When one thinks about the top athletes from India, common nominations are Sachin Tendulkar, Leander Pais, Sania Mirza or P T Usha. These athletes have two things in common: they’re legends in India, and they are all of the past. Satnam Singh Bhamara, a name many Indians aren’t even familiar with, will be the country’s next big international basketball phenom.
Emerging from a country where basketball has little tradition, just as Yao Ming once did, Bhamara hopes to be the first player to reach the NBA from India. Standing tall at 7-foot-2, 260 lbs, the young man reigns from Punjab and is currently honing his skills at the IMG Academy (high school) in Florida.
Bhamara is garnering attention from universities across the nation including Ball State, Duquesne, UCF, USF and UTEP. While some critics are still not sure whether he can compete at higher levels of competition, there is plenty of promise after seeing Bhamara match up against future lottery pick Joel Embiid last year in high school. Embiid, who just finished his freshman year at Kansas, is considered this year’s best center prospect.
“That was one of his best games of his career. And at this time last year, no one thought Joel Embiid was going to be as dominant as he was. As Satnam continues to progress, it’s those kinds of moments that allow you to calculate the fact that he’s been pretty successful,” said Dan Barton of the IMG Academy.
Despite showing much promise, Bhamara’s path to the NBA has just begun. He will finish his final season at IMG Academy later this year in December. He’ll still be just 19 years old and right now, patience is key to his growth. In his limited time with the game, media outlets, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times, have already profiled him.
Bhamara still needs to lose another 10 to 20 pounds, and based on his YouTube highlight videos, must focus on his fundamentals. His size is an advantage, but can also bring him down if he doesn’t strengthen his core and legs for such a physically-demanding game. Fortunately for him, IMG Academy understands they have a project on their hands and are willing to invest the time and money to see all this pan out.
The world of basketball now has its eyes on finding talent amongst the 1.2 billion people in India. Bhamara’s top-level coaching will not only earn him the opportunity to play professional basketball, but also the honor of becoming India’s ambassador to the NBA.