In this edition of NBA India All-Access, we welcome back Scott Flemming, former coach of the Indian national senior basketball team and the current Technical Director of the NBA Academy India.
He spent the past couple of years as the Senior Director of Basketball Operations for NBA India and was the coach of the Indian national senior basketball team from 2012 to 2015.
So, with the recent NBA Draft and upcoming NBA India Games, probably nobody would be better to talk about the growth of basketball at the grassroots level in the country than him.
Yash Matange: Congratulations on another successful year of Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA. Travelling across the country to various cities and promoting the game, could you share with us any memorable or standout moments/events from the 2018-19 Rf. Jr. NBA season?
Scott Flemming: We added 5-on-5 competitions this year for all 34 cities that have the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program. It was great to see all the tournaments that led to the Reliance Foundation National Finals at The NBA Academy India in Delhi NCR. I always enjoy the look on the faces of the boys and girls when I call their names as an all-star that will represent their city or region.
Matange: With another year for you with the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA in India, could you tell us what is the most common advice you share with coaches you meet and the most common queries that you are asked by coaches at these Jr. NBA camps?
Flemming: At all the Jr. NBA Coaches Academies I share with the P.E. teachers that even if they are not experienced in playing or coaching basketball they just need to do their best and learn along with the students.
If by chance one of these students becomes an NBA or WNBA player they will most likely be the first one to pique their interest in basketball.
Matange: You have been with NBA India for nearly a couple of years and during that time India has hosted many NBA superstars (past and present) - KD, Tim Hardaway Sr, Brook Lopez, Harrison Barnes (to name a few). Playing an integral part on all of these camps that the NBA superstars attend, can you share the impact of their presence in the country on the kids at the Grassroots events, prospects at The NBA Academy India and the country as a whole?
"You guys made me feel at home and now it's my turn to do so for you guys."- NBA (@NBA) August 7, 2018
Brook Lopez returned the favor as India welcomed him to their home. #JrNBAWorldChampionship #ThisIsWhyWePlay (via @jrnba) pic.twitter.com/EblSUGVkZL
Flemming: Of course all of these NBA players make an impact on the kids and coaches when they attend our Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA events. The one that will always stand out for me is Brook Lopez. After his visit to India, he invited all of our Indian team to his house in Orlando during the first edition of Jr. NBA Global Championship in 2018.
Not only that, but he and his family attended our team's game wearing an Indian jersey. He commented that India had treated him so well that he wanted to return the favor.
Matange: The 2019 NBA Draft will be four years since Satnam Singh was drafted 52nd overall by the Dallas Mavericks. Do you see anybody from India achieving the same feat in the near future?
Flemming: There is not one specific player that I can say for sure will achieve this goal but we have many young players to keep an eye on. There are many examples, especially international players, that are late bloomers and end up surpassing all expectations.
Matange: Among the current crop of young guns that the ACG-NBA Jump program and Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program have spotted over the past couple of years, any particular players you would like to name, who have a really bright future, and that Indians should be on the lookout for?
MORE: Result of the 4th annual ACG-NBA Jump National Finals
Flemming: We have a couple of U14 players that not only have been selected to represent India in the Jr. NBA Global Championship but have also been selected through the ACG-NBA Jump National Finals for the NBA Academy India. Their potential is great, knowing they will be training at the Academy for possibly four years.
Matange: A lot of junior Indian talent (girls and boys) has been making the right noise globally over the past couple of years. We have the Co-MVPs of the first-ever NBA Academy India Women's Camp that would be heading the US for college basketball. There have been multiple Indian boys that have been called up to attend global NBA camps.
In your opinion, any particular reason for this recent positive spike? Surely, the NBA Academy has a huge role to play in this, right?
Flemming: The joint efforts of BFI, FIBA, and the NBA have given many of our young players exposure. The NBA Academy India Women's Camp and the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp brought many international coaches, particularly from the U.S, here to scout and then recommend our players to U.S. college coaches. I anticipate this even growing in the future.
Matange: Being part of NBA India, what are your thoughts on the possible positive impact that the NBA India Games could have on the basketball scene in India?
Flemming: I believe the NBA India Games is another huge step in making basketball even more relevant in India. To have some of the best basketball players in the world playing in our country will not only educate the casual fan to the greatness of these athletes but will help to promote the NBA.
A spectacle awaits #NBAGamesInIndia pic.twitter.com/5Yk0uDHF8z- NBAIndia (@NBAIndia) December 20, 2018
This should also help to motivate more people to watch games on TV on a more regular basis and to make some of these players more popular, especially with our youth.
I have always felt it is a two-step process to grow basketball in India. First, to grow the popularity of basketball generally across the country, which in turn will grow the NBA brand. You could also make a case that the popularity of the NBA will lead to the growth of the game. Either way, they feed off each other.
MORE: Cultural impact of NBA India Games
The NBA India games in October will definitely help this process.
Matange: Having coached them, how proud does it make you feel that players like Satnam (2 G-League seasons then NBL Canada), Amjyot (2 G-League seasons) and Amritpal (NBL) are pushing the boundaries by playing in foreign professional leagues and setting an example for youngsters to come?
Flemming: When I arrived in India in 2012 we didn't have any of our players in a professional league outside of India. Since that time we have seen players in the Japan League, the NBL, the Canadian League, the NBA G League, and of course Satnam being selected in the NBA draft.
I am extremely proud of Amritpal, Amjyot, Vishesh, and Satnam for earning professional contracts. This also includes some of our female players like Geethu and Jeena signing contracts in Australia. I don't know if people realize how hard it is to reach this level of success. There are so many great players all around the world that never played at the professional level.
Great to see 2 of my former national team players. (Amrit & Amjyot) They have both gone on to play professionally. #federationcup #nbagleague #nblaustralia #BFI pic.twitter.com/nSewluxo9j- Scott Flemming (@scottwflemming) June 15, 2019
These players are making a pathway for more to come.
Coach Scott is a regular panel analyst on NBA India's weekend pre-game and post-game show on the sports channels of the Sony Pictures Network - Around the Hoop, so we picked his brains on a few questions related to the ongoing 2018-19 NBA season:
Matange: As a coach yourself, who do you consider the greatest coach of all-time?
Flemming: College Coaches John Wooden and Jay Wright / NBA Coaches Donn Nelson and Gregg Popovich.
Matange: How do coaches normally deal with an off-season like the NBA's?
Flemming: There is some relaxation but the coaches stay quite busy with their preparation for the draft, breaking down film, updating their training methods/playbook, public appearances, NBA summer league, and other scouting opportunities.