Shomira Bidaye is one of five Indians selected to be part of the NBA Academy's Women's Virtual Program 2021.
The five Indians are among a group of 50 selected from across the world after the NBA Academy scanned over 300 applications from over 50 countries. The program aims to help these young prospects, all of whom are between the ages of 14 and 17, to develop their skills on and off the court which could assist them in building a future with basketball.
"First they thought I was lying to them [parents]," Bidaye said in an exclusive with Yash Matange for NBA.com India. "Then, they were like 'you actually got selected' when I showed them that the NBA Academy had posted it."
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Shomira and her parents might have been surprised but given her rise over recent years, it seemed like she was always on track for this.
Getting the nod from Jr. NBA development programs
The teenager was not only a part of India's roster at the Jr. NBA Global Champions in 2019, but she was also invited to participate in the NBA Academy India's third Women's Camp in Mumbai during the week of the India Games.
And it all began with the Jr. NBA trials in her city of Nagpur, early in 2019.
"First, I gave the trials and then there was like an inter-school tournament," Shomira added. "They selected five from that to give the national trial."
She was obviously one of those five. She was then teamed up with other girls from cities like Pune and Mumbai to form the West Zone team and competed in the national trials, from which 20 were selected for the international trials before the final team could be shortlisted.
"It was like you got to see all the players from the world, of your age," Shomira recounts her Jr. NBA Global Championship experience. "Americans are just like superior, like their team is amazing. Then, all the boys were dunking and everything."
"There were a lot of NBA players there and they have a lot of off-court skills as well for us."
At the Jr. NBA Global Championships in Florida, Shomira was among the best performers for India and also participated in the 3-point shooting contest.
All of that recognition is sure to have played a role in her earning an invitation to the NBA Academy Camp in Mumbai later that year.
NBA India Games experience
The third NBA Academy India Women's Camp was held in the same week as the NBA India Games, a life-changing and memorable experience for all Academy campers - girls and boys.
"The NBA India Games were just amazing," Shomira shared. "The NBA players were just like standing right in front of us and we were rebounding for them."
"I had courtside duties of going and handing them towels in their timeouts, so it was just amazing."
This was Shomira's first camp and she was playing alongside the best girls in the country, some of whom were already on their path to the United States, including the likes of Harsimran Kaur and Siya Deodhar.
"I got a lot to learn from them and then, the foreign coaches taught us a different kind of basketball."
Nagpur ties with Siya Deodhar
While Kaur won camp MVP in October of 2019, the other part of the duo - Siya - was of more significance to Shomira given the long relationship she previously shared with the point guard.
"Siya is my best friend since I was in pre-school," Shomra shares. "She lives right beside my house. So, we have literally grown up together."
Siya is one of the star alumni of the NBA Academy India Women's Camp and was an awardee at every one of the three NBA Academy India Women's camps. She also attended the BWB Asia Camp in 2019 in Tokyo and followed that up by getting invited to the BWB Global Camp during the 2020 All-Star Weekend in Chicago.
It was in Nagpur, at a basketball court close to her, where her journey with the sport began.
"When I was in Grade 1, my mother just sent me there [to the court nearby] and I started playing basketball."
Since then, Shomira played the sport at the same club as Siya until the opportunity of the Jr. NBA trials came knocking.
Sights firmly set on the WNBA
When asked to share her favourite player, Shomira said Maya Moore, who has displayed greatness on and off the court.
"I actually follow the WNBA more than I follow the NBA," Shomira shares.
The teenager, who plays center, hopes to use the platform, exposure and experience with the NBA Academy Virtual Program to achieve her "ultimate dream" of playing in the WNBA.
Can she make it? If she does, she would be the first-ever Indian to do so, but there are a few in-line ahead of her. Watch out for the crop of young up-and-coming Indian girls graduating from the Academy and those who are already in the United States studying in colleges or prep schools.
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