguished medal winner for his role in Indo-Chinese war.

Rajan's wife passed on a message via Rajan's former player in the 1980 Olympics team, Amarnath N Nagarajan. "He was someone we all looked up to and will continue to do so. He is an inspiration to all of us. He always wanted us to be healthy and fit. Let's all remember and follow that in our busy lives. Sports was a way of life for him. He was a celebrated sportsman and brought laurels to the country. His discipline and dedication towards sports and the Army will always be remembered."

October 8, 2017

Hoopdarshan Episode 53: Shooting our shots - 2017-18 NBA Preview with Vince Granata


With the new season on the brink, Hoopdarshan is back with a lengthy discussion on All Things NBA. In Episode 53, co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok are joined by Vince Granata to give thoughts, predictions, and flaming hot takes on the Warriors' chance of a repeat, the future of new-look Cavs and Celtics in the East, player movement around the league, too much Jeff Green, and a Laker family of Balls.

Listen to Episode 53 now! Also included: Our Championship and MVP predictions and some recent news out of Indian basketball like the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, Amrit Pal Singh with the Sydney Kings, and Amjyot Singh's G-League ambitions.



Hoopdarshan is the truest voice of Indian basketball, and since we're such hopeless fans of the game, it will become the voice of everything basketball related we love, from the NBA to international hoops, too. On every episode of Hoopdarshan, we will be inviting a special guest to interview or chat to about a variety of topics. With expert insight from some of the brightest and most-involved people in the world of Indian basketball, we hope to bring this conversation to a many more interested fans, players, and followers of the game.

Make sure to follow Hoopdarshan on Soundcloud or search for 'Hoopdarshan' on the iTunes Store! Auto-sync Hoopdarshan to your preferred podcast app NOW!

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October 7, 2017

2017 Sub Junior National Basketball Championship to tip off in Didwana, Rajasthan


Deep in the heart of the Thar Desert is Didwana, a city known more for it's mandirs and mathhs than its sports. For the next week, however, this Rajasthani town will be the place to get a first glimpse at the future of Indian basketball.

From October 8-14, the 44th Sub Junior National Championship for Boys and Girls - the Sub-Junior Nationals - will be held at Didwana's Bangour College Stadium. The championship will feature 30 boys' teams and 24 girls' teams in the U14 age group from various Indian States and Union territories, and will be played in a league/knockout format. The Championship is being organized by the Rajasthan Basketball Association under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

Madhya Pradesh Boys and Chhattisgarh Girls are the defending champions from the previous edition held in Hyderabad last year, retaining their trophies from previous years.

The opening ceremony will be held on Sunday, 8th October with Yoonus Khan (PWD and Transportation Minister of Rajasthan) as the Chief Guest.

Participating Teams

Boys
  • Group A: Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Maharashtra.
  • Group B: Rajasthan, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha.
  • Group C: Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat, Nagaland, Puducherry.
  • Group D: Kerala, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura.
  • Group E: Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand.
  • Group F: Delhi, Assam, Jharkhand, Manipur, West Bengal.

Girls
  • Group A: Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi.
  • Group B: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab.
  • Group C: Haryana, Chandigarh, Goa.
  • Group D: Telangana, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Group E: Gujarat, Assam, Jharkhand, West Bengal.
  • Group F: Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand.

The reigning champs MP and Chhattisgarh will hope to stamp their place as dynasties in this format, as MP look for their fourth consecutive title and Chhattisgarh for a three-peat. Last year, Rajasthan's boys squad lost in the finals and the girls finished fifth, and the hosts will have the support of the home crowd to push them forward. Haryana boys will be another contending squad to watch out for. In the girls' bracket, Chhattisgarh are likely to be challenged by the strongest teams from the South: Tamil Nadu and Kerala.