New Delhi: Over seven-feet tall and having a shoe size of 22, Satnam Singh Bhamara, the first Indian basketball player to be drafted in the NBA, tipped of the ACG-NBA Jump, India's first national basketball talent search program, here today.
Under the program, young basketballers from all over the country will get an opportunity to develop their skills under the guidance of NBA-certified coaches while one top player will be selected for the tryout of National Basketball Association's D-League.
Speaking on the sidelines of the launch of the program, 19-year-old Satnam, who was picked by Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Draft, said that Indian basketball needed an academy and better support staff.
"So many youngsters in India play basketball. We have talent here and to nurture them a basketball academy should be opened. It should have residential facilities, enough courts and gyms," he said.
"The national team, both men's and women's, should at least have a qualified doctor who can take care if a player gets an injury. Whenever I come to India, I get injured but there is no one to show my injuries to in the team," he added.
Satnam said that he was confident and looked forward to play for the Dallas Mavericks affiliate Texas Legends in the NBA D-League which starts in November.
"I am really excited and can't wait to get back. I have complete confidence in myself, I am raring to go out there and play hard," he said.
"I played in the NBA Summer League and it was good for me.
I had not played earlier with NBA or college players, only high-school. I felt I played well and it gave me a lot of experience. It gave me confidence that 'Yes, I can now play!'," he added.
The NBA D-League is NBA's official minor league and serves to develop and prepare players for the NBA. The 2014-15 NBA end-of-season rosters boasted an all-time high 38 per cent of players with NBA D-League experience.
On his chances of breaking through to the NBA first team he said that it all depended on his improvement.
"It can take one year, two years or even five years. My coaches have told me that players over seven feet tall are sometimes slow. So, for them to improve and get better takes a year or two or even more," he said.
"Personally, I want to work hard and improve so much in the next one year that the coaches wouldn't have to say that 'he still needs time'," he added.
The seven-feet two-inches tall teen whose nickname is 'Chhotu' said that he looks up to Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki as they have similar roles in court. Satnam called ex-India basketball player Jagdeep Singh Bains as his role model and inspiration.
The ACG-NBA Jump program will be spread across in three phases. Six regional camps will be held in the first phase in Delhi, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. Top 60 players from each region will be selected and will go through skills training, game and talent evaluation.
The second phase will see the top 32 players inducted into an Elite Talent Club, and an NBA star and international coach will come to India to train them. Each year, 32 youth from the program will be added to the club whose progress will be tracked and monitored by NBA.
In the final phase one top player will be selected to train for two months and sent for the tryout for NBA's D-League.
The basketball camp here at the Thyagaraj Sport Complex saw the use of drones to film the proceedings on court. NBA India Managing Director Yannick Colaco said that the footage would be used to analyse the performance of the players.
On the program, Colaco said, "This is one of the most comprehensive talent identification and development program ever launched for basketball in India."
"Aside from creating opportunities for players to turn Pro on a global stage, this program will also help raise the skill levels of basketball talent in the country. ACG-NBA Jump is going to create aspirations for millions of basketball playing youth in India who want to make it big in the sport," he added.