NBA schools can help basketball in India: Jennifer Azzi

New Delhi, Feb 6: Former Olympic champion Jennifer Azzi is confident that the NBA schools in India will change the scenario for bastketball in the not too distant future.

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) legend, who is currently the head coach of the women’s team at the University of San Francisco, asserted that with the NBA carrying out several programmes in India over the last few years, Indian players will soon feature in the top leagues around the world.

“I don’t think the day is too far away when India will be a force to reckon with, at least in Asia. The NBA has started basketball schools in India in partnership with different organisations. I think it is just the matter of time and it is just the matter of exposure,” Azzi told IANS in an interview.

Azzi said if proper infrastructure and grass roots training were put in place, the sport had potential to grow in India.

The 50-year-old was in the country to conduct an NBA Academy camp in Greater Noida and was impressed with the talent on display.

“Definitely, basketball can be the sport for the Indian women. Access is pretty easy, you can go up by yourself with the ball. It’s a great sport and an international sport. Everyone around the world knows basketball,” she said.

“India has such tremendous potential for young boys and girls to play the sport at such high level. I think what is lacking is the infrastructure for youngsters,” said Azzi.

“So that’s one advantage that we have in the US is that it is very organised at a young age and there are opportunities that are pretty clear and messages are pretty clear because we see it on television, we see it on all around us in school, and basketball is a very popular sport there,” she explained.

Azzi was happy the NBA Academy is nurturing young talent with their development programmes.

“Here I have seen the emphasis on education is huge. Parents here are very much involved in children’s education. I think that’s very synergistic with our messaging with NBA and NBA academy that we want to see young people use the sport as a way to get education and there are great places around the world,” she said.