Beginning My Third Year in India
This fall and winter season has been filled with a variety of events in the world of India Basketball. In early December the NBA Commisioner, Adam Silver, Sacramento Kings owners, Vivek Ranadive and Raj Bhathal, as well as other NBA personnel , including former star Vlade Divac visited India. I was fortunate to be able to spend some time with the Commissioner. He is very interested in the NBA having a strong presence in India. He said he had plans to return next year if possible. We will be hearing about many of their initiatives in the near future
Later in December we had our 2nd annual IMG College and School League National Championship. This brought all of the championship college and high school teams from each state to Delhi to see who would be crowned the National Champion. Not only did we have competitive games but there were many features to this tournament that I have typically not seen in India. The BFI/IMGR staff did a great job of organizing the tournament and adding these features such as a players lounge, coaches/players cliinic, skills challenge competition, streaming a broadcast of each game online, a kids clinic for the Magic Bus children, and several others. We saw a great deal of media coverage including newspapers, radio stations, and social media websites.There will be a professionally done documentary of this tournament and the future of India basketball coming out soon. Overall, I think we took a big step forward for only the 2nd year of existence.
After Christmas was our Senior Nationals in Bhilwara, Rajasthan. This is where all the top senior state teams from all over India come together to play for a national championship. This tournament is the primary evalution tool for myself and the rest of the selection committee to choose those players that will be invited to our national team training camp. It is a valuable time for me to reconnect with my players and network with many of our Indian coaches. One night I had the privilege to join some others for an authentic Rajasthani dinner. As we sat on the floor, with our individual tables I was served many tasty foods that I had not had before in my time in India. This was definitely a unique experience.
A few days after the nationals I traveled to Kerala for the inauguration of a new basketball court at St. Mary's School in Chellanam. I was the guest of James Mathews and his MyOneShot team. They were instumental in raising the funds for St Mary's who had formerly had a basketball team with no baskets for years. He even got me to dust off my guitar and sing a song for the Ceremony. "God is Bigger Than Any Mountain that I Can or Cannot See". Just to see the look on all of the student's faces was worth being there. Coach Louis, the head basketball coach, told me he wasn't able to sleep at night recently just dreaming about the new court. The next morning I conducted a basketball clinic for about 60 kids on the brand new St. Mary's Court. This was another one of those experiences in my life where I received just as much or more from them as they did from me. I also had the privilege to speak for the Cornerstone Church (Kochi) with of over 1000 people in attendance on that Sunday. From there it was off to Mumbai (Bombay). I attended the annual Savio Cup Tournament for the 3rd time since I have been in India. This is one of the top tournaments in the country with most of the best club teams playing. One of the sponsors (Sai), took me to his South Indian Restaurant called "Udipi" for a great meal. He just kept bringing the food. Do you see a recurring theme at every place I go? On the Friday night of the tournament they had a celebration dinner. There was entertainment, a great meal, and as you can see below some fun and crazy moments. I just go with the flow. ONGC defeated IOB for the Savio Cup Championship. There were 6 of my former national team players on these teams.
My last stop on this trip was in Pune. This was my first trip there. I have wanted to get together with Atul Meshramkar, a friend and former student at Mount Vernon when I was coach there, but this was our first chance to make that happen in his home town of Pune. While I was there for just one day I spoke to about 200 students at St Mathews School in the morning and as well at the Nazarene Church that evening. He kept me busy. It was so great to be with Atul and his family after so many years. His parents and mine were very good friends as well. They actually stayed at our house in Ohio when I was just a kid
I am now back in Delhi for a few weeks and then I will be going to train our U14 National Team in early February. I have initiated an "Indian Basketball Coaches Network". RIght now I am sending out regular emails to about 250 Indian Coaches with basketball coaching tips, philosophies, strategies, drills and plays. I hope to add to that list......Just trying to do my part in growing this great game in India and making a difference in the lives of those I come in contact with. Much of the difference has been in my life. SALT & LIGHT