Interview With Troy Justice – Director Of Operations, NBA India




Troy with NBA Trophy

Troy with NBA Trophy

Troy Justice is the director of operations of the National Basketball Association, India. He provides expertise to the NBA India regarding basketball development, operations, administration, personnel and trends. He is also the man responsible for giving young Indian player Geethu Anne Jose a chance at the WNBA playoffs. I got an opportunity to interact with the man behind the key to the growth of Basketball in the country and here are a few tidbits from our conversation.

How do find India?

I love India. I have been coming here since 1991 – that’s twenty years. I love India is all I got to say. It’s awesome!

You brought an USA Team here in the early 90’s to compete against the other national teams. What is it that you like in India that you keep coming back?

A few things! India is a place where there is so much action. The country is so alive and I love the people.

As the director of operations of the NBA, can you emphasize more on NBA’s plans in India?

We have 3 priorities in India. Firstly we want to build and grow the game of Basketball throughout the country. Secondly we want to do that by focusing on the grassroots programs and encouraging more people and more kids to play and we want to hear Basketballs bouncing all over the country. And then we want to train & develop coaches & players.

So you say that NBA’s focus is more on the grassroot levels. Are there any chances for a professional league coming up?

The Basketball Federation of India is currently working on a plan to develop a professional league. I think it will be a great thing for India to have a professional league.

You were responsible for Geethu Anne Jose getting an opportunity at the WNBA playoffs. How did that happen?

Since I have been here, I have been watching her play and assessing her talents. It became very evident that she is a legitimate prospect for the WNBA. We worked on making the WNBA teams aware of her abilities and they showed great interest. So we made the arrangements for her to have her workouts and tryouts over the past ten days and she did very well. She represented the country very well and she exceeded the expectations of the coaches in the US.

If Geethu gets selected for a WNBA team, how big do you think it will be for the growth of the game? Do you think she can inspire 10-12 year olds to take up the game?

ABSOLUTELY! I think that even the fact that she got an opportunity to go as a legitimate prospect shows that Basketball in India is growing and that there are talented players here. She definitely would inspire many youngsters to take up the game.

Troy Justice with Basketball

Troy Justice with Basketball

How co-operative is the Basketball Federation of India?

We work hand-in-hand with the BFI. We are partners with them and they are doing a lot of great work. They are making a lot of progress here for Basketball.

You have a Mahindra NBA Challenge coming up later this year. Can you speak more about that?

The Mahindra NBA Challenge is an ongoing grassroots Basketball league. It is in 5 cities and this year we have 6000 players in our league. It is the most comprehensive Basketball league that has ever been run in India. A part of the program is training coaches and the players. So it is not just about the league games. It is also that we provide clinics and training sessions for the coaches and players. The next 3 cities we are going to in August and September will be Ludhiana, Chennai and Bangalore.

Are there any other programs on your radar?

We currently have the Junior NBA program and the National Skills Challenge Championship on May 15th at the Indian Gymkhana, Matunga. We would like to have everyone come out to that. We are bringing an NBA player Brandon Jennings who is the point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks for the finals. We will be running clinics all over the city. We are actually running a clinic with the Magic Bus NGO here in Mumbai and we are going to Pune with the clinics.

For the Junior NBA Championship, we selected 10-12 kids from 5 different cities and we are flying these young boys and girls to Mumbai for the National Championships and they get to compete. It is an individual championship which includes shooting, dribbling and passing in a time slot. So 1 boy and 1 girl will be named National Champion on May 15th and the winner will win an ultimate NBA experience – flying to the USA, attend WNBA matches, meet players, tours to the NBA offices in New York City. So it is going to be a once in a lifetime experience.

We also have an ongoing program called the NBA Jam which we have done annually for the past few years where we take the excitement and entertainment of the NBA to large metros and malls and we have opportunities for the general public to participate in the game.

In a cricket crazed nation like India, is India winning the Cricket World Cup a good thing or a bad thing for Basketball?

I think it is great. It shows India is a sporting nation and that they love competition and sports. Basketball’s perfect for India. It is a fast and entertaining sport and Basketball will continue to grow in the country as will the fan base as it is a fun game to play and watch.

Finally, where do you see Basketball in India five years from now?

In a much different place than it is now! I see Basketball as one of the fastest growing sport in the country. Even though it has a long way to go, I see it growing at a rapid pace. The key is that we are focusing on grassroots programs and that is where the success will come. We are working with 10 year olds today and in 5 years they are going to be 15 with proper training and teaching. And the coaches we are working with today are going to be much better 5 years from now.

The Junior National players we are working with are 15 now and by the time they are 20, they are going to be in a much different place. It is exciting to see what the future holds and we are seeing the beginning with Geethu already.

One final question before I let you go. If you had one player to select as your all time favourite Basketball player, who would it be?

I am a huge Michael Jordan fan. I think he is the No.1 hero for Indian Basketball as well. The reason what I love about Michael Jordan is he made everyone around him better and great players make other players better. It’s a lot like Sachin. He is a true champion. He represents the sport and makes everyone else look better.

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