Short or tall, basketball is a game for all,” is Carlos Barroca’s maxim on the sport.The senior director of basketball operations for NBA India was in the city recently for the fifth leg of the ACG NBA Jump talent-hunt programme.
“When people think about basketball, the first thing they say is ‘Oh! You have to be tall’. No. You need to have good skills, have a big heart, and also a passion for the game,” he says. “You have to be able to challenge yourself to learn and get better. And I see many of these attributes in the youngsters of this city, too,” remarks the man whose tryst with the sport has spanned over 35 years.
Carlos is happy with the game’s popularity — both in terms of the city and the country as a whole, which has seen a spike over the past few years. “Sports has become a bigger enterprise than before, and so has basketball. Our grassroots programme in Chennai, for instance, has 270 schools working closely with us, and the participation is quite heartening,” says Carlos.
NBA India has three-on-three basketball modules in place in many colleges. “We also have NBA coaches and Indian coaches working in tandem to groom young talent,” he informs. “People say basketball in the country is not that strong. I would instead say that basketball in the country has a lot of potential.” And this potential is exactly what Carlos wants to tap.
So how do the young talent here compare to their American peers? “In terms of physicality, the youngsters here do need to improve more, yes. But, there’s one thing that kids in this country have that the others don’t: the passion for the game. Wherever you go, you see these kids play outdoors, on concrete, in the sweltering heat. But they play and play hard like nobody else. I just love to see that,” he says.