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jdBASKETBALL INDIA Blog: Pune, the 1st stop 5/4/2007

by jd

Pune, the 1st stop. . .

May 4, 2007

Namaste from Pune, India! I am about 3hrs away from Mumbai (formerly known Bombay) and again, it never ceases to amaze me that people everywhere are basketball crazy!

My first day basically consisted of; adjusting to the heat, learning about the famous ‘Indian head shake’, “1000, how are you sirs?” , photographing the walkers in beautiful sarees, ‘Brad and Angelina were here gossip’ (Is there anywhere you can go in the world without that?), and avoiding small cabs driving on the wrong side of the road.

At first glance, workers were still painting the court lines at Fergusson College and in a few areas small gapping holes were present. I was told camp would be starting at 7 am to avoid the heat; rainy season is approaching, I was worried about a possible rainout.

Everyone was very nice but I began thinking this is a long way from Cole Field House as we cracked a coconut to bless the court – I was what wondering what was I getting myself into.

Then it happened, the DJ began to play incredible Hindi tracks; I formed ball handling line drills and this small outdoor playground (no different than something you might see at West 4th or Holcombe Rucker Park) transformed into a magical place. Starting with 80 players and coaches and finishing with around 200 total, basketball spirit is alive in Pune! I came to find out that many of the participants traveled by bus or train up to 20 hours (Many with no AC ) —I was determined to give my all.

Sixteen year old Sidd from Calcutta mentioned,“ I traveled over 2 days to arrive here, the trip was very boring—but the basketballs been great making it all worth it!

I was told this was the first basketball camp in India- ever!

The enthusiasm and desire is unwavering as day after day I proceeded to put the players; and, and even some coaches, to the strenuous regimen. Daily, I began to notice slight improvements; one player started dribbling better, another shoot with more precise form, one coach taking more initiative.

Eventually, we started to dance.

The coaches, determined to learn basketball and a transition offense. It took about 3 hours from chalkboard to courtside. Slow at first, but eventually the Deccan Club team and event organizers of Apoorv Sontakke, Omkar Kadam, Amit Ambedkar, Ajinkya Mehta, and Ganesh Bagade began to pick it up.

As the days went on, I became more intrigued with India and I think India with me. We received write -ups in all major Indian papers.

It did not take long to spot the anxious nature of the Indian press and fans. During our first day press conference, the first question presented was, “How long do you think it will take India to be able to compete with Team USA?” Extremely ambitious considering I was told that only 7-8 indoor courts exist in India and the average height is at least 5 inches smaller.

Although my answer was, “Not anytime soon”, I think America should watch out- I can clearly remember answering these same questions in 2002 during my first trips to China — a country that possesses demographics, ambition, and potential talent pool. As you may know, China’s rise in the basketball world in the past decade has been remarkable–already placing 3 players in the NBA, and preparing for a hi first round selection this year.

I sat very humbled as I was given the highest VIP honor and public thank you and assembly acknowledgement by the Mayor Rajlaxmi Bhosale, the Deputy Mayor, Professor Vikas Mathkari Leader of Opposition of Pune Municipal Corporation, Vivek Mehta of the Maharashtra State Basketball Association, and other esteemed guests at the municipal official courtroom.

Afterwards I was asked to sit beside the Leader of Opposition as he conducted daily city business– this is considered highest honor. I was blown away.

The interesting thing to me is that although the culture is different and many more speaking “ Maharati“ a Hindi dialect – the language remains the same.

A special thank you to city of Pune for showing so much love!

Next stop : KASMIR
I am excited to travel next week to travel to CHINAR (an orphanage in Sriniger, Kashmir).

Here we are working on a three-year program to recruit, hire and train a full time coach. Build a court and hopefully, create a team that can play games in Indian and Pakistan.

The objective is to aid in the psychosocial rehabilitation and reeducation process of the CHINAR youth who have extended an invitation for me to work with orphaned youth misaligned through conflict.

It is an immense challenge, as many of these youth have never played basketball before! And many do not speak English either, so please wish us luck. If anyone would like to contribute to the CHINAR orphanage pleas check out www.chinar.org.

It takes only $65 a month to house and educate a youth.

See you all again real soon!


JD



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