Sports news. Indian basketball received a shot in the arm when Satnam Singh, the 19-year-old seven-foot-two-inch tall basketball player from the remote Punjab village of Ballo Ke near Ludhiana, became the first Indian to be drafted into the star-studded National Basketball League in the USA.
Satnam made the whole India stand tall as he took a giant leap into sporting history when 2011 NBA champions Dallas Mavericks picked him up in the second round of the NBA draft in New York. Satnam was the 52nd pick among a pool of 60 in the draft.
Gursimran ‘Sim’ Bhullar was the first player of Indian origin to play in the NBA when he turned out for the Sacramento Kings in three games this April, but unlike Satnam, he was born in Canada.
The Punjabi-speaking Satnam has been training at the IMG Academy in Florida for the past five years but has no previous experience of basketball at this level.
Satnam also marks the first time since the 2005 NBA draft that a player would declare to enter the draft without playing in college, overseas professionally, or in the NBA Development League as well.
Obviously he was in cloud nine as soon as his name was picked.
“After hearing my name, I could not control my emotions and cried. I was delighted and happy. I have opened the gate for all kids in India who want to play basketball,” he said.
“At least there is now somebody whom the youngsters back home can identify with, who is playing in the NBA. Now a road has opened up for them from which they can come up. The game will certainly grow in India in the coming years. You see the popularity of cricket now but in the future basketball will also be popular back home,” he added.
His inclusion is likely to see basketball gain popularity across the country, similar to NBA sensation Yao Ming’s role in popularizing the sport in China.
Satnam could soon be seen rubbing shoulders with Mavericks stars Dirk Nowitzki and Amar’e Stoudemire, to name a few.
Satnam’s fairy tale journey started from a non-descript Punjab village in northern India where he was nicknamed ‘Chottu (little one)’!
Satnam joined the Ludhiana Basketball Academy in 2006 and started training under the late S Subramanian, who termed him a “basketball giant in the making”.
He played his first national championship in 2008 in Kapurthala’s under-13 event and went on to become the youngest player to play for India in 2011.
The year 2011 was significant for Satnam as he, at 15, became the youngest to play for India at the Asia Basketball Championship.
Incidentally, it was the year in which Mavericks won their first and only NBA title.
Satnam represented India national basketball team at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship also.
On April 24, when Satnam gave his name for the NBA draft, some experts felt he was a couple of years away from being close to NBA-ready. But the big man said, “My coaches feel I am NBA-ready and that is why I have made myself available for the draft.”
Satnam can play forward or centre and is also a handy defender. Satnam was a part of seven pre-draft workouts and was invited by Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, Mavericks, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers. Satnam’s guide at the IMG Academy, Daniel J Barto, who picked him in
2010 on the insistence of the late Harish Sharma, former secretary of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), is happy with the development. “Satnam is the hardest worker I have ever seen. His future is bright,” he said.