At the age of 12,the boy from Carter Road enjoyed playing cricket with his friends in a park near the Bandra YMCA. A keen player of the game,he would often find himself indulging in a game after school back in 2009. Four years on,Samson Stephen Sandhu now finds himself qualified to train in the national basketball camp in Aurangabad,preparing for the 23rd FIBA Asia U-18 Championship next year.
Sandhus rise to the national camp involved a quick escalation from the club level. While playing for the Bandra YMCA,he qualified to play for the Mumbai North District team in 2010,and has represented the team in district championships ever since. This year he earned a spot in the Maharashtra team and played in the state’s 10th place finish at the Odisha based nationals in September. Though it was his first and only national tournament so far,it proved to be a giant step for the 16-year old. Scott Fleming (U-18 boys national team’s foreign coach) was watching us play and he called me to try out for the Indian team, he says,smiling enthusiastically.
Interestingly,the five-foot-nine-inch tall youngsters journey into basketball started while playing cricket in the Mumbai suburb. The then 12-year old was approached by the nearby Bandra YMCAs basketball coach. We thought we were in trouble at first, he says. Ganesh Sir had been watching us for a long time. Then he finally came up to us and told us that we have to play basketball for at least one hour everyday. And so I started playing between four and five in the evening, he adds. While admitting to have started playing the game as time-pass, he made himself familiar to the rules and slowly started gaining an interest in the sport. I really enjoyed playing basketball and I stopped playing cricket to get more time on the court.
As point-guard,Sandhu maintains a healthy possession of the ball and dictates the pace of the game. Representing his college,Smt MMK College of Commerce and Economics,at the recently concluded 3×3 NBA JAM ,Sandhu led his MMK Idiots team to a runners-up finish in the Mumbai leg of the tournament. My teachers have been very supportive and have not scolded me for missing classes during tournaments, he says. They might have hesitated if I had to go for another district level camp,but they’re cheering me on since it’s for the national team, he adds lightly.
As a student,the Kyrie Irving and Cleveland Cavaliers fan takes a keen interest in accounts. Its very interesting for me and I want to get into banking as a career. But I also want to continue playing basketball. So I hope to get a job at the SBI so that I can work and play. Although the dream is still alive for him to play for the Indian team,he is vary of the problems that pull down the game. The planning isnt very well thought off. Practice starts just a few months before the tournament and so players have a tough time to cope up in major tournaments.
The youngster claims that 2013 has been a very lucky year for him. I got into the Maharashtra team for the first time,and I made it to the national team trials after my first nationals, he says. I just hope it doesn’t stop here, he concludes.