Mail Today Reporter
17:17 EST, 26 June 2015
17:21 EST, 26 June 2015
History: Satnam Singh, pictured with his draft jersey, will play for the Dallas Mavericks
Coming from the dusty hinterlands of Punjab and a farming family, Satnam Singh Bhamara has become the first Indian hoopster to be picked by an National Basketball Association (NBA) team.
On Thursday, the 19-year-old player was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks. Satnam, who stands seven-foot-two, was the 52nd pick in the NBA Draft. At the turn of century, a certain Yao Ming revolutionised basketball in the world’s most populous nation — China. Satnam might have just taken the first step towards doing that in his home country — India.
The youngster was selected amongst the 60 young men who will play in the NBA next season. He has been training in Florida for the last five years along with youngsters from 39 countries on an initiative of US-based IMG Reliance Academy.
Satnam, who comes from a remote village called Ballo Ke near Ludhiana, is ecstatic and hopes that his feat would be a breakthrough for the game in India.
“The feeling is of course unreal but it has happened and I feel that my entry will certainly open the doors for many aspiring basketballers in India to dream big,” said Satnam.
“At least there is now somebody whom youngsters back home can identify with, [with someone] who is playing in the NBA. Now a road has opened up for them. The game will certainly grow in India in the coming years. You see the popularity of cricket now but in the future basketball will also be popular back home,” he said.
Having represented India at the FIBA Asia Championship in 2011 and 2013, Satnam dreamt big. He moved to Florida in September 2010 as part of a scholarship programme between IMG and Reliance. His academy coaches Kenny Natt and Daniel J Barto played a key role in shaping his career.
“It was Daniel who has worked with me for the last five years. He was instrumental in getting me to the US. He facilitated my trip to the land of opportunities. He helped me a lot in honing my skills and getting my nuances in place,” said Satnam.
Slowly but steadily Satnam made his presence felt in NBA circuit. He was included for the 2015 NBA draft in April after not receiving any academic scholarships to play in the NCAA.
Satnam thanked his family for giving him the support. “I haven’t been able to call home but I will certainly get connected via skype. I can never forget about the prayers and sacrifices of my mother, who is instrumental in me getting here,” he said.
“My sister also went to the gurudwara and prayed a lot for me. I can’t also thank enough Dr. Subramaniam, my first coach, who believed in me and always encouraged me to chase my dreams and achieve my goals.”
He further said: “Forget about sleep, I haven’t even eaten anything because of the anxiety. There were no nerves as such but just that feeling that I should make it into the Draft. I was certainly hopeful after coming this far but there is always a big ‘if’. But by the grace of God, I have realised my dream.”
Satnam also marks the first instance since the 2005 NBA Draft when a player would declare to enter the draft without playing in college, overseas professionally, or in the NBA Development League as well.
His selection comes on the heels of Canadian-born Gursimran Sim Bhullar, who became the first player of Indian origin to play in the NBA when he turned out for the Kings in three games in April.