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State basketball rises on the wings of youth

Karnataka has historically produced quality basketball players for the country, but over the course of the last decade or so those numbers dwindled.
Last Updated : 17 May 2024, 03:06 IST
Last Updated : 17 May 2024, 03:06 IST

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Bengaluru: Karnataka basketball is on the cusp of a major shift for the first time in a long time. Karnataka has historically produced quality basketball players for the country, but over the course of the last decade or so those numbers dwindled. Moreover, the teams weren’t winning nearly as many titles as their pedigree would suggest.

It’s not a problem that has yet seen its end, but Karnataka Junior girls’ team claiming the crown in the 74th edition of the Junior basketball championship in Indore on Tuesday could be the catalyst for change. 

The Karnataka Under-13 team won the Sub-Junior National title in 2022 and could have hoped to repeat the feat had it not been for an administrative decision from the Karnataka State Basketball Association in 2023. 

Last month, the Youth (Under-16) team finished runners-up in the National championship. Pertinently, six players from that side featured in the Junior (Under-18) team.

Evidently, there is a throughline, and it resonates with coordination and camaraderie.

"We had a very little turnaround time, ten days, but we were able to figure out set plays because six of them had already worked with me with the Youth team,” says coach Sathyanarayana K. “These girls are so young, and it’s hard to get them to work together because they’re all from different clubs and are in different stages of learning, but they came together after suffering some early losses and this is great for Karnataka basketball.”

Actually, player chemistry wasn’t the only problem Sathyanarayana had to overcome. The DYES product’s coming-of-age moment as a coach came when he realised his follies from the final against Tamil Nadu a month ago and remedied them with empathy and foresight. 

Though known to shepherd with an iron fist, Sathyanarayana has been guilty of letting outside voices come in the way of his decision-making during games. It is in video evidence during the Youth final, and the outcome - a five-point loss - was on record just the same. His decision to leave out standout players from the Youth championship was criticised in the community. 

Having understood the players, who matter and the rotations which need to be run since, the coach relied extensively on the likes of Aadhya Nagalingam, Aadhya Gowda, and a star-in-the-making Aditi Subramaniam. 

While all three tend to put up more shots than you would typically expect from the system followed across Indian basketball, they also lack the fear of failure. This typically, as witnessed during the final against Punjab, leads to them rush back to defence instead of brooding over shots missed. 

This approach, expectedly, has drawn flak from some of the former players with some saying there is no way these girls can translate these skills at the Senior level.  

All things considered, there is no solution to the problem of fragile egos, flaky opinions and irrational resentment in the basketball community in Karnataka. But, on the wings of youth and innocence, the sport can celebrate something without false trepidation for the first time in a long time.

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Published 17 May 2024, 03:06 IST

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