For NBA G League Ignite's draft prospects, lessons in financial literacy, mental health and media training
When they are not on court working on their game, Ignite’s youngsters, including Princepal Singh, are being given lessons on financial literacy, mental health, media training and even sessions on understanding the importance of sleep.
American teenager Jalen Green and Congo’s Jonathan Kuminga are widely expected to be among the top-5 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Their teammates in the G League Ignite, Isaiah Todd, Daishen Nix, and Kai Sotto (from Philippines), are also jostling for attention on the mock draft boards. Promising Indian youngster Princepal Singh is yet to feature on mock draft boards, but a good season with the Ignite in the G League should change that.
When the G League season starts in a week’s time, these young prospects are going to be most scrutinised teenagers in America. Background checks will be run. Scouts and team executives will pour over their game films. Technical minutiae will be analysed and re-analysed. Terms like ceilings, floors, basketball IQ and high upsides will be thrown around.
The on-court pedigree of the youngsters in G League Ignite is undeniable. But with these players on the cusp of entering the big, slick, ruthless world of the NBA, the league has tried to ensure that they not only have help in sharpening their basketball skills, but also get assistance to hone their personalities off the court.
When they are not on court working on their game, Ignite’s youngsters are being given lessons on financial literacy, mental health, media training and even sessions on understanding the importance of sleep.
“There’s more to this than just the game of basketball, there is the business of basketball. And those are some of the areas we are trying to prepare them for. We have a whole player development program in place for the Ignite’s young prospects. The guys take classes in things like financial literacy, mental health, media training, even sleep patterns,” Ignite coach Brian Shaw told reporters on a media availability on Tuesday.
“We’ve even had parents of NBA players talk to parents of some of our young prospects to temper their expectations in terms of what’s about to come their way. We got a sleep specialist to hold a session over Zoom and counsel the players on the importance of getting rest before games. The specialist showed them percentages of how you perform when you get the proper amount of rest. The players spend a quite a bit of their time when they’re not on the court on these things.”
American players are only eligible to enlist in the NBA Draft a year after graduating high school. This forces many youngsters to play one season abroad and earn some money, often foregoing their college education. The Ignite team was created as an alternate pathway for players looking to stay in the USA and still make money in the year after high school.
Shaw said that their player development team was helping some players in Ignite, who wanted to continue with their education, with college courses.
English lessons for Princepal
For India’s Princepal, though, the most crucial off-court sessions are for English.
“Language is the most important for Princepal right now. And then immersing himself with the culture of what’s going on here,” said Shaw, who played a year abroad in Rome and knows how critical it is for players to speak the local language.
Shaw pointed out that speaking and understanding English was critical for Princepal on the court as well.
“Most of the terminology in basketball is pretty universal. In terms of that, there wasn’t a big learning curve for him. But the biggest thing for him is communication. When he’s on court and has to tell a teammate something during a play, he can think about the call in Punjabi. But it doesn't register right away in English,” said Shaw.
For now, Princepal’s calls to his Ignite teammates are in form of sounds, such as claps. “I understand that with Princepal there is going to be a delay in that aspect due to the language barrier. But we’ve been telling him that if he cannot think of the word, just make a noise. His teammates have adjusted to that as well,” he said.
Besides serving as a head coach of the Denver Nuggets for two seasons from 2013-15, Shaw has been an associate or assistant head coach with teams like Indiana Pacers (two seasons) and the Los Angeles Lakers for (10 seasons). Over the years, he has seen his fair share of young players who are straight out of high school or one year removed from college “who were extremely talented and athletic and what have you, but they were missing some things and were not ready for the NBA.”
“That’s why I took this job: to have the opportunity to jump in before these players get to that point and get them ready with NBA sets and terminology,” he said.
“The players have done a very good job of understanding that this is not just their job, it’s their lifestyle now.”
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