Three in the last five months. That's how many NBA Academy India alumni have signed with prep schools in the U.S.
Riyanshu Negi, an 18-year-old from Roorkee, Uttarakhand, is the latest and the fourth NBA Academy India student-athlete overall to commit to a high-school or college basketball program in the U.S. He has signed with DME Sports Academy - a prep school in Daytona Beach, Florida.
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"They were really happy for me," Riyanshu Negi shares the excitement of his parents in an exclusive interview with NBA.com.
He follows the likes of Jagshaanbir Singh (Golden State Prep, Point Park University), Pranav Prince (First Love Christian Academy), and Amaan Sandhu (First Love Christian Academy).
NBA Academy India journey
Negi was among the first batch of 21 student-athletes, identified through the ACG-NBA Jump Program, to join the NBA Academy India when it first opened its doors in 2017 at Jaypee Greens Integrated Sports Complex in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR). ACG, the official partner of the NBA Academy India, has assisted in conducting these programs annually since 2016.
"It was a surreal moment for me because obviously, I wasn't expecting it," Negi said.
Meet the workhorse of the #NBAAcademy India: Riyanshu Negi pic.twitter.com/k01Gts6Q7l- NBAIndia (@NBAIndia) August 2, 2018
It was the Academy and the relationships he formed there, that provided a base for the 6'3" shooting guard to grow. On a very fundamental level, it helped his game improve.
"Coaches over there changed my shooting form completely and I wasn't as good of a shooter when I entered the Academy but now, I can shoot the ball really well. I think that was the main thing that I improved."
However, the biggest difference-maker for Negi at the Academy was lifting weights.
"I remember when I entered the Academy, I was like 64 kgs and I gained a lot. I was 78 in 2019," Negi shares. "Coach Todd [NBA Academy India's strength and conditioning coach], he really helped me. It was great that I improved my body and it's going to help me.
Riyanshu Negi's transformation story is motivating!#NBAAcademy #ACGNBAJump- NBAIndia (@NBAIndia) August 15, 2019
That's not all. Even a year after leaving the Academy, it came in handy to stay in shape. Negi elaborates:
"I graduated from the Academy in 2019, so I wasn't in touch with them [during the lockdowns], though there are some of my friends who are in the Academy right now. I always called them once a week and they used to send me the workout.
During his time at the Academy, Negi was part of multiple basketball development camps including the 2017 and 2018 NBA Academy Games and the 2017 NBA Asia Pacific Camp in China.
Basketball began by accident
Like nearly every teenager in India, Negi was playing cricket not more than five years ago.
"My friends, they used to play basketball," Negi shares. "So I was in school, sitting in the library. They just told me that, there is some tournament and 'do you want to play. Do you want to try out'."
"I was fast, like really short, so I was like okay I can try it. I played my first tournament and then, I got selected for the state team. I did well there and then I started falling in love with the game and that's how I started playing."
Back then, he was 13 or 14 years old, and being born in a sports family, he received all the support he needed.
"My dad used to play football and my grandfather used to play football. So, they always wanted me to play some sport."
Ready for the road ahead
While thanking Scott Flemming, Technical Director of the NBA Academy India, for helping him out in the process of signing with DME Sports Academy, Negi seems to understand what lies ahead.
"I think if I'll go there I have to improve on certain things," the 18-year-old guard begins explaining. "First of all, my body because the players over there are really strong and shooting, I've been working on it like crazy lately."
"DME Academy will give me the opportunity to play in front of college scouts, so that's huge. If I can do good and I'll keep improving as a player and as a person, I have a high chance to play Division 1 Basketball in America."
Although the NBA Academy India preps these young prospects to play abroad, nobody can be fully prepared to overcome the huge culture and competition gap but Negi is ensuring he covers all bases by checking in with a couple of his friends who already have that experience.
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"I have a really good relationship with Pranav and Amaan, also with Jagshaanbir - he's at Point Park right now playing NAIA basketball."
"I just video called them as soon as my visa was approved. I was just curious to know how the basketball over there is and how the physicality is, so I mean I'm talking a lot with them and they are just like 'they are fast but we can cope up if we shoot the ball well and if we keep on improving our body'. So, that's pretty much it."
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