The NBA has grown in popularity in recent years in the Indian subcontinent. Whether it’s the brand or the sport of basketball, far more young people are getting into basketball than a decade ago.
The NBA Academy of India has a huge role to play in proliferating the number of sports enthusiasts in the country. Scott Flemming, the academy’s technical director, explains the growth of the sport in the cricket-mad nation since his time as India’s national basketball team coach in 2012.
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“Since I came to India to be a national coach, I have seen basketball grow,” begins the American coach.
“Not just the awareness of the NBA and what they are doing here in India, but also independent groups and the federation.”
“I agree with you that the growth has not been rapid, but it has been slow and steady.”
There is still plenty of room for development as he rightly notes: “There are key factors that can be named. For example, a professional league can give him a real boost, but I think I’ve seen him grow anyway.
“We had a dozen professional NBA players meet with the kids and run the camp. And I think there’s a bigger fan base than before.
“It will probably never come close to cricket, but we hope to win in other sports,” he said candidly.
“I’ve seen the game develop steadily, but there’s still a long way to go.”
As the famous saying goes “The person before the player“, sport is often seen as a means for the overall development of a player, but above all the holistic development of the person. And the man who coached the Indian national team to two medals at the South Asian Championships in the years 2014 and 2015 has a similar motto. He is proud of the fact that the methods deployed in his center of excellence follow a similar philosophy.
“I certainly give a lot of credit to the federation and the coaches of the federation for what they’ve done with the players, but I think it helped that they had their foundation here at the NBA Academy. And I think that this is how we can truly associate.
“I’ve said it before, it takes a village to really help a player and improve him. So, we feel that we are part of the village, the federation is part of it, the parents are part of it, and the local coaches, we all work together. But I think being in a structured environment here and being able to work basketball every day with their schooling and stuff is a great foundation to be successful,” he said in an exclusive to News18.
The reach and appeal of the game has been greatly aided by advances in technology over the past two decades and the globalization of markets. Such developments allow the sport to tap into a wider pool of players hailing from different parts of the globe.
“With each passing year, there are more and more international players in the NBA. If you look at the last draft, you’ll find a lot of international players on the roster,” says Flemming.
This is due to careful effort by organizers and decision makers. “The NBA has been very intentional in wanting to be global. They even host a lot of their games in other countries.
“We had a pre-season game here in Mumbai a few years ago. And I know the NBA intended to come to India and build a brand, especially working at the grassroots level, which I was also a part of.
“We have reached millions of children through the Junior NBA. We also have other ancillary features such as coaching academies and various competitions and tournaments as well as our year-round NBA schools,” Flemming tells us. an overview of the multitude of seed opportunities available under the NBA India Academy umbrella.
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It goes on to explain development paths optimized to unlock a player’s true potential.
“It’s a combined effort and we have a three-pronged approach, where the junior NBA is where neighborhoods are introduced to the NBA version of basketball and some of them get the chance to go into NBA schools, and if they play at a very high and excellent level, they can compete to be part of the NBA academy, so we work together to develop the game of basketball and the brand of the NBA in India. “
Talent can be found anywhere, regardless of caste, creed, birth, religion, or social and economic status.
However, India, being the diverse nation that it is, can hardly administer or deploy equal accessibility measures given the fluctuating socio-economic climatic variance among its multiple regions. In simpler terms, not every town or city can have the luxury of a metropolitan city where the “grind” seemingly happens. And therefore, special measures tailored to the needs of rural or underdeveloped areas are needed to expand access to the real pool of talent available in the country.
“We probably need to do more (in terms of developing sport in rural areas). It is very difficult to set up a network in all the villages as it is. We do our best to reach people. Even if they can’t attend our trials, we offer children the opportunity to submit videos and information about themselves. »
“We went to some villages. When you hear about an exceptional player. Back when Satnam Singh was coming, we had representatives to go to his village and see him,” Fleming recounts of his own experience traveling the deep Indian roads in an attempt to dig up a diamond in the making.
“But it’s a tough challenge, I admit. We are certainly not against that. I would like to go to all the small villages in India, but practically it is not always easy to do. So, I hope the word gets out,” he said sincerely.
“I know some of the boys we have at the academy come from small villages. They made the effort to go to the trials in the big cities. “
“The other way to find them is to look for national tournaments because a lot of good players play in state teams. And that’s how we realized that a lot of good players come from these little towns.
“It doesn’t matter where they come from, a big city or a small village. We watch how they play, what kind of teammate they are and what kind of heart they really have,” he explains, encapsulating the qualities required to make an honest sportsman.
Any type of development requires a solid foundation and therefore substantial work at the local level must be done in order to reap the benefits in the future.
“I participated in school tournaments. If we hear about some quality players joining, we try to go there and take a look. We also have relationships with colleges. We bring them here and play in a league that we have here at the academy.
“We know they’re post-academy type players, but we’re trying to keep an ear out for things like that.”
“The main thing I can probably say is the NBA School program that we have is our main feature. We work with schools that are already established. We come with the NBA program where we train them after school and players don’t have to be from that school either. A lot of them are, but they don’t have to be.
“We’ve also brought in current and former NBA players to do school visits, so that’s probably the best thing we’re doing in terms of our relationship with schools right now.” he concluded.
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