There's no debating the huge strides India has taken in the last few years as an NBA base outside of the United States in Asia. Whether that's by hosting the ever NBA India Games in October last year, setting up of the NBA Academy in the Delhi NCR region in 2017 or the recent exodus of Indian-born prospects (boys and girls) playing college or high school ball in the United States to best prepare them to realize their dreams of playing in the NBA/WNBA.
One such event came just over a week ago, on July 28th.
19-year-old Princepal Singh not only became the first NBA Academy India alum to sign a professional contract but he became the first NBA Academy graduate to sign with the NBA G League. His journey with the NBA Academy program began at the ACG NBA Jump Regional tryouts in Ludhiana for the first batch of NBA Academy India student-athletes.
Karan Singh, Managing Director of ACG Worldwide, took some time off his busy schedule to speak to NBA.com/India on the 6'10" forward's extraordinary achievement and so much more. Here's how the conversation went:
NBA.com: What was your initial reaction when you heard that Princepal Singh is signing with the NBA G League? How proud does this achievement make you feel, given the invaluable role ACG as played?
Karan Singh: Truly ecstatic! Over the last few years, we have seen Princepal develop his raw talent and transform into a promising basketball player, however, I remember him as a tall-lanky player who had joined the first batch of student-athletes from Ludhiana. He always had the height and wingspan on his side, but the efforts required to transform these physical attributes into an enviable performance was all him. I see him as a confident young man, who is measured in his approach, passionate, and true to himself.
MORE: Princepal on signing with G League - 'This is a very big deal for me'
This achievement is the first step towards the realization of a long- term dream that India's youth receives an opportunity to pursue basketball on the global platform. I strongly believe that we will see many more examples in times to come.
NBA.com: Could you share with our readers on how and when the ACG's association with the NBA began, one that eventually evolved into the ACG NBA Jump scouting program?
Karan Singh: This concept and association started almost 6-7 years ago when I connected with Adam Silver and Mark Tatum during their first visit to India. We had discussions about what can we do for basketball in the country; how can we help the next generation of talent and enable them to compete at various global platforms including the US.
At the time, there was a Jr. NBA Program and an NBA JAM tournament which allowed children to train until the age of 12-13, but after that, there was a complete void. That is when we came up with the idea of ACG NBA Jump, to scout, recruit and create a roadmap for young athletes to pursue their passion as they entered their teens.
This created the bridge and a natural next step - the NBA Academy, a platform where India's best basketball talents would be nurtured. At the Academy, education, training, and nutrition needs of student-athletes were completely taken care off while fulfilling their passion to be amongst the best basketball players in the country. This became the ultimate platform for their journey as amateurs to professionals, guided by the best-in-class coaches and trainers.
Let's take a quick tour of the NBA Academy in India and look at what goes into the making of an NBA talent! pic.twitter.com/lYCLc4k7I1- NBAIndia (@NBAIndia) May 13, 2017
For the last six years, we have shared a vision and invested with the NBA to create an ecosystem in India that has given rise to Indian born-and-bred talent on the global stage.
NBA.com: How has your experience been working with the NBA on this?
Karan Singh: NBA is the perfect partner for this endeavour. They have a well-thought-out strategy and a proven methodology towards identifying and nurturing talent. They are thorough professionals and relentless in their pursuit of creating this one-of-a-kind program, that gives the opportunity for talent to shine.
MORE: All you need to know about Princepal's G League deal
Personally, for me working with the NBA has been a dream come true, in-fact my love for the game has only increased since this engagement. I get a great sense of satisfaction when I witness the achievements of young athletes like Princepal at various global platforms.
NBA.com: Since the partnership began, in your opinion, how well do you think the program has done for the growth of basketball in the country?
Karan Singh: India - a country of 1.3 billion - is largely known for its shared love of Cricket. We have very few and isolated examples of other athletes reaching the international stage.
If you look back at the history of Indians at the G league, two out of the four players have come through our program. In 2015-16, Palpreet Singh and now Princepal Singh have walked the same path. For Indian basketball, this has been tremendous and the growth in India has been exponential in the last few years. I am confident that we will see even more enthusiasm for the sport of basketball in the coming times.
MORE: On the rebound - India's 1st NBA G-League Draftee Palpreet Singh Brar
For Generation Z and Alpha, the ecosystem is in place, the platform has been created for them to maximise their potential and to pursue a professional career. This should also give reassurance to many families that their children can pursue basketball as a viable career option.
NBA.com: Where do you see the program going in the next few years?
Karan Singh: My dream personally has always been to start a basketball league in India to provide opportunities to all current players to pursue their passion, post the academy.
As for the program, I believe the future will be in two directions - firstly, to create an equal opportunity, ecosystem and platform for young-women athletes of our country and secondly replicating the success and the model of the NBA academy in Delhi, in many more cities across our country. This will enhance the accessibility and visibility of basketball, giving comfort to parents and kids to be close to home while in training.
NBA.com: How and when you became an NBA fan? Did Michael Jordan's 1990s Bulls dynasty play a role in that? If yes, how was it witnessing the 1997-98 season through the lens of 'The Last Dance' documentary?
Karan Singh: I was 11 years old when I watched Michael Jordan play the Los Angeles Lakers Lakers in the NBA Finals. MJ jumped from the free throw line and switched hands mid-air, he glided past three or four defenders and put the ball in the hoop.
I can still feel that moment in my heart and I was glued to it - I loved the sport, followed MJ and the Chicago Bulls, ever since.
I have watched the entire Last Dance series about four times so far. Of course, initially, it brought back lots of nostalgia and reminiscing the old days. But then after the second time, you really start to think about the context, the perseverance, the loyalty to team, and the greatness of one player that truly made the entire team shine for the larger part of a decade. I even found some entrepreneurial, leadership and life lessons that I will keep referring to, always.
NBA.com: Few quick-hitters before we let you go.
- Your pick for the 2019-20 NBA MVP - LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo? Prediction is Giannis, but pick is LeBron
-· Your 2020 NBA Finalists and the 2020 NBA Champion? Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks; Lakers in 7
· Are you a sneakerhead? If yes, which NBA player's sneaker line is your favourite? YES! The Limited Edition Coming to America - Greek Freak Shoes; Hyper Dunks; and Air Jordan's are a forever favourite.
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