Jagshaanbir Singh hailing from Chandigarh, has become the first Indian male to receive a US basketball scholarship in Point Park University. The university has signed him for the 2020-21 season. While speaking to Times of India he said, “Yes, it’s been a roller coaster ride. I started taking basketball seriously in 2015. And, now I am here. But the journey has just begun. I have still miles to go.”
Surprisingly, in his U–14 days, this 7 foot tall basketball player used to be an opening batsman and a fast bowler. Jagshaanbir’s father Tejinder Pal Singh represented Punjab in Basketball. Jagshaanbir said, “My father (Tejinder Pal Singh) represented Punjab at the national level in basketball. Although I used to get up in the morning to watch NBA games, cricket was life for me.” Jagshaan Singh had a stiff start to his basketball career. He had an unpleasant outing to Kapurthala where he was in his school basketball team.
Jagshaanbir, describing his basketball match experience said, “It was not a good experience. I was like a giant holding the ball in the court and doing nothing. I was just not able to move or pass the ball quickly. I realised I was nowhere near the kids of my age.”
After that disaster experience, the 7 – foot lad expressed his interest in becoming better at playing basketball.. He said to his father that he wants to make a career in basketball. Tejinder said, “I was over the moon, but I did not show any emotions. I started going with him to his every match and taking notes.” He added, “In that six months, the father-son relation took a back seat. I was a coach and he was my student. I used to yell at him if he was not playing well or committed a mistake. People even told me that I was being very hard on him, but I knew what I was doing.”
He was picked for the NBA Academy India through the ACG-NBA Jump programme in 2017. Jagshaanbir was signed by the Golden State Prep at Napa Valley in California in 2019. It is a top-five finishing school for young bigs. With this Jagshaanbir became first from NBA India to receive a scholarship.
Marc Pulles, Basketball Operations Team Leader, NBA India said, “He is a 7-footer who can shoot, a combination which we don’t see too often in players. I’m sure Point Park coaches will hone his skills and further sharpen his basketball IQ. During his time at the Academy, we witnessed a tremendous improvement in his physical attributes and the Point Park programme will only improve his craft each and every day with competitive game-time in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).”
Time spent in playing basketball at GSP was also a turning point in Jagshaanbir’s career. Recalling his stay in California he said, “It was 50-55 games in six months which honed my rebounding and game sense in general.” He also said, “I changed my mentality from being a non-aggressive player to an aggressive beast.”
From his experience in the US, he straight away understood that his upper-body is weaker compared to the rest of the players. Jagshaanbir said, “I used to fall down regularly whenever someone used to tackle me.”
Tejinder advised him to gain weight. Tejinder said, “Putting on the extra kilos for a 7-foot tall basketball player could spell the end of his career. But following a proper diet and strict training scheduled, he did it. I think he has become a better player now.”
Having said that, due to COVID-19 pandemic there is a possibility of a pause in his growth and dream to become an NBA player. Yet, he is staying positive that the conditions will return to normal soon and recalling that patience and determination have helped him to make this far and he still has a long way to go.
Written – Mohit Edupuganti