India has been the cricket frenzy country since forever. Few other sports outside of cricket get some notice from the youth. Although basketball is quite a popular sport at the school level, we never focussed on the sport as much to nurture a future Basketball star from our soil. Nonetheless, gems emerge even in the scarce resources in the past decade. From the wheat field to wooden court, let’s have a look at the journey of Satnam Singh, the only Indian player drafted in the NBA.
Satnam was born in 1995 in a small village Balloke in the district of Barnala, Punjab. His village has a population of just 800. The location is extremely rural and livelihood in the village is based on wheat cultivation.
Satnam Singh: Basketball as a career
By the age of 9, Satnam grew taller than the majority of the adults in his village and basketball seemed to shrink in his hands over time. He was awarded the ironical nickname “Chhotu” by people of his village.
He enrolled into Ludhiana Basketball Academy, at the age of 10, and started participating in youth leagues. By age 13, he was already 6 ft 11 inch tall. At that age, he wore size 18 shoes which were very unusual for his age. He found it difficult to search a shoe in his size so he got two shoes stitched together and wore them for his practice session.
It was the time when he started getting professional exposure. He represented Indian youth national basketball team at 2009 FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship in Malaysia.
Satnam Singh: Path towards NBA glory
In 2010, he outshined at the NBA Mahindra challenge and was selected for the IMG Academy in a scholarship program. Despite the lack of infrastructure and training, Satnam wooed the selectors.
A pair of size 18 shoes were shipped from the US especially for him. Satnam then travelled to Florida at 14 where he began his professional training and high school academics. He weighs 132 kg now and stands at 7 ft 2 inch tall.
IMG team currently ranks at #8 and is known for producing players like Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter etc.
“This Boy, You Will Want To See. I’ve Told People Many Times, He Can Become India’s Yao Ming”- Troy Justice, Director Basketball Operations NBA, India.
To those who don’t know Yao Ming, he is the most popular NBA superstar and Hall of Famer from China. During the 2014–15 season, Satnam averaged 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in less than 20 minutes per game for IMG. Satnam has shown sheer persistence and dedication by focusing on his strength and overcoming the language barrier.
In 2015, he created history by becoming the first Indian-born player to be drafted into the NBA picked by Dallas Mavericks. He made his professional debut in 2015 NBA Summer League with 4 points and 3 rebounds in 9 mins. Following this, he averaged 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game in the NBA G-League 2015-16. He even participated in the 2016-17 season but played only eight games, averaging 1.6 points and 1.3 rebounds per game.
Also Read | 10 Famous Indian Basketball Players of All Time
‘One in a Billion’ was launched on Netflix covering his background and path to the NBA till January 2017.
After a disappointing start in the NBA Summer League, Singh signed a contract with the UBA Pro Basketball League in India on 3 November 2017. With the aspirations of making big again, he participated in the UBA US Pro Performance Camp in Phoenix, Arizona.
He currently plays for the St. John’s Edge in the NBL of Canada. The expectations were always been huge and out of worldly from the Indian Big Man. But he has never given up and stayed true to his game. Indeed, billions in India are waiting for the wonder boy of India to defy the odds and help upcoming talents in India with a leading example to preach.