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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Basketball India: Basketball can become No 2 sport in India: Jennings

NAGPUR: He has the floor presence of Allen Iverson, wit of Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron's confidence and smile of Magic Johnson. So it comes as no surprise that at 22 Brandon Jennings is considered by many to be the next big thing of NBA.

Jennings, a 6-foot-2 point guard, was at a time regarded as the best high school player in the United States. But instead of opting for the traditional career path - of going through the college league enroute to NBA - Jennings went to Italy to play as pro. With the talent he has it took just a year for the NBA bosses to spot Jennings. The Milwaukee Bucks snapped up the rookie in 2009. He lived upto to promise he showed in the very first year with the Milwaukee by becoming the youngest NBA player to score 55 points in a game.

The emerging star is in Mumbai right now to conduct a series of events for NBA in order to popularise the game in India. In a free-wheeling chat with TOI Jennigs shared his view about the game and it's progress in India

Excerpts:

What is basketball for Brandon?

Basketball is something that I love and have the passion for. Actually, basketball is my life.

How difficult was it for you to make it to the NBA?

I won't say it was difficult. Yes, it was a challenge to make it big in NBA. It took a lot of hard work and dedication. When I made my decision to play overseas that day was my first test. It was a challenge and yeah I did it.

Can basketball really become India's biggest sport?

I don't think basketball will become India's biggest sport, cricket will always be No 1. With the participation and involvement of the NBA, I think basketball will become No 2 in India and we will be fine with that.

Indians are not very heavily built. Will that affect the growth of game here?

Basketball is fun and an easy sport. The game of basketball is a global sport. You only have to put the ball in the hoop and I think if you can do that it is easy and anybody can start playing the game. You don't always have to be heavily built, you just have to understand how to play the game, I think you can play.

How important is the technical aspect at the grassroots level?

There are players in the NBA who don't have their basics right, don't have the right technique, and yet are playing in the starting line-ups, and doing a great job. It is not necessary to always have the basics covered. You need to have a set of skills most importantly. Like I said before, basketball is an easy sport. The most essential thing is to love the game and pick it up at a young age. The aspiring kid that enjoys shooting basketball in the hoop will surely make it professionally at the highest level, either in the NBA or in other leagues around the world.

How do you compare the players of USA with others in terms of style and toughness?

Our style is a bit different but game is always played the same way everywhere and everybody knows how to play the game, obviously it is no different.

Your message for Indian kids?

Keep doing your bit. As long as you work hard everything is possible. Having played in Italy, I have seen first-hand how the sport is growing globally and I am excited to be in India with the NBA to help continue the growth of the game. The NBA has the best basketball players from around the world and I wish to see one of the kids I teach here play against me in the NBA one day.

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