NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The National Basketball Association (NBA) opened its first academy in India on Tuesday, hoping the facility on the outskirts of Delhi will trigger the game’s growth in a country obsessed with cricket.
“We opened our first office in India in 2011 but we had to understand the market place,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum said after launching the academy at Jaypee Greens in Greater Noida.
“We recognised there was opportunity for us now to bring NBA-style coaching, development and training to kids around the world who may not have access to that.”
It follows the launch of academies in Hangzhou, Jinan and Urumqi in China and in Thies in Senegal.
The NBA’s plans also include launching a global academy in Canberra.
A total of 21 male players are to receive NBA-level coaching and scholarship at the academy.
The number of international players in the NBA has been increasing, with a record 113 on opening night rosters for the 2016-17 season.
The NBA has an Indian owner in Sacramento Kings Vivek Ranadive, who was born in Mumbai, but a player to galvanize a fan base has yet to arrive.
Satnam Singh Bhamara, the son of a farmer, became the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA when the Dallas Mavericks used the 52nd pick on the 7-foot-2-inch centre in 2015.
“This initiative is not about finding more sponsors or marketing partners. It’s about developing elite basketball prospects,” Tatum said.
“Here we have 21 of the best prospects in India. What we want to do is make sure they reach their full potentials, whatever that is.”
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Peter Rutherford/Sudipto Ganguly