Being a good basketball player is no longer good enough. Making a UBA roster has always been hard, but as the league continues to raise the level of play, making a roster is harder than ever before.. and it’s getting harder. The UBA has made one thing clear to all players from Day One; who a player knows or what a player has done in the past will make no difference. It’s what a player is currently doing and how he currently plays that will lead to him earning a place in the league. UBA Director of Coaching Jody Basye has made it clear that roster spots must be earned each season. “Every decision we make is based on merit,” says Basye. “Players must meet certain standards or they will not be considered.”
Basye insists any player interested in trying out send a video of themselves in action. It can be a video of game action or practice or both, but one thing it cannot be is just highlights. “I need to see what they do with the ball, how they shoot and how they play over a sustained period of time, not just selected moments.” Basye wants to see all elements of a player’s game, including athleticism and how he moves without the ball, not just made baskets.
Players who show the necessary skills on video earn themselves invitations to the pre-season training camp. It is there the new players work to prove they have what it takes to make it in the UBA. It is also where the returning players must prove they have worked hard enough to keep the spots on their teams. Basye and UBA League Assistant Jon Kimberlin have held the pre-season training camps since Season 2. “We tell them a lot of times, be careful what you wish for,” says Kimberlin, “because our expectations are very high.”
UBA rosters have had 12 players on each team since Season 2, making 96 players in the league. Basye and Kimberlin held a camp in Bengaluru prior to that season expecting 40-60 returning players. That would leave 40-50 open spots for the 75 players the coaches anticipated to show up at the tryouts. Instead, over 200 players turned out; all of them talented, but that left less than half of them able to make their way in to the league.
The competitive situation was similar prior to Season 3 before the dramatic change that took place in Season 4. Several members of the Indian National Team decided to tryout for the first time and international players were invited to training camp making roster spots tougher than ever to earn. The man behind the increasing competition is UBA Chairman Tommy Fisher. “Nothing comes in one day, you’ve got to work for it, you’ve got to earn it. Nothing comes free.” Mr. Fisher knows how competition is something which makes everyone better. “I think if everyone’s committed to that, you might be surprised what happens here two years, three years, four years from now with what we’re talking about.”
Mr. Fisher is committed to bringing even more international players in to the league which will only help to make the UBA bigger and better. “In the long term of the UBA I see the possibility of having three or four foreign players per team, an international league to try to draw the best people possible. I think somewhat with how our seasons are set up, we have that ability that we might be able to draw the best from the word for maybe six weeks or seven weeks for the ultimate competition.”
Moving forward it is going to become even more difficult for players to make a team. By adding international players, the increased competition is also going to help the best Indian players be even better. Mr. Fisher’s vision includes more than making the UBA the best it can be, it includes making India basketball better too. “When you have a league, a world league like we’re trying to do, but still it’s dominated by Indian players, the ultimate goal is to make India competitive on the world stage.”
The UBA is committed to making that dream a reality and it is very possible the players who commit themselves to making it in the UBA will be among those who make it happen.