Small step for NBA giant leap

SC

Playing against an American side — a couple of NBA fringe-hoopsters included — at Savio Cup, Mumbai's winter gig for basketball, national captain Vishesh Brughavanshi tried his darnest to narrow his team ONGC's losing margin.

A player known for his stylish defence penetrating drive-ins, Vishesh wisely adapted his aggressive game to score solely via loopy three-pointers, cheering up a glum partisan crowd that was watching its Indian heroes drubbed by Americans, some almost half foot taller than them.

The 6 footer from Varanasi, in the middle of a magical season for club and country, is fulfilling his potential as India's most skilled all-rounder, which will aid Uttarakhand at the upcoming basketball nationals in Ludhiana. But what the finals against the Americans showed was how Vishesh could mould his game as a guard, a ball-handling position that suits his modest frame better when pitted against giants routinely encountered internationally.

Vishesh' best season coincides with the entry of American Scott Flemming, appointed India's head coach, who's keen on seeing an Indian make a breakthrough into US pro leagues — in a best-case scenario, crack the NBA. In his 30 years of coaching, Flemming's been a college coach for 27 years and mentored a pro team for three. As someone more sympathetic to India's unique academics compulsions having worked on a University campus, he's keen to help Indians not lose talent in 15-17 age bracket. He's kept a close eye on Satnam Singh, the 7'2" bloke training at IMG stables in the US.

To cut basketball's long story short, Flemming's arrival when deft dribbler Vishesh Brughavanshi's hit the purplest of patches might be the harbinger for India's soon-to-be-scripted tall tale in NBA.

Shivani is a Special Correspondent based in Mumbai

shivani.naik@expressindia.com

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