My US dream is not over yet: Indian hoopster Satnam Singh

Punjab basketball star has had a difficult time recently but is determined to earn his spot in the NBA in the years to come.
Satnam is the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA | d sampathkumar
Satnam is the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA | d sampathkumar

CHENNAI: When Satnam Singh holds a basketball, it looks like a miniature version of it. Something that little kids use to play on the streets. His handshake is firm. Take a closer look and one can see that both hands of a normal-sized human being can fit into Satnam’s one.

The giant player for Punjab is cynosure of all eyes at the 68th National Basketball Championship in Chennai. Players from other teams are lining up to click photographs with the 22-year-old. Being the first Indian player to be drafted into the NBA is a great achievement after all.“I love the attention. Knowing that 1.3 billion people are behind me is great. It’s good to be recognised,” he said.

But beneath all the glamour and fame, Satnam is a little restless. His stint in USA did not go according to plan. To be on court is every players’ dream and Satnam did not exactly get that. And in the little time that he got, he failed to make a mark. The NBA is extremely fast. And for someone who has been asked to improve his speed on court throughout his life, adjusting to the pace was difficult.

Even shedding a few pounds did not aid the Punjab lad. “I played for Texas Legends affiliated to Dallas Mavericks. But I did not get much game time. I went there to play and since I did not get much game time, I came back. There was so much stress because of that. There was just too much focus on me. And that was difficult,” he said.

The amount of game time — or the lack of it — has taken a toll. Even during the FIBA Asian Championships in August last year, he got only a few minutes with the national team. But the youngster has a proper plan to make things work in his favour. “I need to work for myself. If I am ready, then I can play for India. First I need to improve my game. That is why I am here with the state team. I need to work hard and come back stronger. Footwork, speed, shooting and everything. I need to work on all of this. I don’t have a personal coach or anyone. I am ready to work under anyone. If you have everything in your mind, then nothing else matters. You need to keep practising.”

After spending almost a decade in the US, Satnam hasn’t changed much as a person. A slight American accent is evident as he speaks thanks to the education he got there. However, the man from Barnala district in Punjab is high on confidence. The lack of time on court has only motivated him more. And for him, the NBA dream is not over yet. “It was a big opportunity for me to play over there. I have played there for almost 10 years and now I am back in India. My aim is to get in to the NBA main league. I am here to improve my game so that I can go back over there. I want to play in the USA and that’s my goal. If I keep performing for India in the next two to three years, then I have a huge chance to play in the NBA. The draft system over there looks at our performances internationally. So that is a huge criteria for me.”


Men: Level I: Group A: Uttarakhand 85 bt Odisha 62; Group B: Punjab 76 bt Gujarat 65; Tamil Nadu 113 bt Haryana 58; Level II: Group C: Chhattisgarh 49 bt Goa 32; Group D: Andhra Pradesh 76 bt Jammu & Kashmir 75; Puducherry 22 lost to Telangana 54; Group F: Uttar Pradesh 88 bt West Bengal 76.

Women: Level I: Group A: Karnataka 82 bt Chhattisgarh 47 ; TN 68 bt MP 48. Group B: Rajasthan 89 bt Telangana 61; Railways 89 bt Delhi 39.

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