Amjyot Singh is a member of the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA G-League.
Singh played in 30 games for Oklahoma City last season. Ahead of the start of the G-League season, NBA.com caught up with Singh for an exclusive one-on-one in which he talked about how he first started playing, his time spent at the Ludhiana Basketball Academy, his favourite player growing up and how the sport is changing at India's highest level.
Singh also gave us his Finals pick and MVP prediction for MVP, among others.
NBA.com: You were originally a great Cricket player, a bowler… what made you decide to switch to playing basketball?
Singh: When I used to play cricket I got injured because I bowled without warming up so I got a back injury. So my father used to play basketball before I got injured. I used to watch him play basketball and it was more interesting. So when I got hurt, that's what caused me to switch.
NBA.com: Were you previously playing recreationally? Or was that the first time you started playing?
Singh: No that was the first time I played. Because before that I used to play cricket and before that football. So that was the first time I ever played basketball.
NBA.com: Both of your parents were great athletes and your father played for the national team. Did you ever play one-on-one?
Singh: Yeah when I was small I used to play but after I started growing, he didn't want to play anymore. Because when I was small he used to bully me and do anything, but then I became older and he didn't want to play (laughs).
NBA.com: Do you remember beating him one-on-one for the first time?
Singh: No, because when he knew that I could beat him, he never played with me anymore (laughs). He's very smart!
NBA.com: Did you have any favourite NBA players growing up or guys that you tried modeling your game after?
Singh: I used to look up to Kevin Durant, he was my favourite NBA player from childhood, I used to watch him play and still do. I'm always watching him. I try playing like him for the national team, handle the ball, shoot 3s… I try to be like him.
MORE: Top moments of Kevin Durant's career
NBA.com: You trained at the Ludhiana Basketball Academy, regularly produces more basketball talent than anywhere else in the country… For those who might not be familiar, what's a typical day and week like there?
Singh: When Dr. Subramanian was there - he was our coach - he used to run three sessions in a day. Morning sessions would be more often conditioning, running. Afternoon sessions were lots of shooting. And then in the evenings, we'd play more doing 5 on 5s, etc. We lived there, coach lived there. Whenever he wanted to give us advice or tell us anything, he always could and would.
NBA.com: Were there any other comparable academies on the same level as Ludhiana?
Singh: When I used to play, there wasn't really anything close. Because of Dr. Subramanian, again we used to practice those three times a day. I've never seen anyone that passionate for basketball anywhere in the country. He was very passionate for the game and that was the only place I think where a lot of players would really come out of.
NBA.com: You've played professionally in Tokyo and Delhi in addition to now in Oklahoma City in the G-League. In 2015, you became the first Indian men's basketball player to play professionally outside of India, a major accomplishment. How does it feel to represent India as a pioneer in the basketball community?
Singh: It's a blessing for me. A lot of people came before me to open the gates for themselves and for me as well. And now I'm always working on my form to improve my game. It's a blessing to represent such a great country, such great people. It's truly a blessing.
NBA.com: A few years ago in New Jersey not long after you went to the U.S., there was a Punjabi Chamber of Commerce gathering that you attended along with some others in your group. What was that like having support from your Indian community early on?
Singh: At the time those were the only Punjabi people I had met in the U.S. for the first time. I'm so concentrated on my training and focused on improving my game so I can grow as a player that I don't always get to meet too many Punjabi people. So that was a great thing for me to meet them and to tell them my story. To see the support, it was really great.
NBA.com: For most G-League players, the goal is ultimately to make it to the NBA. With regards to your own game, what have you been working on the most?
Singh: The main thing was working on my body. As a player in India, I didn't really have the emphasis on nutrition as much and would eat whatever. But when I came to the U.S., they'd be like "you have to eat this, this and this and then you have to reduce your rate" and stuff. So that was the major thing I've always kept in my mind to improve my game. And I can see the results. I'm much lighter, I move quicker, more balance. That's been the major thing I've been working on.
And obviously, a big part of the game is strength, agility and conditioning. All of that is required and essential so nutrition has really been a key part of my improvement.
NBA.com: You've been involved with the national team for about a decade. From the time you started up until now, how have you seen the game change in India?
Singh: When I started playing for the national team, there was a coach named Kenny Natt. He, like all of the former coaches who I played for, tried to improve the game in India a lot. But the era in which the game improved the most was under Scott Flemming. He was our head coach for three years and it was the first time we started playing with a more modern style of play. We began giving hard times to big names like China and Iran and a lot of others. There was a drastic change in Indian basketball after our time with Scott, because we really came together and played as a team.
NBA.com: Basketball's becoming very popular in India. The NBA obviously has significant interest with various clinics and academies along with the potential for a preseason game in the future. What are the next steps towards for India in terms of growing the sport and developing talent?
Singh: It starts at the grassroots level. And certainly improving the infrastructure. We see things like the NBA Academy, they have good facilities for sure but probably not like ones you'd see in the United States. Better facilities will always help and hopefully more will come to India. I think good coaches are already coming over here to give training and the NBA is helping.
Getting kids early at the grassroots level. And leagues in India will certainly help a lot as well.
NBA.com: Let's say you're teaching a clinic in India and there's a talented young player who says he wants to be the next Amjyot Singh… what would be your biggest piece of advice?
Singh: Follow your dreams and never give up. If you have ability and passion for the game, you just have to follow your dreams and nothing can stop you from achieving it.
NBA.com: And finally, some rapid fire questions on the league in general
- Who will win the MVP? LeBron James
- Who is the best dunker? Dennis Smith Jr.
- Who is the best rookie? Deandre Ayton
- Who has the best fashion sense? Russell Westbrook
- What will be the NBA Finals? Warriors over Celtics