A Talk With Troy Justice, NBA India, About The Jr. NBA/WNBA Skills Challenge
The NBA, through its Junior NBA/WNBA program is holding a Skills Challenge in schools in Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi. Students between the age group of 10-12 will compete among each other and the winners, one boy and one girl, will be selected as national champs and will win a free trip to New York to train with an NBA coach, visit NBA headquarters and go sightseeing in the city. The winners, along with the top coaches from each city will also receive a HP Mini Laptop.
Troy Justice, Director of Operations, NBA India, spoke to Sportskeeda about this foray of Jr. NBA in India. Read on to find out about the program, how the schools and coaches got involved in it and more.
Siddarth Sharma: What is the goal of Junior NBA/WNBA in India?
Troy Justice: The Junior NBA is a program which represents our ongoing commitment to develop basketball at the grassroots level in India. It’s our firm belief that we can do so by training coaches and developing young players. This program targets students between the age group of 10 to 12. We’ll continue to see basketball grow over the coming years because of programs like this as we’re focusing on teaching and training coaches and players at the grass roots level.
SS: What is this program all about? Is this the same as the NBA/WNBA FIT program?
Troy Justice: No, the FIT program is one of the many programs which are a part of Jr. NBA. This program focuses on the skills challenge. It gives an opportunity to the students in the age group of 10 to 12 to participate in a competitive event within their school, conducted by their coaches. They can compete individually, in dribbling, passing, shooting and other drills. We expect the students will probably be from classes 4, 5 and 6. We’re strict about the quality of fairness and we’ll ensure that the participants are within the age group of 10-12.From there, if they do well, they will be selected to go to their city championship. The top 5 boys and top 5 girls from each city will advance to the national finals.
SS: When and where will this Junior NBA/WNBA program be held?
Troy Justice: This program is already underway. It’ll be held in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi. We’ve targeted 100 schools in each city. That’s a total of 500 schools. The skills challenge component of this program will be over by May 15.
For the first two weeks we’ll be conducting the ‘Train the trainers’ part of the program. We are training the coaches on how to implement the skills challenge in their respective schools.
SS: How did the NBA get in touch with the schools?
Troy Justice: We did three things:
- We sent them an official letter of invitation, which I wrote.
- We followed up with a phone call
- We also sent them an e-mail invitation, just to make sure.
Some of these coaches have already been a part of the Mahindra NBA Challenge. So we know a lot of the coaches personally now.
SS: How was the response of the schools? Were most of them receptive to it?
Troy Justice: Yes. It was either ‘Absolutely, yes we’ll be there.’ Or ‘I’ll have to make sure I coordinate with our school’s schedule for reasons such being responsible for administrating exams, etc. That’s the only thing.’ Everyone we called were very receptive and thankful. The response was great.
SS: Are the programs scheduled between school hours or after school?
Troy Justice: It depends on the coaches and whenever their kids are free and when they don’t have exams. It’ll be scheduled the way its best for them. As different schools have different schedules, we don’t want to interfere with the kids’ exams schedule. That’s a priority.
SS: How will the students be selected from the schools?
Troy Justice: The coaches will select the two best boys and two best girls from their school and they will bring them to our city championship. An NBA representative won’t be at hand to personally conduct the skills challenge in schools. We’ve explained it and made it clear that those who win with the top score based on the three challenges alone will be selected. No other reason will influence selections. We’re confident that the coaches will follow through with that.
I’ll be there for all the city championships to monitor and judge and make sure that everything runs correctly and is fair to all participants. The city championships will involve 400 students, four from each school. Five boys and five girls will be selected from every city to participate in the National Finals. For the National finals we’ll have a current NBA player coming here. (to be named later)
SS: When and where will the national finals be held?
Troy Justice: It’ll be held on May 15 in Mumbai. The exact venue is yet to be determined.
SS: How are the coaches involved in the Skills Challenge?
Troy Justice: The coaches will be trained for the Skills Challenge. Even though they can’t compete in the formal challenge, they will use this program in their schools as a method of teaching the children and training them and giving them things to help them teach basketball.
We don’t just have the coaches sitting and teaching from a chair. We’ll have them get up and participate. We’ll have them go through the Skills Challenge to experience it. We’ll also have them coach and keep time. We’ll train them how to do it then we have them do it. So it’ll be a very good experience for them when they teach it themselves.
SS: What exactly does the skills challenge involve?
Troy Justice: The skills challenge itself, involves three different timed events. The Dribble duel, The Gauntlet and The Defender. These events include passing, dribbling, shooting and basketball fundamentals. The students will be dribbling around cones, shooting from various spots and doing defensive slides, sprinting, stopping, backpedaling and other different kinds of agility drills. We take the overall score of the three events combined and determine their performance.
SS: What form of assistance will the coaches receive from the NBA to help them in implementing the program?
Troy Justice: We’ve developed an NBA India Coach’s guide. We gave those out a couple of years ago but we’ve revised it and we’re giving one to every coach. Each coach will receive a basketball bag which has a coaching board, whistles, stopwatch, cones, two basketballs, coach’s guide, a skills challenge scorecard and a skills challenge brochure which has all the instructions and everything for the skills challenge. So they can conduct the skills challenge on their own. We’re giving them all the tools they need to run this program.
SS: You’ve already met with the coaches of the schools in Mumbai. How did that go?
Troy Justice: On Monday, 14 March, we met with all the coaches representing the schools in Mumbai. They came in at 10 in the morning. We talked about defense, offense, strength and conditioning. We worked on various aspects of the game such as proper defensive stance, defensive slides, positioning, help and recover, how to defend a screen, pressuring the ball, and various drills they can run with their teams. It’s very comprehensive. As we’re sponsored by HP, we used a big HP screen for instructions in the classrooms. Everything was also demonstrated on the court. We also provided lunch for the coaches.
SS: One boy, one girl and one coach will be the winners of the competition. How will the coaches compete and be judged?
Troy Justice: We’re giving the coaches an opportunity to enter a contest and they have to develop what we call an Annual Basketball Development Program for their school. They have to put down the following on paper:
- The things they intend to do within their school to grow basketball. It includes practice plans, explanations of what they’ll be teaching, why they’ll teach it and how they’re going to teach it.
- They’ve to write about what infrastructure needs they have and how they’re going to improve those things.
- Their objectives and goals for the program, how many kids they’ve involved and how many they are going to involve. They’ve to put down how many times in a week they’re going to practice and what times they are going to practice.
We’ll be very specific about their entire plans for the coming year and based on their entries the winner will be chosen. This draft will be approximately five pages long or more. It’s a lot of work for them. They’ll have to do a lot of homework. The entries will be judged based on specific criteria by a committee.
SS: Will the NBA keep tabs on how the coaches implement their proposed project?
Troy Justice: This program will be a sustainable ongoing program. It’s not a one time deal, so when we do this we will continue to work on the Junior NBA program with the coaches. We’ll come back and be able to assess those things with the coaches. I’ve visited a lot of schools myself and I’ll be going to the schools to see their progress and to continue to encourage the coaches to grow and improve. We’re very excited about that.
SS: In India, many people dismiss aspirations of playing in the NBA with excuses such as genetics. What do the NBA players do a lot of which players here can implement to improve their game?
Troy Justice: Strength and conditioning training is vital. Everyone can, with proper training, put on 20 lbs (9.09 kg) of muscle. Hard work is very important. I’ve worked with Dwight Howard in the weight room. He works very hard, to point of exhaustion. He’s very disciplined. He has great work ethic and he eats the right things and he focuses on his workouts consistently.
In the NBA, the players have to work hard to prevent injuries in itself, let alone increase their vertical, speed, flexibility etc.
SS: In 2008 there was another program ‘Train the trainers’. Is this the same as that?
Troy Justice: This is a different program. It has the skills challenge component to it.
SS: You’ve been here for about a year now?
Troy Justice: Yeah, I came here in February last year. I’ve been living here now.
SS: In Mumbai?
Troy Justice: Well, India. I’m moving between locations, wherever the NBA program is.
SS: What’s your favourite Indian food?
Troy Justice: Oh wow! There are so many good ones. Lets just say butter chicken, it’s hard to beat
SS: Have you picked up the local language?
Troy Justice: I’m working on it. I’m doing my best. Soon I’m hoping to pick some up. This year I hope to learn some more. That’s one of my goals.
SS: Wish you luck with that. Thanks for your time.
Troy Justice: Thanks, I’m excited about it.
The schedule of this Junior NBA/WNBA program is as follows:
CITY SKILLS CHALLENGE CHAMPIONSHIP
Mumbai : April 16
Pune : April 17
Bangalore : April 23
Chennai : April 26
Delhi : April 29
Mumbai: March 14 – 15 (Dominic Savio High School)
Pune: March 17 – 18 (Tech Mahindra)
Bangalore: March 21 – 22 (Mount Carmel College)
Chennai: March 23 – 24 (Santhome Hr. Sec. School)
Delhi: April 5 – 6 (To be announced)
The coach’s guide and skills challenge brochure, both very comprehensive and informative, can be viewed at the NBA India website at these links: