NBA plans to spread junior programme to more Indian cities

Mumbai: With a view to target the youth and train them from an early stage, the National Basketball Association (NBA) plans to roll out its Junior NBA in five new cities in the next three years.

"We have brought Junior NBA to India. We continue to evaluate our Junior NBA programme, which is focused on training coaches and introducing the game to the youth. We are looking to scale that up and create a national footprint. This year, we had five cities and our goal in the next three years is to take the programme to 10 cities," NBA India Senior Director Akash Jain said.

The association, at present, operates the Junior NBA programme in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Chennai and Chandigarh and has already identified three cities with potential to launch the programme.

"The new one for us is Hyderabad. We had the 3X event there and the response was fantastic. We are looking to bring more programmes in Hyderabad. Then there is Kochi. Ludhiana is also there. The talent over there is just amazing. The long-term plan is to create a national footprint," Jain said.

He further said the NBA may get professional US teams to play exhibition matches in the country in future.

"We will continue to bring NBA players for tours, to work with youth and coaches. In future, we may evaluate bringing teams here for pre-season tours, which is something we do in China and across Europe.

"Those are exhibition matches. Those are things we are looking at to grow NBA and basketball in India," he said.

Asked if the NBA will be building new courts to improve the infrastructure, he said, "Building courts is part of long-term plan. The first step is to maximise the current infrastructure. We are evaluating opportunities to create indoor infrastructure as well, and we are looking at the right partners to do that. There is no time-line for building it."

"We believe it is important for the growth of sport, once we have the right partner and right location. We are excited about the opportunity. Building both outdoor and indoor infrastructure is important to us. We will look to accelerate it as much as we can," Jain said.

The association is trying to promote the game by introducing more merchandise with its global apparel and footwear partner.

"We are in discussion with partners for other category to build our non-apparel business. As the fan following and strength of NBA brand grows, we believe there will be demand for non-apparel products like backpacks, caps and basketballs. We are also focused on building our gaming business with 2K, our global partners, here.

"We work with licensing agent Bradford licensing and we will work with them to engage with partners in variety of category. We are having those discussions now for categories like bags, back to school products, games and things like that. We are seeing great response from potential business partners. So in early 2013, we will look at rolling out non-apparel products," he added.

The NBA has introduced the new format 3X, in which, 400 teams participated across Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai.

On the format, Jain said, "3X3 basketball is a great format to get youth interested in the game. We have seen worldwide that it is a format to attract participation. We are always evaluating new formats."

Troy Justice, Senior Director-NBA India, said the winning team will participate in FIBA 3X event and will compete against the other Asian teams.

Justice added that the association is trying to make use of existing infrastructure, which is quite large in the country.