In this episode of NBA India All-Access, we welcome Harsh Dagar, a student-athlete at the NBA Academy India.
Dagar is a 15-year-old 6'2 guard who has been at the NBA Academy India since June of 2018. He was one of eight ACG-NBA Jump winners who were taken into the Academy as its second batch of student-athletes.
Over the past couple of days, since Scott Flemming, the Technical Director at NBA Academy India, shared the story of Dagar's best-out-of-waste basket (below) on social media, the teenager's creativity during the lockdown has caught a lot of eyeballs and rightfully so.
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This is Harsh Dagar, one of our NBA Academy India players from Delhi. During lockdown he has not been able to get to a basketball court so he built is own basket from scratch outside of his home. This is one dedicated young man. #fortheloveofthegame #becreative #findaway #commitment #ThisIsWhyWePlay
However, this isn't the first time the young teenager has made headlines for all the right reasons.
Just a year after joining the Academy, he was part of its roster for the third NBA Academy Games in Atlanta. A month after that, in August 2019, he was part of the India squad at the Jr. NBA Global Championship and played a key role in the team's only pool stage victory. He was one of only four NBA Academy student-athletes to participates in the tournament.
In December of 2019, he made his senior national team debut at the age of 15 and was part of the gold-medal winning team at the South Asian Games in Nepal. Earlier this year, in March, Dagar ranked No. 1 in the world on HomeCourt's NBA Academy Center Flare Shooting Drill.
In an interview with Yash Matange for NBA.com/India, Dagar, a 15-year-old 6'2 guard at the NBA Academy India, touched on a wide range of topics from his home-made basketball hoop during the lockdown, his NBA Academy journey so far, his recent senior national team debut and a lot more. Here's how the conversation went:
NBA.com: It's been nearly three months since the nation-wide lockdown was first enforced and you had to head back home from the NBA Academy. How have you stayed in shape while dealing with the lockdown mentally?
Harsh Dagar: When I came back home just before the lockdown, it was very boring and frustrating for me but the [NBA Academy] coaches used to interact with us every week. They used to send us a workout schedule and we used to have online classes.
We had a full schedule for our day including free time but most of the time we are busy in studies or practices. So, the teachers from school and the coaches have been helping us a lot.
NBA.com: What prompted you to build the basket you have set up just outside your house?
HD: As I mentioned earlier, I was bored and frustrated when I returned from the Academy for the lockdown. So one day, I was on Instagram and saw some NBA players had hoops but they had expensive ones. Then, my brother and I had the idea to make our own with the waste material at home.
So, we collected all the waste material, put them together, and made it.
NBA.com: It's been just over two years since you joined the NBA Academy. In these two years, you have been to Hungary, Atlanta and also represented the India squad at last year's Jr. NBA Global Championship. How do you think these two years have impacted your game and your personality off-the-court?
HD: It has impacted my game a lot. The NBA Academy has very high-class facilities and they also focus on our studies. They also give us exposure on basketball-focused trips to foreign countries.
Lokendra Singh drops 28 points and Harsh Dagar adds 26 to power the India Boys team to a pool play WIN! 🔥 #JrNBAGlobalChampionship pic.twitter.com/paDkIxX9zD- Jr. NBA (@jrnba) August 7, 2019
The main thing I learned [from the tournaments] is to respect other players because the game respects you when you respect every individual. I also got to learn the different cultures of all the different countries and what's the craze of basketball in those countries like it is here, for cricket in India.
So, it has helped me a lot as an athlete and has helped me grow as a person.
NBA.com: In January of 2019, you were one of few student-athletes from NBA Academy India who met Dwyane Wade at the Madison Square Garden. What was that experience like?
HD: It was very exciting for me. I was not able to imagine that I was near Dwyane Wade. He's a very big player and not everyone has the opportunity to see him. So, I was very lucky and I was like I am in a dream when I saw him.
Following @MiamiHEAT/@nyknicks tonight, @DwyaneWade met with the #NBAAcademy Select Team!- Jr. NBA (@jrnba) January 28, 2019
The 3x @NBA champion is a #JrNBAGlobalChampionship Ambassador, and the Select Team includes 3 players that participated in year one. #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/vAHyJ0I1gx
It was a very good moment for me.
NBA.com: In December of 2019, as a 15-year old, you were part of the senior Indian national team. What was that moment like - representing your country?
HD: It was a very proud moment for me and my family. It is a dream of many to play for their country, so it made me very emotional and now, I have the confidence that I could take my game to an even higher level.
NBA.com: When and how did your basketball journey begin?
HD: I started playing the game when I was 11 years old. Earlier, I used to play football but once the coach took me for the basketball team as my height was really good at that time. He took me for a match and we lost that match by one point.
In that match, I played very hard. I was bleeding and sweating. So, after that match, I took it on my ego or something like that and started playing basketball. My elder brother also used to play, so he also motivated me to play and I got on it.
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