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The inspiring Indian who made it to USA on a basketball scholarship

It’s a Cinderella story. Basketball can actually help you get a scholarship to a college in the USA if your game is good enough. While making it to the NBA is a pipe dream beyond most of us, making it to a NCAA college in USA on a basketball scholarship is the next best thing a school kid in India can hope for.

Thus far, I’ve only known of two instances of Indians going abroad on basketball scholarships. Both were supported by the Basketball Federation of India. One was a collaborative effort between the BFI, University of Delware and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. As part of this initiative, those who played at school/college level or had knowledge of the game were considered for a two year graduate assistant course in Sports Management.

The other instance is more well known as it involves India’s best shot at the NBA, Satnam Singh. IMG Reliance and BFI made a joint venture to determine eight standout sub junior players to attend the IMG Academy at Bradenton in Tampa, Florida. That program aimed to choose the best young talent from India.

The courts at BTA, Kolkata where Vedant played

Talent is also about taking the initiative. Rare is the case of a kid who made it independent of the BFI or an all India scholarship program. Going abroad on the strength of your game is something to take pride in. Read the story of a person in his own words who did just that, Vedant Bansal. I remember hitting a game winner over him and celebrating, before remembering that he is about five years younger than me. He has game and on the strength of it he got admission at College of Wooster, Ohio on a basketball scholarship:

Said Vedant: “Every basketball player dreams of playing basketball on the big stage that is the United States of America, whether it’s the NCAA or NBA. I knew that was my dream when I just started to play basketball. It was in the 8th grade that I picked up a ball for the first time, and till now I haven’t put it down, and I don’t plan to do so for a long time.

“Playing basketball in India was one of the most exciting times of my life, but it’s something very different to play in America. Playing good in school level in India is worth nothing as compared to college basketball in the United States.

“It was when I entered my senior year of High School that I realized and was sure of the fact that I wasn’t ready to stop playing basketball and wanted to continue to play for as long as possible and not just give it an abrupt ending once school life ended.

“It was when I started playing basketball that I decided to continue my further education abroad so as to keep my dream of continuing to play basketball still alive. But, to play basketball in America is not as easy as one thinks.

“You may be the best player in the High School conference, but America is a whole new ball game. During my entire basketball career in school, I relied only skill and experience to get the job done. And that’s not how it’s done here. It’s a battle on every possession where players lay their hearts on the line and sacrifice their bodies for that win. To play in America, you need to have a will and a heart to always improve and never give up, talent, skill, and most importantly, you need to be really athletic. And that’s the one thing I lacked coming here.

“Basketball isn’t easy. You have to fight every single day against everyone to maintain your position as a basketball player. I may not be as athletic as some of the guys here, but I sure as hell wont give up and give in to it.

“Playing in the NCAA is every high school basketball player’s dream and I’m sure I can vouch for that. It’s that feeling of pride you get as you put on that jersey and come running onto the court from the tunnel and hear the crowd shouting and the awe surrounding you beginning to rise every time the clock turns.”

Playing basketball is really helpful in your education as well. You get a chance to make something out of yourself and the best part about it is that you’re doing by playing basketball, something that you love more dearly than life. For some, including me, it was my ticket to college. You are given a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’d consider that person a fool should they decide to reject it. Playing here is a privilege and you have to respect that hard work and late-nights of practice and gym that players put in.

My current expectation is to keep improving and keep learning about the game. You can’t be satisfied with how you played yesterday. Next year I am guaranteed a spot on the team after the end of the 1st academic year.

When I came here I was set to prove myself to the college, but I realized that players here are beyond what I imagined. They have an immoveable passion for the game and they’re not going to let anybody play them down. You have to sacrifice yourself if you want to be in that level with them. And only if you are ready to do so, are you truly ready to play in America.”

The recurring theme here is sacrifice. First you have to sacrifice your free time to give everything to the game so you can play for your state in some capacity, thereby making you eligible to apply abroad. In most colleges in the USA, to get admitted on a basketball scholarship you need to have played national level basketball at least. Vedant did that, he played for West Bengal at junior level. Then he sent all his certificates to the College of Wooster along with a mixtape of him playing. After which he traveled there at his own expense to give tryouts with 29 others. Of those 12 were selected to give tryouts. He made it. Now he gets a scholarship of $20,000 per year for his four year course of studying Economics, Philosophy and English.

Stories like these let us know what is possible if we set our mind to it. Don’t give up on the game. It can take you to places you can only dream of.

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