Jigsaw pieces fall into place as Chennai Slam seek another UBA triumph

chennai slams
Chennai Slam won the UBA pro basketball league in 2015

Walking up to Aditya ‘Ady’ Biswas, you couldn’t miss the glowing delight on his face. The Chennai Slam captain was resting on the sidelines of the court following the sound of a buzzer which had been music to his ears - a buzzer which had signalled a second successive appearance in the finals of the UBA Pro Basketball League 2016.

Anyone else in his place would be grinning widely too after a win like that; his team had just thrashed rivals Pune Peshwas 97-76 to book a place in the title showpiece. But if anyone thought it was easy, Ady was on hand to shrug off those doubts.

“It was not easy..I’m sure it looked very easy but we really toiled very hard for this win. Our players worked as a unit and made it look easy but trust me, it was very very tough!” the 6’3” guard told Sportskeeda.

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Ady’s Chennai team has come a long way after their triumph in Season 1. New blood has come in while the core of last year’s team has been retained. Apart from Ady, that core also includes the likes of the semifinal Game 3’s best player Cammy Carmel and Game 1’s star Chukwunanu Agu.

The idea of mixing the old and the new has always been tried at sports teams all over the world but it is no guaranteed recipe for success. It is a difficult task if not managed well because the players have to gel well with each other and camaraderie has to be built.

In Chennai’s case, they have had quite a bit success with their newcomers, including centre Gopal, who has scored at ease and the young lad Arjun GK, who impressed many with his performances off the bench. Yet, it wasn’t all rosy.

Chennai started the league phase pretty well with three straight wins but there were hiccups towards the end as they went down twice to Pune. Although they did finish as toppers of the southern division, the Slam would have liked to do better than the 4-3 record they ended up with.

But as Ady contends, the Chennai puzzle has been a work in progress which is only coming into perfect shape at the very end. “Every player comes from a different team and with a different playing style but with every match, we have improved and we have finally hit it as a team; like a big home run, if I may say so! Finally we have come to be a unit and everybody started understanding their roles without us even saying (anything.) That is one thing I am really happy about,” said the captain.

It is no exaggeration to say that Chennai are functioning well as a unit, considering their players who come from a variety of different backgrounds. Gopal and Ady are the veterans, having had huge experience on the circuit. You can see ageless big man Gopal chiding his teammates for mistakes during the game before giving them an encouraging pat on the back for fine work just moments later.

Towering over his rivals, he has racked up an impressive number of rebounds over the season. Noida man Ady has not played much recently but has been a vocal presence on the sidelines, taking on the mantle of an inspirational general. He is a former youth sensation, having been selected by the NBA for the Basketball Without Borders camp in China when he was 18.

chennai slam

Downing triple after triple and making the crowd go crazy is star man Agu, who hails from Nigeria. He came to India on a full scholarship at the Hindustan University after playing domestically in his home country. He reckons that basketball in Nigeria is of a higher standard but that India is catching up quickly with initiatives such as the UBA.

Soft-spoken and shy off the court but fiercely competitive on it, youngster Arjun is Chennai’s big new hope. This is the first year in the UBA for the final year engineering student from Kerala and he is relishing the opportunity. “As far as I am concerned, this (UBA) is a fantastic experience as I have never played at a pro level like this. For a first timer, it is great,” Arjun told us after his performance in Game 3 (15 points, 10 rebounds).

The rising star has played against the likes of Agu when their teams met in the South level university tournament and therefore not everything was new for him in the Chennai Slam dressing room.

At the final lap of the campaign, Chennai will hope their team will continue working as a unit and improve even further. Togetherness is the buzzword now and it is more important than ever before the championship tussle.

When they lost the semifinal Game 2 to Pune Peshwas after wasting numerous opportunities to clinch the match in the final minute, the Chennai team got together for a team meeting. “We worked on our mistakes and tried to find a way to overcome them. We divided the tasks among each player and everybody had a specific role. They just had to do that – it was like a jigsaw puzzle, everyone connected to form the (complete) picture!,” says Ady.

With the jigsaw pieces falling into place, the Slam look confident ahead of the matchup against Delhi Capitals. Will they succeed yet again and keep their hold on the UBA Championship trophy? We will leave it at Nigerian star Agu’s answer to questions about the future: “I don’t know. We’ll do our best and leave the rest to God.”

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Edited by Staff Editor
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