Satnam Singh becomes first Indian to be drafted by NBA team

The Dallas Mavericks selected the teenager, who's projected to start his professional career for the team's minor league affiliate.

Kathy Willens/AP
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center.

Satnam Singh, the 52nd pick in this year’s NBA draft, is the first Indian to break into the NBA. Mr. Singh hails from Ballo Ke, a small village in Punjab, India.

The Dallas Mavericks selected the 19-year-old, who will reportedly play for the team’s Development League affiliate, the Texas Legends.

"This is the best route for him to begin peaking at 22 or 23 years old," said Dan Barto, IMG Academy's head skills trainer. "He can now focus 24 hours a day and seven days a week on competing with players his size along with expert coaching daily." 

A scholarship program at the IMG Academy brought Singh to Florida in 2010, where he learned English.

Nicknamed "chhotu," Punjabi for "little one," Singh, is seven feet, two inches tall, and weighs 289 pounds. Singh’s father also towers at 7’2" and his grandmother is six feet, nine inches tall.

Singh said his father, a wheat farmer, urged him to concentrate on the game rather than spend time in the fields. Singh’s family had sent him to a local basketball academy as a 12-year-old.

In 2011, Singh was the youngest player to represent India at the Asian Basketball Championship in China.

“I’m over the moon,” Singh said to Indian news channel NDTV after the draft. “I hope this opens new avenues for many more Indian basketball players in the future.”

Last October, for the 2014-2015 season, the NBA announced a record 101 international players from 37 countries were on opening night rosters.

Other notable international picks from Thursday’s draft include Emmanuel Mudiay, a 19-year-old from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who will head to the Denver Nuggets, and 19-year-old Kristaps Porzingis from Latvia, who will play for the New York Knicks.

Canadian-born Sim Bhullar became the NBA’s first player of Indian descent this past year, but Singh is the first actually born on the subcontinent to make the league.

Former India basketball coach Scott Flemming tweeted out congratulations.

Bollywood celebrities, including Amitabh Bachchan, also took to Twitter to congratulate Singh.

Even Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is excited by his team's international selection.

“There’s a billion new Mavs fans out there right now,” Mr. Cuban said Thursday.

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