I’ve been doing this ‘Hoopistani’ thing for quite a long time now, writing on several mediums and addressing different issues and stories related to basketball in India and the NBA. And throughout this period, I’ve regularly heard calls and questions from young basketball enthusiasts and fans who want to fulfil their own dream of one day representing the country they adore in the sport they love. Every true Indian basketball player wants to play basketball for India. But in many cases, they just don’t know how to get there.
Sometimes, the thing that separates a dream and the realisation of that dream isn’t talent but a weirdly inaccessible bureaucratic process. To a whole generation of Indians who live to play basketball, the world of district, state, and national level selection is an alternative parallel reality. There exists a massive national family of those officially connected with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and thus are part of the ‘system’. For everyone else, who are now in the right schools that participate with government programmes or are connected with the right people in the know-how, they may miss out their shot at trying to join this BFI family.
And by the time they realise that this world exists, it is perhaps a little too late, and Indian Basketball loses a potential talent simply out of ignorance.
Well, I’m glad to announce today that I may finally have some sort of answer to those outside the fraternity looking for a platform to showcase their skills and – if they are gifted enough – even be considered for a place in India’s national teams.
The BFI and their sponsors IMG-Reliance are inviting young boys and girls born between January 1, 1997 – December 31, 1998 to U16 Open Basketball Tryouts for India’s U16 teams in the city of Ludhiana, Punjab, on January 4, 2013. So, you must be between the ages of 14 and under 16 on the date of the tryout.
These tryouts are slated to be held on the final day of the 63rd National Basketball Championship for Men & Women, which is the most important domestic basketball event in the country and will feature the best players from across the country fighting for Indian hoops’ biggest prize. Indian basketball’s best coaches and scouts will be in attendance to look out for new talent, and so will be India’s new head coach, the American Scott Flemming, who has shown a desire to help build the future of the game in India through the youth.
The tryouts will be held from 9 AM – 12:30 PM on Friday, January 4th at the Indoor Basketball Court in the Guru Nanak Dev Stadium in Ludhiana. Registration for the event is already open. You can register yourself online by emailing [email protected] with your Name, Gender, and Date of Birth before December 28th. The BFI have said that registrations will also be open on the day of the event itself, January 4th, from 9-10 AM in the morning at the venue, but I suggest that those serious about attending get their names in online beforehand.
Travel and accommodation is the responsibility of the participant, so make sure you start planning ahead. And by that I mean, start planning right now!
The tryouts are open, so really, anyone that falls between that age group in India can attend and hope to fulfill their dream. India’s national teams for any age level (U14, U16, U18, Senior) are usually chosen out of a pool of players who have been the best performers at the national level tournaments for that age group. So the best players from the different states at U16 National Championship are invited to take part in a camp, and the best out of those get to wear the ‘India’ jersey in international competitions. To play for your state, you have to excel in your district, and to play for your district, you have to excel in school competitions in your district. It’s a working system, but it doesn’t take into account those who are outside of it. That is why these tryouts are going to be important and provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone else that loves basketball but never found the right platform.
Just know this: it’s not going to be easy. India’s U16 and U18 teams – both in the boys’ and girls’ divisions – have been improving drastically over the last few years and have given some of the better nations in Asian basketball like South Korea, Chinese Taipei, or Lebanon a run for their money. The standards and expectations are only going to rise. Let’s hope that, through these tryouts, we can find those hidden gems that can start contributing to our youth teams right away and one day develop into stars for India’s Senior squads.