Top 5 players from Phase-1 of the UBA
The UBA, Indias first basketball league had its Phase-1 of the tournament end with thePune Peshwas and Hyderabad Sky finishing off with wins on the final day at Pune. The tournament now heads over to Hyderabad for Phase-2 which will include four days of regular season games and then the playoffs; which include the semi-finals and the finals.For the first time, the playoffs will have a best of three games and teams will battle for the UBA title in true NBA style.The second season of the UBA has seen some quick transition basketball, better rotation of players and some high flying dunks to say the least. The crowd has been coming in to watch basketball in numbers and although the home team Pune Peshwas witnessed most of the crowd support, basketball as a whole is slowly finding its audience in cricket-crazy India.The Delhi Capitals and Chennai Slam started the league with some eye-catching basketball and remained undefeated until the last few days where teams broke their resistance to hand them their first defeats. The Mumbai Challengers and Pune Peshwas were also one of the better teams of season two. With a topsy-turvy start to their campaign, they ended strongly and they will look to challenge for the play-offs position when they head over to Hyderabad. Bengaluru Beast showed great promise early on, but slowly faded away as the tournament progressed. However, the Beast are still in a strong position to make the last four.The Hyderabad Sky andPunjab Steelers lost all their opening games but ended the UBA with two wins from their last two games. Their tactics have improved, and with more self-belief they are still right up there to take down any team with Phase-2 looming. The story of the Haryana Gold is a sorry one, who have lost all their games and it looks increasingly unlikely they will be competing in the playoffs this year.So after 10 days of eye-catching basketball, the UBA has witnessed some standout performances from the eight teams. Here is a look at the Top 5 players who have enthralled the crowd with blocks, assists, drives, jumpers and some drop dead three-pointers in the league:
#1 Vinay Kaushik
The former International player kicked off his campaign with 19 points in the opening game against the Punjab Steelers and he was consistent for the Capitals with double digits in most of their victories. His shooting was impressive and together with his breakneck drives inside the paint, he tortured most of his rival defenders.
Vinay was responsible for Delhi’s rise to the top with two man-of-the-match awards and he remains their most important player for the Capitals together with Sachin Sharma and Smithin Settu.
#2 Siddhant Shinde
Pune’s point guard, who is also an India player was a crowd favourite. His three’s and breathtaking back of the hand assists left the audience numb and wanting more.
He was the man who orchestrated Pune’s offensive play and was pivotal in Pune’s resurgence to the top after an early blip. Even with Narender Grewal, Pune’s star man absent from the last two games, owing to family commitments, Shinde’s focus and drive made sure Pune didn’t falter when it mattered most.
#3 Mahesh Padmanabhan
The Hyderabad Sky fell to more experienced teams in the opening three games, but point guard Mahesh Padmanabhan, who plays in Australia, never had a bad game. He top scored for the Sky in most games and it looked like he didn’t get enough support from his teammates early on.
While the chemistry between the team got better, Mahesh excelled by creating open spaces for his teammates, knocking down splendid open court jumpers and his drives to the basket were sumptuous. If Hyderabad are serious about going all the way, the Indo-Australian pair of Mahesh and International teammate Joginder Sharma will be crucial to their hopes.
#4 Chukwunanu Agu
Agu was focal to Chennai Slam’s inaugural triumph in the UBA last year, and the Nigerian was again instrumental in Chennai’s stirring play throughout Phase-1 of season 2. Chennai retained their core from last year and it was no rocket science to see Agu gel with his teammates with relative ease.
Although his three-point shooting and passes were superb, it was his defensive play that made the decisive impact. Agu had double digits in every game for the Slam, not only on his scoring numbers, but in some games with the assists too. If Chennai are serious about retaining the title, it will be down to Agu to find his range in the business end of the tournament.
#5 Visu Palani
Visu Palani makes a surprise entry into the top 5. Bengaluru’s core consists of Jain University players including Visu, Kaife Zia and Yashas Ramesh, but it was Visu who excelled in the first phase with his penetrative runs and pinpoint passing.
A starter from last season, Visu had his hand in the double win over the Pune Peshwas with 17 points in the first game and an impressive outing again when they met for the second time. He scored 15 again as they defeated the Mumbai Challengers and helped Bengaluru to announce themselves as one of the teams to be wary of in the UBA.