Here's a look at how UBA is paving the road back home for some of the best basketball players of Indian origin
Living abroad gives one a greater appreciation for what is left behind at home. For many basketball players of Indian origin, the dream to put on a show on the big stage back home had remained just a dream. Since Persons of Indian Origin (PIO)/Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) are required to forego their foreign passport to play for India, it isn't a small sacrifice to ask for. That left them with no other platform to play their trade and be seen by millions across the country.
One can imagine Amrish Puri nostalgically singing "Ghar aaja pardesi tera des bulaaye" (Come home foreigner, your home beckons) while a basketball player (of Indian origin of course) shoots alone in an empty gym in a foreign land.
Not anymore. With UBA being telecast live into millions of homes, malls, sports bars, basketball clubs and the like, a number of players have experienced a grand homecoming in India in front of family and friends. Their stories are in many ways an example of what Indian athletes can achieve if they have access to better training facilities, coaching, competition and the like. While the scenario is rapidly changing for the better in many parts of India with more and more top-notch training facilities cropping up, the country as a whole is still on the track to development on that front rather than at the finish line.
Weight training, nutrition, practices directed practically, the list of what one needs to do consistently to grow into a top-class athlete goes on. While there are numerous talented players who've applied a sheer force of will and made a name for themselves in basketball, there is an even larger group which may have come up short of achieving their full potential. That is one of the reasons one can come across some extremely talented individuals of Indian origin who may be raring to share the joy of basketball in India.
Chennai lad skies home a star: Scintillating debut of Mahesh Padmanabhan for Hyderabad Sky
Mahesh dribbles upcourt in UBA Season 4
There is a sense of irreplaceable pride in going or growing up abroad, putting in the work and sharpening your skills and experiencing the gratification of putting on a show in your home country. Mahesh Padmanabhan is one such player of Indian origin who has come to play in India in UBA. Having played professionally in Sydney, Australia, Mahesh made his UBA debut in Season 2 for Hyderabad Sky and has played in every season since.
Providing a rock-solid presence in the backcourt and leadership to boot, he's put together a string of sharpshooting displays and gritty play which has established him as a presence to be reckoned with. He had one of the best performances in UBA Season 2 when Hyderabad Sky put together a three-game winning streak. The third game was a double overtime win against Pune in which Mahesh had 15 points after regulation, five in overtime and ten in double overtime to lead them to a win. And he hasn't looked back since his debut season.
Speaking of that performance in front of his parents, Mahesh recalled with pride "It was an amazing feeling, a very emotional one, to have my parents get to see me play for Hyderabad Sky in Hyderabad in Season 2. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for them as well. My parents have done a fair bit in supporting me. There is a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes before one can play at the highest levels. My parents had seen and heard of the hours I'd put into work on my game, but having them see me play in front of thousands and having that be telecast live, that was when I could see that they have grasped the magnitude of what I try to do. They'll retire soon, and I expect they will be able to see many more of my games (smiles)."
Hailing from Chennai, Mahesh got to play in his hometown when UBA Season 4 was held at Sathyabama University in Chennai and as usual, he did not disappoint, averaging 18.4 points and 4.4 assists per game. He was also 6th in 3 pointers made in Season 4. "I come from Chennai, and getting to play Season 4 in front of my relatives was a special experience. In Chennai, I stayed with my Aunt and cousin Prashant his wife Swathy and his sister Matangi. He was incredibly helpful, he drove me around and came to most of our games, that made me feel really proud as well, to be able to put on a show for my family again. And of course, it was always nice to come home to a home-cooked meal after the games in Chennai!" said Mahesh.
And he isn't the only Indian origin player who got to play in front of his hometown.
Boy from Pune returns a man: Season 3 sees Eban Hyams debut for Haryana Gold in hometown
Eban sails in for a layup in UBA Season 4
Do It All, a Triple-A (Athlete, Actor, Artist), are some of the monikers Eban Hyams of Haryana Gold goes by. Having played professionally in Australia and Israel, Eban brought a wealth of international experience with him in UBA. On the court, it is hard to take your eyes off him on either end as he is equally adept at making things happen on offense and defense. Eban had a very impressive, all-round statline in UBA Season 4 as he averaged 11 points, 7.8 rebounds (9th), 5.3 assists (9th), 2.8 steals (tied for fifth). This was Eban's second UBA Season as he made his debut in his hometown of Pune at Balewadi Stadium in Season 3.
Speaking of the opportunity to get to play in India, Eban said "This is great for basketball in India, great for the players, and great for the fans and you get to watch it at home too. We got a lot of talent over here and it's the first time guys are getting to play at this level. There are players who get to play for India a few times a year but it’s not enough, we need to have this on a regular basis. So those players can take this to the next level."
A champion from Punjab arrives with a bang: Inderbir Gill wins championship with Mumbai Challengers in Season 4
Inderbir executing a crossover in UBA Season 4
Another player of Indian origin who has put on a clinic in UBA, Inderbir Gill of Mumbai Challengers. Making his debut in Season 4, the former Canadian Colleges Athletic Association Player of the Year who has played professionally in Japan was a key component of Mumbai Challengers' championship run, averaging 16.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists (5th) per game. "It was a blessing to win the championship. I'm grateful to UBA and for all my teammates and fans. This season was an amazing grind!" said Inderbir after winning the title.
Yet another way UBA is Raising the Game and continuing to do so, giving these players a chance to shine at home.One can look forward to many more incredible performances and homecomings for Indian origin players in UBA, and with UBA being hosted in various states across India, one can count on other Indian origin players getting a chance to play in front of their home crowd as well. And with them bringing an international flavour to the game here, it will only serve to bolster the game of the players here as they compete against and play alongside these talented players.
Season 5 promises to be bigger and better, just like all the seasons before it. Stay tuned to read more about the incredibly inspiring stories of Indian origin players who finally got a chance to play professional basketball at the highest level in India.