Satnam Singh Bhamara
Singh (left) with the Indian national team in 2013
10 December 1995|
Ballo Ke, 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|
Satnam Singh Bhamara (born December 10, 1995) is an Indian professional basketball player. He became the first player from India to be drafted into the NBA when the Dallas Mavericks chose him with the 52nd overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. At 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) and 290 lb (132 kg), Singh plays the center position. He played high school basketball at IMG Academy, a private athletic training institute headquartered in Bradenton, Florida. He attracted attention from media outlets since he was as young as 14 years old, and his career at IMG helped put him on the radar for NBA teams.
Singh was born on December 10, 1995, in Baloke, a village located in the Barnala district of Punjab, India that had a population of only about 800, in a Sikh family. Both Singh's father, Balbir, and his paternal grandfather were wheat farmers and millers, and the family's house was located four miles from the closest paved road. In the mid-1980s, while in his childhood, Singh's father became the tallest person in his village and his tremendous height caused the general public to advise him to start playing basketball in cities that had the proper facilities. The sport received little interest in India compared to cricket, field hockey, and soccer, however, and his father denied these overtures and wanted his son to follow his footsteps as a farmer. Balbir stayed in his hometown and was elected head of the village. He married and had three children, the middle child being Satnam.
At 9 years old, Singh was taller than the majority of adults in his village. His father took him to a local basketball court at around this time, despite having a meager understanding of the game. Singh was under the impression that he was being taken to play volleyball, and he struggled to play. Nevertheless, Singh continued to play using a hoop his father mounted in a dirt courtyard near his house. After drawing interest from villagers, who would occasionally come to watch him, he earned the nickname "Chhotu" among the villagers in his hometown, which meant "little one" in his native tongue, as his rapid growth made the basketball seem to shrink in his hands over time. Singh's interest in the game prompted his father to search for players and coaches in the Punjab region. Singh participated in youth leagues in Punjab and quickly began to dominate his opponents. At age 10, his father was urged to enroll him in the Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA) in the large Punjabi city of Ludhiana, a school designed to develop talent in 14- to 18-year-olds from Punjab and its neighboring states. Talwinderjit Singh was one of the many future members of the junior and senior Indian national basketball teams that the academy had experience working with. At the LBA, Singh was taught some of his first basketball skills and drills by former Punjab basketball coach and Sports Authority of India director Dr. Sankaran Subramanian. When he was 13 years old, Singh was 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) tall, 230 lb (104 kg), and wore size-18 shoes. As he began getting more exposure to professional basketball and the National Basketball Association (NBA), he began to idolize stars such as Kobe Bryant and would try to model his game after Yao Ming and Dwight Howard. Outside of the league, he looked up to Ludhiana alum, Jagdeep Singh Bains.
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. The academy had previously produced players like Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Joakim Noah and Chauncey Billups.
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 limited English skills and lack of American citizenship, Singh was thereby ineligible for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
In April 2015, after being declared ineligible for sports scholarship-oriented opportunities due to lack of citizenry and thus, ineligible for the NCAA, Singh declared for the 2015 NBA draft, going on to be selected with the 52nd pick by the Dallas Mavericks on June 25, 2015. With that, Singh became the first Indian-born player to be drafted into the NBA, the first player since the 2005 NBA draft to enter the draft without playing in college, overseas professionally, or in the NBA Development League; the first player to be drafted directly from high school as a postgraduate, and the first player from high school to be drafted since the league instituted age restrictions.
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 in 2015–16, averaging 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in 7.9 minutes per game.
On October 30, 2016, Singh was reacquired by the Texas Legends. After playing for the Texas Legends in the 2016-17 NBA D-League season, he joined the Dallas Mavericks for the 2017 NBA Summer League.
In 2018, Singh played for the LNM Institute of Information Technology college.
National team career
In the summer of 2009, a 13-year old Singh received an invitation to try-out for the Indian youth national basketball team, who were set to play at the 2009 FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. He accepted the offer after his coach supported the idea, and he made the squad. However, he failed to dominate the more skilled opposition and was awarded little playing time throughout each game. After finishing with a win/loss record of 3-4, India finished 10th place in a tournament among 16 teams, and Singh's team was defeated by as many as 74 points against China, who went on to claim the title.
Singh has also represented the India national basketball team at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship and the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship. He rejoined the Indian National team for the 2017 FIBA Asia Championship.
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