Mumbai: The popularity of basketball and the NBA have steadily grown in India over the last few years. The interest in NBA has risen sharply since Satnam Singh and Palpreet Singh joined the NBA.
Satnam became the first Indian to join the NBA in 2015, when he was picked by Dallas Mavericks in the 2015 NBA Draft. Palpreet Singh was picked by NBA D-League side Long Island Nets in October this year.
There is more than one common link between Satnam and Palpreet, apart from the fact that they both have joined NBA. Both the hoopsters trained in the USA to improve their game.
Satnam travelled to US in 2011 on an IMG-Reliance scholarship programme, while Palpreet trained in Houston to improve his game.
The dream may have just come closer. NBA will launch it's own academy in India, in April 2017. The announcement was made by NBA Vice President of International Basketball Operations, Brooks Meek, on Tuesday.
The academy is NBA's fifth elite training centre globally and will be fully funded by the basketball association. India are NBA's third destination for such an academy, NBA has already established three elite academies in China and one in Australia.
Brooks feels this is the right time for NBA to engage with India through an elite programme, as the game's popularity is at an all-time high.
"The game has never been more popular in India and you see that through with some of the successes of the men's national team and just the way the game is developing and growing," said Brooks. "It's the first time that the NBA is investing directly in player development at this level."
"Typically we allow other organisations to develop player for us and now we know the importance of it. We want to give Indian kids an option to really explore their abilities and their talents, instead of looking out somewhere else outside of the country."
Yannick Colaco, NBA India Managing Director, said the academy will help remove the barrier of sending a prospect outside India for training purposes.
"The one challenge for all of us in the development of a child is to send them outside the country and make him or her adopt a new culture. This helps remove those massive barriers by bringing the academy in this country," said Yannick.
The initiative will begin with 24 participants, who will be selected through a national scouting program. The young prospects will be exposed to NBA-level coaching, training, facilities and competition to maximise their potential.
"We want to do a national campaign with a series of camps to give every child a fair shot at this. We have a scouting network that uses methodology from our team which we will apply in this process," added Brooks.
The participants will also receive scholarship and educational support from the NBA.
Brooks added that the larger goal of the initiative is to shape the next generation of national level players for India.
"We have worked very closely with FIBA to help grow the game of basketball in India and we felt that the academy is the best way for us to improve the national team and improve the infrastructure."
NBA is looking forward to work closely with all stakeholders, including national and state federations, as they target to develop future generation of Indian basketball. The program will also help in developing and training coaches.
"We are always want to have a great relationship with national and state governing bodies. We are going to help national and state federations to grow the game of basketball," said Brooks.