For several years, Gokul Natesan spent a major part of his week learning software programming and studying mobile application development in 2015. Last Saturday, he got his first big break. But not as a software developer. Instead, he was the 97th pick in the NBA draft to became only the second Indian-origin player to be signed by an NBA G-League side. Natesan, 23, was picked by Canton Charge, a minor league affiliate team of Cleveland Cavaliers, completing a remarkable journey of the computer science graduate, who shuffled between playing college basketball and designing apps.
“During the last four years in my college, I would practice daily and would head to the college library straight after that. I spent more than 15 hours per week studying software and also enrolled for mobile applications classes in 2015. We made an android test application for users who wanted to go and eat out and had certain type of choices in food,” said Natesan, who lives in a small town sandwiched between Santa Clara and Cupertino, the Apple headquarters.
He is the only person in the Natesan family to be born in the USA. His parents, Ramakrishnan and Sumathi, moved from Salem district in Tamil Nadu to Santa Clara in the USA in 1990 while his elder sister Amlu was born in India. Natesan started playing basketball at the age of five and later played in YMCA League for Cupertino High School.
The youngster also played for the Bay Area Ballers in the local leagues in Bay Area, which is famous for its software industry worldwide. Having missed out on the top 351 Division I colleges, Natesan opted for the Colorado College of Mines to play for their Division II team Orediggers under coach chief coach Pryor Orser. He ended his college career with a 14-point score in Orediggers’ match against Bellarmine in the NCAA Division II Elite 8 tournament in March this year.
Natesan was also adjudged as the RMAC defensive player of the year in 2016 and started in all 35 games in Division II scoring 648 points and ended on fourth spot on the team’s most points score list till now with a total of 2014 points starting 2013. The youngster would also attend the NBA G league invitational tryouts in Chicago in August this year before he was drafted in the NBA G league Draft.
“My father wanted me to play basketball and he would take me to show some basketball youth leagues when I was a kid. When I got through Colorado School of Mines, I was enthusiastic playing in the second division,” said Gokul, whose father works in the California State Software department and mother is a second language teacher.
Natesan said he is keen to play for India but the government’s rule, which does not allow PIOs and OCIs to represent India unless they give up the second passport, has come as a hinderance. “I often talk with my family to get a chance to play for India. But as OCI (Overseas Citizen of India), I am not eligible for playing for India. Playing for India is a dream for me and I hope there are some rules changes for OCI. I also tried for the NBL in Australia but they also told is that they have a quota for Indian team players. I hope to impress more teams via the G league,” shared Natesan.
A Chennai Super Kings and MS Dhoni fans, Natesan, who last visited Chennai in 2013, hopes to meet the former India captain some day. “I am a big MS Dhoni fan and I admire his leadership qualities. I have watched some IPL matches on Television and the way he has led the team is commendable ,” said Natesan.