While Jagshaanbir Singh was busy reading tons of messages and congratulatory posts after announcing his commitment to Point Park University, Pennsylvania two weeks ago, he realised the first step towards achieving his dream. After all, the NBA Academy India product became only the sixth Indian male player to get a scholarship in the US after he was signed by Golden State Prep (GSP) last year.
“It's a big deal playing in the NBA. I know it's going to be a hard journey for me coming from a country where basketball is still growing. I just need to grind on the court. Point Park University is my primary goal now,” Jagshaanbir told Republic World in a telephonic interview.
Point Park University is part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the River State Conference (RSC). Before committing to Point Park University, top universities were tracking the progress of the lanky center from Jalandhar. Some even approached him but Jagshaanbir liked the prospect of joining the university in Pittsburgh.
“When I was in the US, playing for GSP, I knew universities were watching me. Of all other places, I liked Point Park University the most. The basketball culture there fits my ambition. They are always supportive, success-driven and that would help me become a better player. So, it was an easy decision to commit to Point Park,” said the big man, who is the first Indian to earn a scholarship at the university.
From being homesick & tackling constant injuries to finding a support system & polishing his game, Jagshaanbir Singh’s NBA Academy India story is a lesson in perseverance! pic.twitter.com/QSWkLauYBR— NBAIndia (@NBAIndia) July 19, 2018
Interestingly, Point Park presents a perfect opportunity to the Jalandhar lad as it's a marriage of convenience for both parties. Head coach Joe Lewandowski and associate head Daryn Freedman at Point Park were keen to get the 7-foot man to fit the system. "We're really excited about our entire 2020 recruiting class, but this one is a huge pickup," Freedman, who has coached Indian origin Canadian-born big man Sim Bhullar.
“They have a good history of grooming big players. The coaches are well-versed with playing big centers. They knew my game and wanted me badly. Whenever I go there, I'm sure I’ll get better with the knowledge of positions and execution on the court,” said an elated Jagshaabir.
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Meanwhile, the decision to play basketball came naturally to the Jalandhar boy, who also played cricket and badminton in his childhood. To add to that, Jagshaanbir's father Tejinder Pal Singh also played basketball. It was here when a young Jagshaanbir began idolising Spurs legend Tim Duncan and developed an interest for basketball.
"I have always been a huge fan of Tim Duncan. I used to watch his games a lot. He was a great player for the Spurs and I want to replicate him on the court. My dad used to watch NBA games when I was growing up. Every day in the morning, he used to wake me up to watch games with him. I started idolising him,” recalls the Indian hoopster.
It is worth noting that Jagshaanbir was among the first bunch of 21 student-athletes selected by NBA Academy India in May 2017. After just two months, he was a part of NBA’s Asia Pacific Camp in China and represented India in the FIBA U18 Asian Championships in Thailand a year later.
Jagshaanbir's time at Golden State Prep in Napa Valley, California in 2019 nurtured him physically and prepared him to move up the ladder to achieve his dream. "My time was pretty great at Golden State Prep. I faced real basketball when I went there, more like a reality check. I was introduced to the American style of playing. There was a lot difference in the speed, agility, aggressiveness, intensity, athleticism. They helped me build every aspect that I needed to get better.”
Earlier in February, Jagshaanbir returned to India from the US only to realise that his trip back to the US was postponed, owing to the coronavirus pandemic. However, this did not stop him from being in touch with the coaches at Point Park who laid out his training regime. “When I was talking to them about the things we were going to work on, they spoke in detail about handles, shooting, all-round plays. I prefer going to the basket, shooting from corners and my all-around game prowess. So, it is important to be in regular touch with the coaches. They gave me a plan to follow. The coach has asked me to work on my balance and agility to be more dominant on the court as a big man,” he explains.
He has also been watching Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance during his free time to get some inspiration in such testing times. “It's always inspiring to watch someone stand tall against huge competition, media controversies and family problems. The mindset to overcome adversity is what motivates me,” says the former NBA Academy India export.
Apart from a concrete career in basketball, Jagshaanbir is mindful of his backup option too. Aside from hooping, the 7-footer has an alternate plan ready as he's pursuing a degree in Business Management. Notably, Point Park is well known for its business courses and journalism. Even Tim Duncan completed four years of college when generally most prospects decide to leave universities after sophomore season.
Jagshaanbir, who has maintained good scores and wants to study further, is hopeful of following the footsteps of Tim Duncan academically too. The five-time NBA champion reportedly boasts of a Ph.D. in Marine Chemistry from MIT, graduate degrees in Electrical Engineering, European history, and Latin from Northwestern, UCLA, and Boston College, respectively. In addition, the now assistant coach of Spurs has a Master of Science degree and JD-MBA from the University of Texas among other degrees to his name.
Amid the uncertainty, Jagshaanbir is hoping to play for Point Park when normalcy is restored and college basketball resumes in the US. He is desperately waiting for September to arrive so that he can meet his new team in Pittsburgh. Till then, he’s focusing on bettering his skills at home with the help of his basketball-savvy father.