Chennai has long been one of India’s most vibrant cities for basketball, with a strong grassroots structure of school and college competition, local icons who have starred for the national men’s and women’s squads, and state teams that have been consistently successful at the domestic stage for decades.
Now, the megacity will get a chance to showcase its basketball prowess with India’s biggest annual basketball carnival. The 2018 Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women, organised by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Tamil Nadu Basketball Association (TNBA), tipped off at the Jawarharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Wednesday and will conclude on January 24, 2017. The prestigious Championship will feature the best basketball talent from 31 men’s and 26 women’s teams from Indian States and Union territories. This is the 68th edition of the ‘Senior Nationals’.
Last year, the Senior Nationals were held in Puducherry and won in style by Uttarakhand (Men) over Tamil Nadu and Kerala (Women) against Telangana in their respective finals. This year’s championship, as always, will play a major role in the selection process for the Senior Indian Men’s and Women’s teams based on player performances.
- Group A: Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka, Odisha.
- Group B: Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana, Indian Railways, Gujarat.
- Group C: Chhattisgarh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Services, Sikkim.
- Group D: Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Puducherry, Telangana.
- Group E: Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Tripura.
- Group F: Assam, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal.
- Group A: Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka.
- Group B: Telangana, Indian Railways, Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan.
- Group C: Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh.
- Group D: West Bengal, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand.
- Group E: Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Puducherry.
- Group F: Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha.
Hosts Tamil Nadu have high hopes to defend their home court during the Nationals. Both the men’s and women’s teams have been in training camp for over a month and have relied on the leadership of Serbian coach Milan Opacic to get them in shape for the tournament. Uttarakhand’s men’s team, who feature many of the stars from ONGC and have been dominating the Nationals and Federation Cup in India for several years, will be TN’s biggest challenger, as will the athletic and skilled squad from Punjab. TN’s women finished fifth last year and will have hope to knock down last year’s champions, Kerala, who are stacked with international talent. Indian Railways and Chhattisgarh always compete at a high level in the Women’s division, and no one will be taking last year’s surprise finalist Telangana lightly this time around.
In a promotional event before the Nationals, the president of the TNBA VVR Raj Sathyen also confirmed that Indian basketball is set to get a national pro-league soon with Chennai as its base.