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Basketball and India

NBA India All-Access: A conversation with Prasanna Venkatesh

Prasanna Venkatesh
(NBA Getty Images)

In this edition of NBA India All-Access, we would like to welcome coach Prasanna Venkatesh.

Prasanna Venkatesh was the coach of the girls' team that represented India at the Jr. NBA World Championships last August in Orlando.

Here's a short clip of coach talking about how he started playing basketball and the impact of Jr. NBA in India:

Through his regular coaching routine and busy schedule, he took some time to talk to NBA.com/India and share his story.

Matange: From playing basketball, how did you transition to coaching?

Venkatesh: While playing I had suffered a minor ankle injury which had kept me off the court for quite a while. It was during this time, that I began coaching basketball and teaching young kids.

Matange: Getting to the Jr. NBA World Championships, could you tell us about the journey to Orlando and how you led the girls to win in the finals of the India round?

Venkatesh: It was surreal. The entire experience was just amazing.

We did not settle once we knew we were going to Orlando. We focused on our fitness levels with a month-long camp in Bengaluru. I was scouting the other team's schemes with videos as they were being uploaded on the Jr. NBA website.

Our drawback was clear - height. So, we wanted to focus on scoring from the perimeter instead of attempting layups or shots in the paint. It was more screen-and-rolls but a lot of our time before we left for Orlando was strategizing for the games.

Matange: What about Orlando itself? Could you tell us about the experience of competing in that tournament, meeting Brook Lopez and even the trip to Disney World.

Venkatesh: It was like a dream come true. None of us expected to represent our country in the World Championships. It was the first opportunity for all of us, so, everything was like a dream.

By meeting the coaches and players there, you realize how different the competition is in India and in the US. I don't know how to say it any better. The trip was mind-blowing and just a dream.

Matange: As a coach at that tournament, what was your biggest learning experience?

Venkatesh: I think meeting other coaches and sharing ideas was the biggest benefit of the trip for me personally. I met a few coaches from Europe, who I am still in touch with.

The coaching style across countries is obviously different, so you get to learn a lot by sharing ideas about practice, motivating the kids, and so on.

Matange: Once you were back, what was the reaction like from your family and friends?

Venkatesh: It was my biggest achievement and nobody expected it, so they were all really proud. This was my goal and that's why the trip to Orlando was a dream come true.

Everybody congratulated me and it was a humbling experience to receive so many good wishes.

Matange: You were present at a recent Jr. NBA clinic in Bengaluru where NBA Champion Rashard Lewis had paid a visit. Could you talk about the importance of these clinics for kids in India?

Venkatesh: It's very important. When the kids see international coaches or international players, they get motivated. The interest of learning basketball receives a huge boost and these kids get a lot of inspiration from such type of clinics.

In fact, I would go further in saying, we should have such clinics not only for future basketball players but also for young coaches. I think both together would be the key to improving basketball in India.

Matange: The India round of the Jr. NBA Championships was conducted at the NBA Academy India premises. Could you give the readers an insight into the state-of-the-art facility and your experience from being there?

Venkatesh: It was amazing. Back in my days, when we played Nationals, we would travel for 2-3 days in the train to get to the venue but for the tournament last year, they had planned everything so well.

More: NBA Academy India Women's Camp - the Springboard

The NBA did a really great job, right from the accommodation to travel for the young kids and the coaches. It was top class.

Matange: Surely, you have heard about the NBA India Games 2019. Could you share your excitement about the NBA playing preseason games in India for the first time ever?

Venkatesh: This is historical. I'm really excited and hope to be there in October for the games.

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