Princepal Singh, the most valuable player (MVP) at the recently-concluded 70th Junior National Basketball Championship, has said that he did not see the point in staying on for the felicitation ceremony after his job was done. Princepal trains at NBA’s elite Global Academy in Canberra, Australia.
After registering 40 points in the final at Patna — almost single-handedly taking the title away from Rajasthan — Punjab’s star forward did not hang around for the ceremony that followed. When his team was collecting its honours from Punjab Basketball Federation, the 6-feet-10-inch tall youngster was in Canberra to continue the skill training he has stuck to for a year.
“There was no point going to (the felicitation ceremony in) Ludhiana. My job of helping Punjab win the title was done. I had informed the state association about my plan of returning to training after the junior nationals. The coaches work on strength the most. If I miss even a week’s session, I risk going back a year,” Princepal told TOI via telephone from Canberra.
Princepal further explained the reason he left before even meeting his parents, who reside at Dera Baba Nanak village in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. Given his dream of playing in the NBA in two years' time, the 18-year-old cannot afford to lose even a week’s worth of training.
“I can’t have any distractions. I will return to India in January next year to play in the senior nationals. Then, I will also go to my village. My parents understand. This is their dream also,” Princepal said.
“I was good at that game and keen to join a volleyball academy but (basketball coach) Jaipal Singh took me under his wings and I have been playing basketball from that day. I was desperate to make the most of the opportunity. In the first 15 days, Jaipal Sir taught me just the basics and the rules of the game. For a month, I didn’t get a single game."
After he entered the Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA) as a total novice, he worked his way up quickly. Within a year, he became good enough to beat 450 other aspirants to win a $75,000 basketball scholarship for three years at Spire Institute in Ohio, US, along with a spot on its team — only for a visa rejection to end that opportunity.
“It was a big learning curve. I wasn’t nervous or anything but unfamiliar with the level of foreign competition. I was in awe of them for the way they controlled their diet and took care of their bodies. That tournament was an eye-opener, which inspired me to start maintaining my body and controlling my diet,” he recalled.
Currently, Princepal has a two-year contract with the NBA Global Academy at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) centre of excellence, where he works under coaches associated with professional clubs and leagues alongside 13 elite athletes from across the world are working under.