The 63rd Nationals are going on in Ludhiana, Punjab. They are the defending champions and their team is a little different this time around. The difference is in among the bigs actually, with the loss of Amjyot and Amritpal (Jr.), but it has been filled in by two young and exciting prospects, Satnam Singh and Palpreet Singh Brar. Some of the team took to the malls and streets in Ludhiana with a flash mob performance of basketball where they stopped the traffic with prior permission of the police and performed tricks with the basketball amidst cheers.
They have a different coach this time, Punjab are coached by Gurkirpal Singh and Sunpreet Singh. Sunpreet Singh was appointed for this job two months ago. He’s from California, USA and he’s been coaching basketball for the last three years there. Before coaching, he also played youth level basketball in America. He’s offered some insight into his team and how they play.
Know the stars of Punjab, in the words of the coach
Amritpal Singh (Pandari) SG/PG
“A good shooter, very good ball handler and playmaker.”
Jagdeep Singh (Jaggi Sr.) PF/SF
“He’s is known as “Baber Sher of Punjab”. He’s been one of the best player in India for past 6-7 years.”
Indeed. Here’s a video of him in action:
Loveneet Singh (Love) PG
“He’s very young player (1996 born) good speed, good ball handling skills, a very good playmaker. He’s going to be our top future player.”
Mahesh Mishra (Mishra Ji) PF
“He’s the most experienced player on our team. He’s a very good high post playmaker and shooter.”
Palpreet Singh (Pal) C
“He’s very young, he just turned 18. With a great size, 6’10, he led the U-18 Indian team and was ranked as a top 3 U18 player in the whole of Asia.”
Ranbir Singh (Vadda) SG/SF
“He’s a sharp shooter. He has a very good leaping ability, good rebounder, good team player.”
Satnam Singh (Satta) C
“He’s young, 17 years old and so big and athletic! A very good post player, he currently trains at the IMG academy in Florida.”
(C) Talwinderjit Singh (TJ) PG/SG
“He’s also known as “Air India” he’s currently one of the best players in India. A very good shooter, very good playmaker, possesses a high IQ about basketball and he’s playing a great role as team leader and captain.”
Guriqbal Singh (Gavi) SF
Harminder Singh (Harry) PF/SF
Jagdeep Singh (Jaggi Jr.) C
Bharatdeep Singh (Rocky) SF/SG
“We’re currently playing Motion Offense (4-out and 5-Out) and High-Low Triangle Offense.”
The team has a very strong presence inside the paint with their big men and forwards both capable of dominating the inside on both ends. They are tough to stop on offense.
“Defense we’re employing Man to Man and 2-3 Zone and Full Court Press.”
Having a combination of size and youth, their defense is stifling and capable of locking down the most efficient of offenses.
Team’s greatest strength
“The greatest strength in our team is size. We’re big, we’re strong, we’re young, and we’re a sharp shooting team.”
“The weakness in our team is being under pressure, because we’re defending champions from last year, everyone has high expectations of us.”
It’s more than that actually. Punjab have been in the top 3 at the Nationals almost every single year since its inception. Anything short of a quarterfinal berth is seen as a failure here.
Is the pressure to repeat as champions a distraction? For the team and for you as you were not coaching them last year.
“No not really a distraction, just a little bit of pressure. I’ve been coaching in America for past 3 years. I’ve been through worse.”
On the climate in Ludhiana and if it will deter teams from the south. Last nationals were in Chennai where the climate was noticeably warmer.
“Last year I wasn’t coaching this team so I really don’t know much about Chennai climate. From my experience this year in Ludhiana, it’s very cold and foggy this time of the year but, cold or warm, basketball is basketball.”
The difficulty will be faced more by teams from the south than from the north. Keep an eye on that feature coming soon.
The loss of Amirtpal Singh (Jr.) and Amjyot Singh may have left a hole in the frontline. But Satnam and Palpreet are here now.
“Well I really don’t know much about both of them, I’ve heard they’re really good players. But I don’t think they left any hole in our frontline, we have a lot of good players who are young and ready to rock and roll.”
Both Satnam Singh and Palpreet Singh have shone at U18 level for India, winning individual honours of high scorers in Asian tournaments. Their age belies their experience.
Usually teams like Services or Railways are among the top teams, Punjab is one of the few states which has consistently won laurels in basketball. How do they maintain such high standards?
“One thing I love about my team is that they live for basketball and they die for basketball. We maintain such high standards because we play the game as one team with one goal in mind, which is to love and respect our state and play to win.”
Is the team same as Punjab Police team? Where did they hold camp for the nationals and for how long?
“No, Punjab police team is totally different from this Punjab State team. We held our camp here in Ludhiana about month ago.”
Punjab are back to their winning ways in this tournament, having defeated Karnataka where TJ had 25, Kerala and Delhi in which Satnam scored 31 to go with 17 rebounds. India’s best bet for the NBA, Satnam Singh is drawing many eyes as he takes to the court in Ludhiana. With their form and home court advantage, you can count on this team to make it to the quarterfinals at the very least.Published 30 Dec 2012, 22:23 IST