"Training in this camp, you can feel your entire basketball action improve. The game style becomes more like the USA style," said Nikhil of training in the UBA US Pro Performance Camp. Nikhil, along with 11 other UBA players from India and more from all over the world are training with UBA Director of Coaching Jody Basye, UBA League Assistant Coach Jon Kimberlin and Pro Advantage Systems' owner Keith Wilson at Ability 360 Sports and Fitness Center, Phoenix.
Watch a highlight of Nikhil absorbing a foul from Satnam Singh and bouncing right back up here.
Nikhil made his UBA debut with the Mumbai Challengers in Season 2, and he has grown from strength to strength since then. In his debut season, Nikhil averaged 15.1 points per game. He averaged 12 ppg in Season 3 and put up 10.8 ppg in Season 4 along with 6.5 rebounds. His play helped him earn a UBA Season 4 All-Star spot as he scored in double digits in every game in the regular season in which he played more than 15 minutes per game.
His game saw increments from training in the 2nd UBA US Pro Performance Camp in 2016, and he could not be more excited at the prospect of training here in USA once again. "USA is the best in basketball. I've always wanted to train there in basketball. Thanks to UBA, I got the chance to train in the camp last year. Being blessed to get to train there again right now is like 'makkhan' (butter) on top."
Nikhil and the Mumbai Challengers were part of some heartbreaking exits from the postseason in seasons 2 and 3. In Season 4, Mumbai Challengers were bolstered by the addition of former NBA G-League player Alex Scales, Canadian College Player of the Year Inderbir Gill, and Jimmy Scroggins from the USA. With seasoned veterans including Jagdeep Bains on the team, Nikhil held his own and played his role admirably well. He scored over 20 points on two occasions in Season 4 and grabbed more than 5 rebounds in five games in the regular season.
"Playing alongside such good players in UBA Season 4 was eye-opening. The way they train and play is on another level. It helped me to improve my game a lot to train and play with them," said Nikhil.
In UBA Season 3, Nikhil almost had a game winner in Mumbai's opening game vs Haryana Gold as his putback with 14 seconds left in the game gave Mumbai an 84-83 lead, but they eventually fell 85-84. He helped Mumbai notch their second win in Season 2, leading the team with 18 points (tied with Jagdeep's 18 points) as they defeated Delhi Capitals 79-77. But they were eliminated by Haryana Gold in the play-in game.
After such a heartbreak exit, they came out charging in Season 4 with a 140-121 win over Delhi Capitals and had a dream-run en route to lifting the championship trophy. Mumbai Challengers averaged 120.5 points per game in the regular season, and made it clear that nothing less than a championship would be acceptable for them. They had just one loss in the season and the playoffs as their high-octane offense and tenacious defense saw them through to the championship.
Being around the increased level of talent and training with the UBA coaches is something that has helped Nikhil grow his game as well. "People here work really hard, players and coaches both. I've always been a hard worker but seeing the level of effort here, I am making an effort to work even harder," said Nikhil. In the upcoming UBA Season 5, the league will see more players of Indian origin return to their roots and make their UBA debut along with more international talent from the USA. This will correspondingly help the players raise their game even higher.
For Nikhil, basketball has always been more than a game, something he always wanted to pursue professionally. "I started playing basketball in Class 9. I first played for the school team, then got admitted to Hindu College and played over there. It was a dream of mine to get to play in a professional league. Now, getting to play in the UBA and train in the USA is a dream come true for me."
The 3rd Annual UBA US Pro Performance Camp is seeing some of the top UBA players and others from around the world participating in an intense, two-week camp designed to maximize their skills as a basketball player, increase their overall strength as an athlete and learn to train in ways which they can maintain when returning home.
Stay tuned to read more about the top UBA players going to train abroad in the UBA US Pro Performance Camp.