Greater Noida: In a promising step for Indian basketball, the NBA inaugurated its first ever academy here on Tuesday.
The first batch at the academy includes 21 boys in the age group of 12 to 17 years who were selected following a three-month nationwide basketball talent search. The boys will receive scholarships and training at the academy.
This is latest of the several steps that the National Basketball Association (NBA) -- the governing body of the game in US -- has taken to promote the game in India over the past few years.
"I think it (the academy) is unbelievable. There are world class facilities here. From the Olympic size swimming pool to the world class gym to the strength and conditioning centre and the cafeteria where the chef prepares customised food for each kid, this is one of the best facilities in the world," NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum told IANS.
"They have just started. We have just opened the academy and the boys have arrived here over the last three to four weeks. But it is a residential program so they live here and go to school here," he added.
Tatum asserted that the primary aim of the trainers at the NBA Academy India is to ensure that the trainees reach their full potential and go on to create successful careers in the game.
"We work with every single one of the kids and it is a customised plan. Some kids may go on to play college basketball in the USA, some may go to Australia, So in the NBA Development league, or to the European league.
"We will assess every kid at the time they are about to graduate to determine their best possible career path. There are multiple paths. Its not either you make it to the NBA or you don't. There are lots of different paths that you can take in this game," he said.
"There might be some kids whose full potential is they might go on to play college basketball and for some kids it might be becoming an NBA All-Star.
"Success for us would be knowing that a particular kid reached hi full potential," he added.
He also pointed out that the training and coaching standards at the academy is similar to every other NBA facility around the world.
"The similarities are the training, the access that the kids have to world class NBA style coaching and the strength and conditioning trainers. We know what it takes to get a player ready to make it to the NBA and reach their full potential. Every one of the kids in our academy is going to have an access to that," Tatum said.
"We have scouted six million kids through the Reliance Foundation and we have trained 5,000 physical education teachers. There are seven kids here who have actually taken part in our Junior NBA program.
"Think of it as a kind funnel. We are getting six million kids who were part of the Junior NBA. The best among them were part of our basketball schools from where we selected the best for the NBA academy," he added.
"We may build more academies in India. We can also look at expanding this present academy. We can bring kids from around the country. So its not necessarily the physical location because this is a world class facility. One of the possibilities is that we expand the number of kids that we bring here."
"The programme is for any kid from around the country."
Tatum also asserted that ensuring an Indian makes it the NBA in the future is the main goal of the academy.
"Obviously if we had an (Indian) NBA player, it would be enormous. When you look at what (former NBA star) Yao Ming did for basketball in China. We saw how NBA's popularity increased in India when Satnam Singh was picked in the NBA draft," he said.