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Meet India’s first homegrown NBA player, Satnam Singh Bhamara

first_imgIt is futile to imagine just how tall NBA tenderfoot Satnam Singh Bhamara is in person, because your expectations will come crashing down as soon as he stands before you. Towering over everyone for miles around at a colossal 7ft 2 inches, he will leave you gaping while invoking an,It is futile to imagine just how tall NBA tenderfoot Satnam Singh Bhamara is in person, because your expectations will come crashing down as soon as he stands before you. Towering over everyone for miles around at a colossal 7ft 2 inches, he will leave you gaping while invoking an instinctive urge to keep out of his way. By contrast, 19-year-old Satnam’s mild and playful nature earns him a bunch of adoring hangers-on everywhere he goes, a sea change from his obscure life six years back.Humble beginningsThis basketball prodigy’s modest tale begins in a nondescript Punjab village called Ballo Ke where he spent his early years helping his father with the family farm. His fate with basketball was more fortunate than his father, Balbir Singh Bhamara’s, who had dreamed of playing basketball throughout his childhood years. Unfortunately Satnam’s grandfather wasn’t a fan of the idea and bound his son to duties of the farm. For this reason, Balbir made sure no one ever stood in the way of Satnam’s desire to play. When at age 10 he decided to take up basketball, he was quickly noticed and found himself under the tutorage of acclaimed coach S. Subramanian. “My father told me to live my dream and make something out of myself. The more I played, the more I was convinced that I was really good at the game,” says Satnam. He trained for the under-14 nationals in 2009 but was unable to play on the day of the game because of a critical leg injury, which he had ignored for months and had suddenly resurfaced and gotten worse. “This was the difference between playing in India and playing abroad. The doctor told me my leg would heal by itself and I should continue playing. Here, a sportsperson’s health is not taken seriously and there aren’t many good doctors for young players,” says Satnam.advertisementThe big breakIn 2010, he travelled to Delhi to play in front of three American scouts on recommendation from his coach and was selected from among eight others for a fully paid sports scholarship at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, USA. “It was a long-term commitment, but I thought five years was nothing if I could make something of myself in that time. I decided that this was my shot and I had to work hard. I struggled the most with language in the beginning as it was hard for me to even communicate with the coaches who were training me. So I focused only on my playing and learning English during my stay there,” says Satnam. In 2015, Satnam was selected in the 52nd pick of the Dallas Mavericks, becoming the first Indian basketball player to be drafted in the NBA.Coaching abroad vs India”I owe my success to my first coach Subramanian who was the best coach in my opinion. He had a library full of books on basketball tactics and coaching which he devoured to teach us the best he could. He was self-taught in the game and his knowledge of techniques was extensive. But then again, there is a fundamental difference in the way this game is played in both countries. Abroad, even if you painstakingly master a few moves, it is never considered enough. There is always a push to discover better moves and improve. On the other hand in India there is a mentality of ‘kaam chalau’ (settling with whatever you already have), and this way there will be no innovation and the game will never get ahead,” he says ruefully.Future plansSatnam plans to take his family along to the US in the next few years and play there till he retires, “No one in my family has ever been on a plane. I want to show them a new country and how different life can be outside our little village. When I have achieved enough I will come back to India and coach children like me. I want to see basketball earn the same place that cricket has in this country in the near future.”last_img read more

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Djokovic Wears Down Murray

first_imgNEW YORK — Through a pair of back-and-forth sets, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray put on a display befitting a matchup of past U.S. Open champions.They tracked down would-be winners and somehow got them back, prolonging points that involved 10 or 20 strokes or more, extended by Djokovic’s slides and splits or Murray’s gifted anticipation.After one 30-shot masterpiece on his way to victory, Djokovic raised his right fist, bellowed, “Come on!” and windmilled his arms to rile up the crowd.Eventually, the physically demanding action proved too much for a fading Murray, and Djokovic pulled away to win 7-6 (1), 6-7 (1), 6-2, 6-4 and reach the tournament’s semifinals for the eighth consecutive year.“I knew coming into tonight’s match that it’s going to be tough, that he’s going to go for his shots, and the more aggressive one would win it,” the No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Djokovic said. “I’m glad I managed to stay fit in the end and pull it through.”It took a while for him to push out front in a 3-hour, 32-minute match that ended after 1 a.m. on Sept. 4. Asked in an on-court interview to look ahead to facing 10th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan in the Sept. 6 semifinals, Djokovic joked: “My thoughts are just directed to sleeping right now.”That drew guffaws from spectators, and he continued: “Or party. What do you say? Let’s party. I think my coach right there would chase me with a little baseball bat if he saw me going to the city to party right now.”Nishikori became the first man from Japan to reach the U.S. Open semifinals since Ichiya Kumagae in 1918, outlasting third-seeded Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 6-7 (5), 6-4.In the women’s quarterfinals, top-seeded Serena Williams dropped the first three games before quickly turning things around to defeat 11th-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy 6-3, 6-2.Williams, who counts five U.S. Open titles among her 17 Grand Slam trophies, will play 17th-seeded Ekaterina Makarova of Russia in the semifinals.Taking advantage as the eighth-seeded Murray’s lively forehand dipped in quality and the Scot’s service speeds slipped, Djokovic broke to go up 3-1 in the third set, then fended off a pair of break points in the next game.On the first, Murray sailed a backhand long to end a 28-stroke point, then leaned over and put a hand on his knee. On the second, he dumped a forehand into the net, then slammed his racket against his right thigh and yelled.Soon, Murray was turning to his box to say, “Nothing in the legs.” In the fourth set, a trainer came out to deliver a heat pack to Murray.“I got stiff in my hips and my back. … I don’t know exactly why,” said Murray, who beat Djokovic in the finals at the U.S. Open in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013. “I didn’t hurt anything. It was just, I think, fatigue.”He had back surgery a year ago, and dealt with cramping in his first-round match in New York last week. Murray looked fine since then, but he couldn’t sustain his top form against the relentless Djokovic, who won the U.S. Open in 2011.“He was fresher toward the end,” Murray said. “I tried to hang in as best I could.”Until the third set, anyway, Djokovic-Murray was reminiscent — in terms of pure entertainment value and setting, if not quite star power — of the 2001 classic between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, which also was a quarterfinal, and also under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium. That one, won by Sampras, featured four tiebreakers, because neither man broke serve even once.Djokovic and Murray combined for 11 service breaks, seven by Djokovic, including in the final game. They are both brilliant baseliners and retrievers, and it helps that they know each other — and each other’s patterns — so well.The opening set was a 73-minute exercise in shape-shifting and shot making. In the tiebreaker, though, Murray lost his way: He double-faulted, put a return into the net, flubbed a backhand and, before he knew it, that set was gone.Djokovic went up a break in the second set. Murray broke back. Djokovic took another of Murray’s service games. And, yes, Murray again broke back, delivering a forehand winner that left an angered Djokovic swatting a spare ball off the serve-speed digital readout.“We always,” Djokovic said afterward, “push each other to the limits.”(HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Tennis Writer)TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

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