Thursday, August 20, 2009

5 ways India basketball needs to improve to become competitive at the world standard

As I watched the FIBA Asia championships, I began to think how India could improve.

Here are my top 5:

1) Build better infrastructure.

Hi level international basketball is an indoor game played on wooden floors. Considering that half the year is too hot or monsoon season- proper training facilities are critical for game development. Most universities have courts or ‘rings’ as they call it — but at the same time, I see dirt playing surfaces and folks playing cricket on them. In addition, I have had many conversations with players who have knee injuries as a result of playing on poor surfaces. Basketball Federation of India and the state Associations have done a good job organinizing the events, but even the National Jr. championships was held outdoors. I am hoping the 2010 Commonwealth Games will bring more contemporary grounds.

2) More corporate and Government financing

As one of the state basketball general secretarys put it, ’Basketball in India is a hobby, not a business – or a career for that matter’. It is a very simple formula, when large multinationals elect to invest in grassroots marketing efforts the game will have more exposure and it will improve. I know of at least 5 top event organizers who can not get real cash sponsorship for tournmants, 3 on 3’s etc. I think eventually it will come, but not now its tough. And, it shouldn’t be just the western companies ala Nike, Adidas and McDonald’s - India needs TATA/ TAJ, Reliance, ICICI bank!

3) Incentive

A professional league and universtiy scholarship would go a long way in game development. Most 16 year olds and thier parents (which the kids actually respect and still listen to) are concerned about college entrance exams- and rightfully so , with a competitive population and millions upon missions of smart/ hardworking students there is a ton or competition. Other than playing for the State, Indian Railways, Satte bank (or if you’re really good represent the country on the National team ), you can go to school and become a coach- but it is not a high paying job or a career in anyway. Every year I see a press release to start a pro league but to date nothing has happened. The NBA has been talking about starting a real professional league– clearly, this would help alot for interest and exposure. Perhaps, the European model of a club system would also make sense connecting community, development, and club. Again, the question is, assuming BFI can organize -- who will pay?

4) More International hi-level training for youth 12 and under

I can see differences in just a weeks time in the programs I have run in places like Tamil Nadu, Punnjab Bangalore and Mumbai. I can also see the need for more and more advanced training sessions. The issue again is, who will pay for it? I have seen some good Indian coaches, who, for sure have been to UK or US and studied basketball. They watch the videos online, and can run the drills- but I feel many of the times, they do not know the purpose of the drill, or how it fits into an offensive or defensive scheme. The coaches are smart, excited and willing to learn- but they need more support and exposure!

India needs to start training the youth players- ages 12 under. Sorry to say, but the rest of Asia (and the world) are too advanced at the Jr’s level for the current hooper to compete at top levels internationally. I can also see focusing on the women’s game, as they seem to be a bit more advanced at this stage and can bring positive enthusiasm.

India basketball is played, coached, and managed by real enthousiats who are involved for a true ‘love of the game’ which is a gem and purity. As the game evolves, I hope that never changes.

5) Be patient!

India is not China! Just because it is a BRIC doesn’t mean it acts like its teamates. I have traveled to each of these emerging market countrys and business and culture as is basketball are very different in each. Basketball has a ways to go — not to harp, but we just lost China 121- 49, India needs to start with the youth under 12 and begin to develop skills and watch them grow. India does have a rich basketball history, a good basketball governing body, and despite what people think — tall people who play the game.


I am an American basketball coach. For the past decade, I have been using my program, jdbasketball ( to bring people together and promote world peace thru sport. In 2001, I co-founded a company to operate grassroots basketball events throughout China. I first visited India three years ago – and fell in love with the people, the culture , and of course — the food. In that time, I have conducted almost 100 clinics in 12 cities throughout the subcontinent and have gotten to know many of the people in the game and a lot of the ins & outs.

@jdbasketball (twitter/ tumblr)

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  1. India needs to focus on laying the fundamentals at the junior level. Its a long term growth strategy which requires foresight and patient capital - easier said than done.

    Basketball in India can grow the same way as golf. Good marketing, tournaments for current players/ teams that reward and recognise; and concerted effort to grow the base.

    I wish you all the best in your efforts to create the big wave of change.