Taj Singh: A basketball dream shaped by the UBA
While the Punjab team was going through its paces in the training camp, one person stood out – but not quite the way he wanted to. As the whole squad went through their drills, Sartaj Singh Sandhu, more familiarly known as Taj Singh, stood on the sidelines with fire in his heart and an injury in his groin region.
The pain seemed to get to him every now and then as he went down the sidelines practising his between-the-legs dribble and shooting the occasional shot just to hide the disappointment. But the eyes did dream.
Taj is one of United Basketball Alliance’s (UBA) brightest prospects, and sooner rather than later he will back squeaking his sneakers on the hardwood, making a comeback.
“All I wanted was a fair chance”, he says. “And the UBA has given not only me but a lot of the talent around the country, exactly that. We are ever grateful to this organization.”
Just around two years back, there were no dreams in those eyes. There were no hopes of doing justice to his basketball skills. In 2014, Taj Singh, like so many others around the country, had given up on his beloved sport to help support his family.
Then came the UBA, bringing with it a breath of fresh air to the Indian basketball scene. After one year in the wilderness, Taj stepped forward for the UBA trials last year and the rest, as we know, is history.
A tremendous first season for the Punjab team secured Taj a $5000 contract from the UBA, that was handed out to 20 of the best players from UBA’s first season. An even greater gift awaited him as he was selected from amongst the nine to be taken Stateside for further nurturing of their talent.
“We were put through six-hour a day practices for over a week with some of the best coaches I have ever practised with,” said an exuberant Taj. “The camp there in the US personally helped me grow my game to heights I had never realized. We were given the chance to compete against the D-League side from Arizona. The exposure was just too good to be true.”
More professionalism required in the sport of basketball in India
Taj, however, laments the lack of professionalism that surrounds the sport and hopes that the UBA in the long run would be the fix that it needs. “Just looking at the set-up even from last season, we have come a long way in terms of professionalism on the court,” beamed Taj when speaking of the strides that they have made.
“Until now all our goals were about securing a job by playing games at the national level. Maybe, that still lingers at the back of our head. But with UBA in the picture, the hope of becoming a true professional of the game has become a reality. With success that we hope to get in the coming edition, I hope we can truly realize that dream.”
Taj, who is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Arts degree from Punjab University, now has wings to fly. He has hope in his heart all thanks to the coming of age of Indian Basketball through the hands of the UBA.
"About a year back there was no future in the game for a lot of us,” he says. “We did not have any platform to showcase our talent like this. With the games going to be televised, it gives us a great chance to be recognized as well.”
From playing alongside the likes of Satnam Singh to going totally out of the game and back again a star in the UBA, life has been like a whirlwind for the young Punjabi. But his prospects are still bright and he hopes to take further steps through the UBA towards becoming a household name in the country.