According to Scott Flemming, India’s basketball can really benefit from a professional league.
India’s basketball can really benefit from a professional league. Over the past few years, the NBA has gained a lot of popularity in the Indian subcontinent. Compared to ten years ago, a lot more young people are getting into basketball, whether it’s the brand or the game itself.
The NBA Academy of India is a big reason why more and more people in the country are interested in basketball. Scott Flemming, the technical director of the academy, talks about how the sport has grown in India since he was the coach of the national basketball team in 2012.
Here’s what Flemming expressed
“Since the time I came to India to be the national coach, I have seen basketball grow. Not just the awareness of the NBA and what they are doing here in India but also from independent groups and the federation. I would agree with you on the subject that it hasn’t been a fast growth but it has been a slow and steady one,” he said.
There is still plenty of room for development, as he rightly remarks. “There are some key factors that can be named. For instance, a pro league can give it a real boost but I think I’ve seen it grow nevertheless. We have had a dozen NBA pro players meet with the kids and run the camp. And I think there is a greater fan base than there used to be. It will probably never be anything close to cricket, but we hope to gain on the other sports”, he says in all sincerity. “I’ve seen the game steadily grow, but still, there is a long way to go.”
Scott Flemming – His Philosophy and Motto
As the famous saying “Person before the player” says, sport is often seen as a way to help a player grow as a whole, but more importantly, to help a person grow as a whole. This is also the motto of the man who led the Indian national team to two gold medals at the South Asian Championships in 2014 and 2015. He is proud that the methods used at his center of excellence are all based on the same philosophy.
“I certainly give the federation and the coaches in the federation a lot of credit for what they have done with the players, but I think that it helped that they had their foundation here at the NBA Academy. And I think that is how we can really partner together.”
“I’ve said it before, it takes a village to really help a player and improve him. So, we feel we are a part of the village, the federation is part of it, the parents are a part of it, and the local coaches, we are all working together. But I think being in a structured environment here and being able to work on basketball every day along with their schooling and other things is a great foundation for them to succeed,” he said.
The spread and popularity of the game have been helped a lot by the growth of technology and the globalization of markets over the past few decades. These changes make it possible for the sport to attract more players from all over the world.
“With each passing year, there are more and more international players in the NBA. If you look at the latest draft, you’d find a lot of international players on the list,” explains Flemming. “The NBA has been very intentional about wanting to be global. They are even having a lot of their games in other countries. We had a pre-season game here in Mumbai a couple of years ago. And I know that the NBA has been intentional about coming to India and building a brand, especially working at the grassroots level, which I have been part of as well.”
NBA and India
But India is a very diverse nation, so it’s hard to ensure everyone has the same level of access because the social and economic conditions change from region to region. In other words, not every small town or village can have all the amenities of a big city, where the “grind” seems to happen. And so, special steps to fit the needs of rural or underdeveloped areas are needed to reach more of the actual talent pool in the country.
“We probably need to do more (with regards to the development of the sport in rural areas). It is very difficult to set up a network in all the villages as is. We are doing our best to reach out to the populace. Even if they can’t get to our try-outs, we offer the kids the opportunity to send in videos and information about themselves. But it is a tough challenge, I’ll admit. We certainly aren’t against that. I’d love to go to every small village in India, but practically that is not always easy to do. So, I hope that the word gets out,” Flemming said.
“The other way we find them is by scouting the national tournaments as a lot of good players play on the state teams. And that is how we have come to realise that a lot of good players hail from these small villages. It doesn’t matter where they are from, a big city or a small village. We look at how they play, what kind of a teammate they are and what kind of heart they have really,” Flemming explained.
“I have been to some school tournaments. If we hear about the participation of some quality players we try to get there and have a look at them. We also have a relationship with the colleges. We have them come down here and play in a league that we have here at the academy. The main thing I can probably say is that the NBA School program we have is our main feature. We work with schools that are already established. We come in with the NBA program where we train them after school and the players do not necessarily have to be from that school either. Many of them are, but they do not necessarily have to be.”
“We have also got in current and former NBA players to make visits to the schools, so probably that is the best thing we are doing as far as our relationship with schools right now,” he concluded.