Barely a month after power forward Palpreet Singh Brar was picked up for the NBA Developmental League in the players draft for the Long Island Nets, the premier basketball league in the world has decided to launch an elite academy in India.

With the state-of-the-art football academies in Europe viewed as a benchmark, 24 elite prospects between the age group of 13 to 17 by February 2017.

The prospects will be fully funded by the NBA, who are dipping their toes in India for the first time, having already set up four other elite programmes across the world.

With quarter-final finishes in the last two editions of the FIBA Asia Challenge, there is a new wave of optimism among basketball faithful. The 2016 tournament saw India humble the mighty Chinese outfit in the group stages. Despite having to go through the ordeal of waking up as early as 4.00 am, viewership is at an all-time high across the country.

The 24 candidates, all of whom will be boys to start with, will be closely working with coaches from coaches from the NBA, with an Indian coach standing alongside him.

Yannick Colaco, managing director of NBA India, views the cultural exchange the foreign coaches and the players as a key element for the overall growth of aspiring basketball players, “The challenge for us for the kids to adapt and break through cultural barriers. The long-term impact of the programme, though, can be estimated by how much basketball grows in the country in the years to come,” Colaco said.

(From left to right) Carlos Barroca, VP, NBA India, Yannick Colaco, MD, NBA India and Brooks Meek, VP, NBA

Before Palpreet Singh’s name appearing in the NBA D-League draft, Satnam Singh Bhamara made history by becoming the first Indian on the list last year. Colaco also opened doors for the national players to get a glimpse of the progress made by kids in the the academy, also going on to state that they would be working closely with Basketball federation of India and the state associations.

Brooks Meek, Vice President of the NBA, also emphasized on the exposure of the players to the methods that will be incorporated from North America.

Meek also added that the scholarship will have the students acclimatize to a wide range of training methods, which includes diet and conditioning, data analysis and training methods, “The critical component is for the Indian players to have this exposure in the country. The coaches will be working with the players all the time. By the time a player graduates, he or she can make a decision whether to play at home or step out abroad. The coaches will be working with them full time,” Meek said.

Over 3500 scouts, managed by Vice-President and senior director Carlos Barroca, have been send across the country to look for budding talent. For a country that has produced good power forwards over the years, Meek didn’t mince words when asked about where India lag behind their counterparts, pointing at the lack of competent guards, “India have to create good guards. Their Basketball IQ is still missing,” Meek added. The inaugural curriculum scheduled to get underway by April 2017.