Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Amidst the gloom caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there was some good news for Indian basketball last week when NBA Academy India’s Jagshaanbir Singh Jhawar was signed up by Point Park University to play in the American inter-collegiate league for 2020-21 season. This makes Jagshaanbir the first male basketball player from India to get a scholarship to play for an American university.
Jagshaanbir, the 19-year-old from Jalandhar in Punjab, was part of the first batch of the NBA Academy India and one of the biggest talents to come out of the country in recent times.
The 7-footer centre was picked for the 2020-21 season by Point Park University, which plays in the River State Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and is based in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their men’s basketball team is known as The Pioneers and had reached the quarterfinals in the Conference in 2019-20 season.
“We are really excited to have Jagshaan as part of the Point Park University family,” Point Park University Pioneers’ head coach Joe Lewandowski was quoted as saying by an NBA India release. “Jagshaan has great size and athleticism as well as a tremendous understanding of the game. He has been well-coached. We are excited about his potential”
The mid-table university has a good basketball programme and Jagshaan, who father Tejinder Pal Singh played for Punjab at the nationallevel, says it will help him develop into a better ball player and keep him on course to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional basketball player one day. He has been in the United States for the last one year participating in the Golden State Prep at Napa Valley in California, one of the top-5 finishing schools for the big guys in the USA and has recently returned back home just before the virus pandemic led to suspension of air travel from United States. Excerpts from an interview:
Q: You have recently signed up to play for Point Park University for 2020-21 season. How important is this in your career graph?
A: This is a big step for me towards fulfilling my dream of playing pro basketball. I feel playing in the American college league will help me develop as a player. This is a great chance and I want to utilise it to the fullest and make it to the next level.
What according to you are the highlights of your journey as a basketball player so far?
A: I started playing basketball at the age of 15. Earlier I used to play cricket (an opening bat and fast bowler) and dreamt of playing for India. But a few years back I developed a liking for basketball. Around that time I had a huge growth spurt as I shot up from six to 6.6 — six inches— in just one summer. Since then I have concentrated on basketball. Initially I was a disaster in the court as I could not do anything. People used to make fun of me because I was ungainly and a bit awkward. But I was determined and started training harder under the coaching of my father, and in one next year, I was good enough to play in the nationals. Later in 2017, I was selected for NBA Academy India through the ACG-NBA Jump programme.
My performance was very good and I got selected for the first batch of NBA India Academy. I signed a one-year contract but seeing my potential, I was given a one-year extension.
Representing India is another highlight for me – I played in FIBA Asia U-18, Championships in Bangladesh and Thailand.
Q: You will be playing for Point Park University in the next NAIA season. Can you tell something about this university?
A: I did well when I participated in the Post Graduate Program of Golden State Prep based in Napa Valley in August 2019 and that attracted attention from many colleges. I had offers from many universities and so I did proper research about them, their practice facilities, there position in their respective conferences. I analysed which program will suit, where I can grow and develop as a player and Point Park looked the most favourable for me.
Q: Overall, what do you consider as the strong points of your game?
A: I am a total team player and I like to help my teammates play good basketball, help them look better and perform to their utmost capacity. That’s the best thing about my game; I am not an individual player but more of a team man. If I perform well on a day, my attempt is always to help my teammates to give their best.
Q: What are the areas of your game that you have to improve in?
A; I feel I need to work on my speed and agility.
Q: What are you strong at – the offensive end or defensive?
A: Despite being the big man in the team, I can shoot well, even from the three point line. I can extend the game, which is a big plus in my game. So, I am strong in offense.
Q: When are you expected to join Point Park University?
A: The season is expected to start in September. So, at this moment, I am working at home and maintaining my fitness while staying at home and would like to continue that before I join the University in 2020.
Q: What are your ambitions in basketball?
A: My dream is to play pro basketball. I believe playing for Point Park will help me move towards my dream; it will help me improve my game and grow as a player. Playing for Point Park University, I would not only like to develop my game but also help my team win games.
Q: Many Indians have played in US colleges but none has been able to take the next step and get into National Basketball Association (NBA). Why do you think you can buck this trend?
A: I don’t think getting into NBA is impossible —if one is dedicated enough, determined enough and is ready to work hard, it can be achieved.
Q: Are you planning to enroll yourself for the NBA Draft in the next couple of seasons?
A: At this moment I am not thinking that far— my immediate aim is to prove myself by playing for my college. If my performance is good enough, if I am able to put in the right amount of hardwork and develop my game that will prove that I am capable of going to the next level.
Age: 19 years
Playing Basketball since: 14-years age
Family background: Father Tejinder Pal Singh, a national level basketball player who represented Punjab, is in construction business. Mother Baljit Kaur is a housewife
Why basketball: Basketball is his passion and he loves the sport. The physicality and the strength involved in the game of basketball is what he likes the most. Moreover he has been watching NBA matches since his childhood.
Favourite NBA player:Tim Duncan.
Played for: La Blossom school, Jalandhar, Punjab, NBA Academy India
School Coach: Rajinder Singh
He is the first male player from the NBA Academy India to receive a basketball scholarship with a program in the United States.
He has been part of the Post Graduate Program of Golden State Prep based in Napa Valley from August 2019.
Jagshaanbir was one of the first prospects to get selected for the NBA Academy India through the ACG-NBA Jump program in 2017.
The same year, he was selected for the NBA’s Asia Pacific Team Camp held in China. In August 2018, he represented India in the FIBA U-18 Asian Championship held in Thailand.
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