Harrison Barnes is sitting on a chair in front of the fifty players from the nationwide-scouting program selected for the ACG-NBA Jump National Finals. These players stare in awe of the Sacramento Kings star.
Barnes is supposed to take the questions related to basketball and the NBA India prospects among other things. But with one of the top players of the league in touching distance, fewer hands are raised as no questions asked in the first few minutes. These kids, who have arrived at the NBA Academy in Greater Noida to pursue their basketball ambitions – to be among the latest entrants at the NBA Academy India – are also thinking of the final result at the back of their minds.
Barnes realises the tension in the arena and says, "No matter what happens, you guys have a lot of potential. Some of you will go to the academy, some of you won't but keep playing the sport."
The kids felt comfortable after Barnes' statement before the round of questions, ranging from Barnes diet to his favourite basketball player, began. In one way, what Barnes did on a minuscule level, is what NBA India has been doing on a bigger scale – make the people open up to the idea of pursuing basketball as a sport.
Barnes, who spent a week time in India, trying to promote basketball in the country sees a great potential of the sport spreading its wings. Speaking to Firstpost, he said, "The sports fans here are super passionate. There is a population of people that appreciate good sports and appreciate what it offers. My take is that why can't that sport be basketball. Why not come here and teach kids and hopefully, see if they can pick up some things."
The 26-year-old does not see the most popular sport in the country, cricket being an obstacle to stop the craze of basketball. According to him, the fact that there is such huge following for a sport makes him more hopeful about basketball's potential in the country.
"Every time I look at a TV in the hotel and I see there is a cricket highlights," he said with a wry smile. It tells you that people want sports in the country, that they support sports. These are the signs, you know. They get behind their teams. Hope they can do the same for basketball."
Come October, for the first time Indian fans will witness live action of NBA games when Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings take on each other in two pre-season games in Mumbai. Barnes sees the games as a big factor in motivating more people here in India about the sport. He said, "It will be an exciting experience. It is good for the Indian fans to see the game in person, you know. Watching on TV is fun but it is not quite the same experience. Hopefully, many fans are able to see it. To see the game live can be a catalyst for the sport to grow here," he concluded.
At the end of the finals, NBA announced 6 prospects from ACG-NBA Jump who will receive scholarships and training at the NBA Academy India. There names are Kushal Singh (Uttar Pradesh), Janhejay Singh (Chandigarh), Arvinder Singh (Punjab), Hanos Singh Sindhu (Punjab), Jitendra Kumar Sharma (Rajasthan) and Vikrant Ghanghas (Haryana).
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Updated Date: May 07, 2019 15:40:07 IST