NEW DELHI — Princepal Singh has been living in Canberra, Australia, training at the NBA Global Academy there since 2018.
The teenager who hails from Dera Baba Nanak village in Gurdaspur district, is among the 12 young prospects who will undergo training for the next two years and harbors dreams of making it to the NBA one day.
In 2014, Princepal was a 14-year-old who had appeared at Ludhiana's Guru Nanak Stadium complex to enroll at its volleyball academy. Basketball was a sport he was almost completely unaware of.
"I got to know of the sport only then. I was giving trials for volleyball and there were basketball trials happening on the other side of the arena," he says. Jaipal Singh, a coach from the Punjab Basketball Academy, spotted him and decided to take him in.
Princepal now stands 6 feet 10 inches tall and said that the skills he had from playing volleyball came in handy in his new sport. "I did not face any problems while making the switch. Many of the skills I had learnt as a volleyball player like jumping and running are all needed in basketball too," he said.
He said Jaipal taught him the basics of the game and gave him the confidence of being able to do well. "He was always there for me. Even in the afternoon sessions when I was alone, he would be there and he gave me confidence to do well," he said.
Princepal was soon drafted into the NBA Academy in New Delhi and from there, his career picked up rapidly. He excelled in a number of camps and in 2017 received a call-up to the junior national team. A year later, he received his first call up to the senior team which played at the Super Kung Sheung Cup International Championship.
He says that the routine he has in Australia was not too different to what he had to follow in New Delhi which made adjusting to a new country easier. "I did not have much of a gap to cover because of the training I used to do at the NBA Academy. It was quite similar to what I had for the first few months in Australia so because of that I did not face too many hardships," he said.
Princepal idolizes Anthony Davis and tries to emulate the Los Angeles Lakers forward in the way he plays. In the few years he has played the sport, Princepal himself has experienced a meteoric rise of sorts which has led to him being touted as the next face of Indian basketball.
"When I had gone to Ludhiana and I got to play in the Indian team, the people in my village and outside got to know about me. They did not know about this sport but now they do. There are a few boys and girls from there now who are training in Ludhiana," he said.
Princepal admits that all this does bring some extra pressure but it also motivates him to do better. "Yes, pressure is there but it helps me stay motivated to keep giving my best wherever I go," he said.