NBA and Reliance Foundation hook up for basketball

MUMBAI: Earlier this year, NBA dived into the Indian sports market by introducing the first ever basketball championship called JAM for college students. Now it plans to go even deeper by making the sport attractive for young kids in order to get them engaged in it from school days through the newly launched Jr NBA.

Three months ago, NBA announced its deal with Sony Six as its official broadcast partner in the country helping it promote the game on screen. It will telecast NBA matches live as well as repeats on the channel as well as its website.

Now, NBA along with Reliance Foundation have signed a deal to get school kids between ages eight to sixteen years to join the game by giving them an opportunity to play under trained professionals. International coaches have been called to train local coaches from October to December this year who will in turn teach the sport to their students. The first year will see Mumbai and Kochi being targeted with five international coaches for each city. They are Ontario Lett, Vanja Cernivec, Bryan Gamroth, Billy Singleton and Sheika Ann Anbatali. Kochi will have a separate set of coaches.

This year 108 schools in Mumbai have registered to be a part of this activity that will see basketball being introducing in the curriculum of the schools as well as training being provided post school hours. All of it will be absolutely free. An Indian centric manual has also been developed that will guide the local instructors on ways to train kids and know the game better. The ultimate aim is to reach a million students through 3,000 coaches in about 10 cities of the country in the next three years.

According to NBA senior director basketball operations (international) Troy Justice India has a lot of scope for sport, especially basketball. "This programme will accelerate the growth and make children basketball friendly," says Justice.

The best shooters will be selected from each school and a citywide championship will be held. Apart from the sport they also plan to inculcate values such as sportsmanship, active lifestyle, health and teamwork.

"This is the first time that such a comprehensive level of in-school and after-school program is being implemented in any sport in India," says an emphatic NBA India MD Yannick Colaco. The activity will span from October 2013 to February 2014. Colaco adds that the whole programme is free for the participating schools and physical education teachers. Promotion campaigns for it are already being made. Mostly direct methods of communication will be used to reach out to students as well as parents through PTA meetings and the likes.

Sony Six is also actively interacting with people on social media to get their attention. More promotional activities are lined up as per the deal. Plans for Hindi commentary for the game in the future are also being thought of.

Apparently NBA JAM got an overwhelming response with over 1,000 teams wanting to participate when only 600 could be accommodated. Now it hopes to get more basketball rings into schools and more balls bouncing into the hoops.

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