On Thursday, Satnam Singh will become the first Indian to feature in the NBA draft, which will be held in New York. Ahead of the big day for the 7’2” tall cager from Punjab, former India and interim Sacramento Kings coach Kenny Natt, who was also Satnam’s mentor at the IMG Academy, talks to The Indian Express about Satnam’s chances of becoming the first Indian to be picked by a NBA side. Excerpts.
What are Satnam’s chances of getting drafted?
Higher than that of a large percentage of collegiate and international draft eligible athletes who are being considered for this year’s draft. Due to Satnam’s size, age, and skills set, he is an intriguing young draft prospect for some NBA teams who may be envisioning him as a young, big (postman) with a tremendous upside in terms of future potential.
I’m sure those teams are figuring that with close monitoring and specialised skill development training, he might actually be able to contribute to their franchise in a variety of ways, be it both on and off the court.
I feel he has what it takes now as a solid foundation for building him into becoming a productive NBA player within the next two to three years. Hopefully, some team will view him as I do and seek to draft him and maintain his NBA rights for the future. Same was the case for many NBA draftees such as Yao Ming, Arvidas Sabonis, Andres Kirilenko, and many other young draft eligible players.
Satnam has appeared at seven pre-draft workouts. What do coaches look for in these invitees?
When invited for pre-draft workouts, coaches and general managers are looking to get an up-close and personal look at each prospect such as Satnam, in terms of his true size, athleticism and agility, determine his primary strengths and weakness in skills relative to his position, in addition to his work ethic and level of basketball IQ.
In the case of Satnam, the general feedback on him has been consistent on both fronts when looking at his strong and weak points. To no surprise to us, nearly all have indicated that his speed, lateral quickness, and reaction time is lacking. However, they have all spoken very highly of Satnam’s body size, hands size, physical strength, solid work ethic, crafty inside footwork off post, soft perimeter shooting touch with range, as well as his positive upside as a young player.
What were your first impressions of him as a player?
My first most memorable impression of Satnam was obviously his enormous size at 14 years of age. Second, was his warm smile, huge hands, and of course, his bubbly personality and genuine passion for the game. What was also very noticeable was his basic skills set. In the areas of perimeter shooting, touch and inside post moves to left and right-hand, he was above average for such a young and big man with a minimal number of years of formal skills training.
How have those skills progressed since he joined the IMG Academy?
Unfortunately, over the first three years he resided here at IMG Academy, Satnam’s skills development was hampered greatly due to sustaining injuries that prevented him from being on the court each day, and for weeks at a time in most cases. As a young and developing student-athlete, particularly one of Satnam’s abnormal stature, the healing process generally takes much longer than that of normal size athletes. Fortunately, his current skills development process has been expedited and maintained by way of having him stick to strict training, therapy treatment and dietary regiments.
These have proven to be tremendously beneficial to sustaining his consistent on-court training sessions and good health, which has been vitally important for him to successfully showcase himself in the various NBA Team Workouts that he has had over the past months in preparation for the Draft.
If Satnam goes undrafted, is there a Plan B in place?
Should Satnam go undrafted, the immediate plan would be to identify and confirm his free-agent commitment for placement onto several NBA summer-league team rosters to continue the process of showcasing his NBA worthiness. This would be in hope of signing a contract with the most attractive NBA team as a viable free-agent prospect for making a team in the upcoming fall Veteran Camp in October.
How easy or difficult was the decision to apply as an early entrant to the draft?
After having many discussions regarding Satnam’s amateur academics and athletics career path, it was concluded that due to the extended amount of time it would require for Satnam to accomplish meeting all mandatory NCAA eligibility requirements for becoming a US collegiate student-athlete. This was also done considering the high-probability of Satnam sustaining additional injuries over the next two years.
We decided that it would be far too risky to further delay forfeiting his amateur stature in lieu of pursuing a less risky and more likely professional basketball career opportunity for playing in the NBA or abroad. Therefore, after researching the NBA Draft early-entry process, the appropriate paperwork was filed with the NBA and his team workout offers started coming and he has been on the move since, making his rounds from team to team.