Singh (left) with the Indian national team in 2013
|No. 52 – St. John's Edge|
|Born||10 December 1995|
Baloke, Punjab, India
|Listed height||7 ft 2 in (2.18 m)|
|Listed weight||290 lb (132 kg)|
|High school||IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida)|
|NBA draft||2015 / Round: 2 / Pick: 52nd overall|
|Selected by the Dallas Mavericks|
|2018–present||St. John's Edge|
Satnam Singh Bhamara (born December 10, 1995) is an Indian professional basketball player for the St. John's Edge of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL). He became the first Indian player to be drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA) when the Dallas Mavericks selected him with the 52nd overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft. At 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) and 290 pounds (130 kg), Singh plays the center position. He played high school basketball at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Singh was born on December 10, 1995 to Balbir Singh and Sukhwinder Kaur in Baloke, a small, remote village located in the state of Punjab. Both Singh's father, who played basketball due to his exceptional height, and his paternal grandfather were wheat farmers and millers. He grew up with two siblings, sister Sarabjot Kaur and brother Beant Singh.
When he was 9 years old, Singh stood 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 m), taller than most of the adults in his village. His father helped introduce him to basketball and mounted a hoop in a dirt courtyard near his house. By local spectators, Singh was nicknamed "Chhotu," meaning "little one" in Punjabi, as his rapid physical growth made the basketball seem to shrink in his hands over time. Singh soon saw great success in youth leagues in his state.
At age 10, he enrolled at Ludhiana Basketball Academy in Ludhiana, Punjab with the help of his father's friend Rajinder Singh. At the academy, Singh first learned many basketball skills and drills. At age 13, Singh stood 6 feet 11 inches (2.11 m), weighed 230 pounds (104 kg), and wore size-18 shoes. As he was further exposed to professional basketball, including the NBA, he began idolizing Kobe Bryant and modeling his game after Yao Ming and Dwight Howard.
High school career
In early 2010, it was announced that the global sports marketing business IMG was partnering with Reliance Industries, the largest corporation in India, to form a new company known as IMG Reliance (IMGR). They formed a new sports and entertainment marketing company and made their first move by signing a 30-year contract with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). The decision was an attempt at improving the facilities and leagues in the country and they started allowing athletes to attend the Bradenton-based IMG Academy on a full scholarship.
Singh led the Punjab state youth team to a national championship in June 2010, leading the BFI to choose him to play at an NBA Basketball Without Borders camp in Singapore. The BFI's head coach, Harish Sharma, had him play against members of the Indian national team, and he managed to compete with them. Sharma recommended Singh for IMGR to consider him for a scholarship, but at 14 years of age, he was too old. Sharma said, "This boy, you will want to see. I've told people many times, he can become India's Yao Ming." Troy Justice, who directed basketball operations for the NBA in India, also visited Punjab and discovered Singh at the NBA Mahindra Challenge. He said, "First time I saw him play, he was wearing shoes that were falling apart. The seams had split, and he was coming right out of them. That's all he had. He was growing so fast. We helped him get shoes. I've heard people talk, but we're not sure they know how big he'll get." Justice had confidence in him, however, saying, "He can be the chosen one for basketball in India."
Nevertheless, Singh was later awarded a scholarship under the IMGR basketball training academy and shifted to Bradenton, Florida in September 2010. Despite knowing no English at the time, he was one of 29 student-athletes—male and female combined—to be selected to train at IMG Academy. 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, the No. 2 ranked team in the country. However, due to his poor English and lack of American citizenship, Singh was ineligible for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
In April 2015, Singh was announced as an early entrant for the 2015 NBA draft. At the draft on June 25, 2015, he was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the 52nd overall pick, becoming the first Indian-born player to be drafted into the NBA. Singh also became the first player since the 2005 draft to enter without playing in college, overseas professionally, or in the NBA Development League.
Texas Legends (2015–2017)
In July 2015, Singh joined the Mavericks for the 2015 NBA Summer League. On October 31, 2015, he was acquired by the Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate of the Mavericks. On November 13, 2015, he made his professional debut in a 104–82 loss to the Austin Spurs, recording four points, three rebounds and one assist in nine minutes. On February 5, 2016, he had a season-best game with six points and six rebounds in 22 minutes of action as a starter in a 136–80 loss to Raptors 905. He appeared in 9 games (two starts) for the Legends during the 2015–16 season, averaging 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in 7.9 minutes per game.
On October 30, 2016, Singh was re-acquired by the Legends. After playing for the Legends during the 2016–17 season, he joined the Dallas Mavericks for the 2017 NBA Summer League. In January 2017, he featured in a one-hour documentary on Netflix, titled "One in a Billion," which covered his background and path to the NBA.
St. John's Edge (2018–present)
On September 6, 2018, Singh signed with the St. John's Edge of the National Basketball League of Canada. His arrival to the team's training camp was delayed by visa issues, which were settled after he contacted Canadian and Indian government officials through Twitter.
National team career
In the summer of 2009, when he was 13 years old, Singh played for the Indian national under-16 basketball team at the 2009 FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship hosted by Johor Bahru, Malaysia. He averaged 1.5 points per game in limited minutes, as his team finished in 10th place. Singh debuted for the senior Indian national team at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, China, where he averaged 2.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. At the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, he received more playing time, averaging 4.2 points and 2.7 rebounds for India. Singh returned to his national team for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon. However, he struggled to keep up with the pace and only played about 8 minutes per game during the tournament. Singh averaged just 1 point and 0.7 rebounds through three games. In 2017 and 2018, he joined India at 2019 FIBA World Cup qualification, assuming a leading role due to the absences of multiple key players.
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