On Tuesday evening as Mohali youngster 17-year-old and 6 feet 11 inches tall Amaan Sandhu was named in the Indian team for 2021 FIBA Asia Qualifiers, Sandhu, who was travelling from Chicago to Dubai, had an emotional conversation with his mother and former basketball player Rajinder Kaur Sandhu over the phone. Three years ago, Amaan was selected for the NBA India Academy at Noida and it was for the first time that the youngster stayed away from his family. As the news of his selection in the Indian team came, Amaan was reminding his mother about the days spent away from her and the selection coming as a reward. The youngster was also part of Basketball Without Borders Camp during 2020 All Stars Game in Chicago, USA, last week and will join the Indian team from Dubai.
“When I was selected for NBA India Academy, it was the first time I stayed away from my parents and my mother would cry sometimes while they missed me. It feels special to be named in the Indian team for FIBA Asia Qualifier. It has brought much joy to my parents and sister. To be in the team which has presence of players like captain Vishesh Briguvanshi and Jagdeep Singh Bains, with whom my father has played, is a special feeling for me.
Representing India is every player’s dream and competing in South Asian Games last year made me realise this dream. The experience of attending BWB NBA in USA and also getting a chance to watch NBA All Stars Game, where players like LeBron James competed, will motivate me for FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers. I also met Pascal Siakam of Toronto Raptors and hopefully my parents too can watch me play in NBA one day like my favourite player Demarcus Cousins,” said Amaan while talking to Chandigarh Newsline from Dubai.
While his father played for India and Punjab from 1995 to 2002 before joining the Punjab Police, Amaan’s mother Rajinder Kaur Sandhu worked at Police DAV School, Jalandhar, for more than one decade. It was in 2013 that the Sandhu family decided to shift to Chandigarh to support Amaan and his elder sister Aakarshan Sandhu’s basketball dreams. But while Aakarshan would show keen interest in basketball, a young Amaan was not keen about basketball.
The then 6’3” tall youngster would grow to 6’6” and weigh 130 kgs at one time before he was selected by NBA India Academy, a move which also see him training seriously. In 2018, Sandhu represented India at NBA Global Camp before playing in third NBA Academy Games in Atlanta, the USA, and being picked up for basketball Without Borders Asia Camp in Japan. Last year, Sandhu, who is now 6’11” tall, also helped Punjab win the junior national title at Patna.
“Both me and my husband wanted our children to play basketball. Our elder daughter Aakarshan showed keen interest in the game while Amaan would play sport like hockey for one month and then football for another and was never serious in basketball in his initial days. I decided to shift to Mohali in 2013 as my husband was posted at PAP, Jalandhar, and we got Amaan enrolled at Sector 42 Academy, Chandigarh. He was 6’3” tall at that time and we would always pray that he gains more height. It was only during the NBA Academy trials when he met Carlos Barroca that his attitude changed and he would lose more than 30 kgs from 130 kgs to 104 kgs during his training at the academy. Staying at NBA academy would also mean that he stayed away from me for such a long time and sometimes, I would cry seeing his old pictures. As he was selected in Indian team for FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers today, I was reminded of all those memories,” said Rajinder, who is 6’1” tall.
Amaan’s father Gursharanjeet Singh Sandhu, who is currently posted as DSP, Mohali Police Commando unit, had also shared some tips with Amaan about playing at the senior level. “Our daughter Aakarshan played for junior Indian teams before she opted for higher studies. Amaan’s interest in basketball grew after selection in NBA India Academy. He is the youngest member in the Indian team for FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and I am sure that he will use this opportunity to help India qualify for the next stage and learn from senior players. Whenever he is at home, nowadays he keeps discussing basketball with us and are also reliving our playing days through him,” said Gursharanjeet.
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