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Satnam creates history, becomes first Indian in NBA

New York/Mumbai, June 26 (IANS) Hoopster Satnam Singh Bhamara on Friday created history by becoming the first Indian to get drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The seven feet two inches tall, 131 kg Indian was picked by Dallas Mavericks. The 19-year-old Satnam earlier took part in training sessions with top teams like Sacramento Kings and Boston Celtics. He was the second round, 52nd pick in the NBA draft and among 60 men who will play basketball in the next season.

An ecstatic Satnam after achieving the feat said he was delighted to become the first Indian to enter the NBA, adding that this will help more Indians to take up basketball and play it professionally.

“I had the confidence while training that I would be selected by any team. I made good preparations and it paid off. It feels great that someone from India will be playing in the NBA,” Satnam told the Indian media from New York via a tele-conference call on Friday.

“I would want more Indians to take up basketball at the professional level and play in NBA. The youngsters back home can now look up to someone as motivation,” he said.

Satnam, who hails from a remote village in Punjab, moved to the United States in September 2010 as part of a scholarship programme between IMG Academy and Reliance.

During the 2014-15 season, he averaged 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in less than 20 minutes per game for IMG. For the last five years Satnam has been training in Florida with youths of various countries on an initiative of the IMG Reliance Academy. The 19-year-old did not receive any scholarship to play for American colleges.

Satnam thanked his coach S. Subramaniam for all the hard work he put in.

“I thank my coach Subramaniam very much. I am missing him a lot. He has helped me a lot and I can’t say it in words. He is the best coach,” he said.

Satnam said star American cager Kobe Bryant is his role model and he looks up to him for inspiration. “I look up to Kobe Bryant as one of the inspirations. He is a class player and my role model.”

This also marks the first time since 2005 that a player has entered the draft without playing in college, overseas, professionally or in the NBA Development League.

After being drafted by the Mavericks, the instance makes him the first player to be drafted directly from high school and the first since the league instituted age restrictions on players that someone from high school could be selected in the draft.

He is nicknamed ‘Chhotu’, which means little one. He said his parents were praying for him all the time, adding that he prayed to all his gurus and God before the results.

“My parents, especially my mother and sister, are praying for me for a long time. I prayed to my gurus and God before the results,” he said.

Before Bhamara, Toronto-born Gursimran ‘Sim’ Bhullar became the first player of Indian origin to play in the NBA when he turned out for the Sacramento Kings in three games in April. He said Bhullar congratulated him on his success and wished him.

“Sim Bhullar congratulated me and told me all the best,” Satnam said.

Since the inaugural 1980-81 season, the Mavericks have won three division titles (1987, 2007, 2010), two conference championships (2006, 2011) and one NBA championship (2011).

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