The 20-year-old was recently picked by Stockton Kings in the NBA G League.
Indian basketball has received newfound attention in the last couple of years. Among the players who have been making big waves in the Indian basketball circuit is Princepal Singh. Since breaking into the limelight as a teenager, he has come a long way in the last couple of years.
Nicknamed as the ‘Next Big Singh’, he was picked up by the Stockton Kings in the recent NBA G League draft. The power forward has also shone on several occasions while donning the national team colours. Still only 20, Princepal Singh is tipped for bigger things in the future.
Let’s take a look at some of the defining moments in Princepal Singh’s career so far:
5. From volleyball to basketball
A 14-year-old Princepal Singh had walked into Ludhiana’s Guru Nanak Stadium complex looking to change his life by pursuing his sport of choice. It wasn’t basketball for which he had travelled from his village in Gurdaspur. His sport of choice was initially volleyball.
However, already standing 6’6″ at the time, he caught the eye of the coaches from the famed Ludhiana Basketball Academy. It was tough for him during the initiation phase as he didn’t have any knowledge of the sport. However, he made rapid improvement in the following years. Despite picking up basketball by chance, his coaches prepared him for the longer race in life.
4. Exploits at domestic level
Princepal Singh trained at the NBA Academy India in New Delhi for 18 months. He was gradually called up to the NBA Global Academy, a training centre in Canberra in 2017. He trained at the Global Academy on a two-year contract. His game improved after training under the supervision of expert coaches.
This was evident when Princepal was back home in Ludhiana to participate in the 70th edition of the National Basketball Championship in 2019. Representing his home state Punjab, Princepal & Co. were up against Uttarakhand in the semi-final. An ensured display from Team Punjab meant they emerged victorious by a scoreline of 79-67. The final match pitted Punjab against arch-rivals Tamil Nadu. Princepal took his game to a whole new level in the final, dismantling Tamil Nadu 93-75 to capture the national crown.
Later that year, Princepal Singh was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the Indian Junior National Championship. He almost single-handedly led Punjab to the title, after scoring 40 points in the final against Rajasthan. In January 2020, Punjab won yet another honour in basketball courtesy of Princepal Singh. He captured a gold medal in the U-21 category of the Khelo India Youth Games.
3. National team callup at a young age
Aged just 16, Princepal Singh first appeared for the Indian national team. He led the nation to the gold medal at the South Asia Basketball Association (SABA) U-16 Championship held in Kathmandu, Nepal. He was duly adjudged as the MVP after scoring 20 points in a massive 131-50 victory over Bhutan in the final. Princepal was also impressive for India at the FIBA U-16 Asian Championship in Foshan, China and FIBA U-18 Asian Championship in Nonthaburi, Thailand.
In 2018, he made his senior national team debut at the Super Kung Sheung Cup International Championship in Hong Kong. Having secured a ticket to the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup with the national team, Princepal will play an instrumental role during the delayed continental competition in 2022.
2. First Indian to be a part of NBA Championship roster
In July 2020, Princepal Singh created history by becoming the first NBA Academy graduate to sign with the NBA G League and the first NBA Academy India graduate to sign a professional contract. He signed a deal with the Stockton Kings, an affiliate team of NBA outfit Sacramento Kings.
Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers travelled to Mumbai to play in a pre-season friendly which caused a lot of frenzy back home. Earlier in 2021, the Kings continued the tradition by giving Princepal Singh a once in a lifetime opportunity. The 20-year-old was drafted into the Kings’ squad for the Summer Games. He went on to become the first Indian to be part of an NBA title-winning team when his side Sacramento Kings clinched the 2021 NBA Summer League crown. The 6’9″ forward made history by being the first Indian to be part of a championship roster at any level of the NBA.
The Kings dominated the championship game against the Boston Celtics, clinching the title with a 100-67 win. In the final, Princepal played the last 4:08 minutes of the game. He finished with two points by scoring the Kings’ final bucket which took them to 100, while also pulling down one rebound.
1. Taking calculated steps towards NBA dream
Princepal Singh was eligible for the 2021-22 NBA Draft. However, he took the decision to skip the NBA Draft and continue in the NBA G League instead. The NBA G League gives top young prospects a chance to begin their professional careers while receiving mentorship and life-skills training. Princepal will have the opportunity to accelerate his on-court development alongside top high school recruits for the second season running.
He is only the third Indian after Satnam Singh and Amjyot Singh Gill to participate in the NBA G League. It is clear that Princepal has a roadmap for himself and he is not rushing into things. Still at the beginning of his career, Princepal Singh is already a trailblazer for basketball in India. If he can continue to flourish alongside the world’s finest talents, he will soon have the world at his feet in the near future.