The private leagues have played a very significant role in changing the landscape of sport in India. The Elite Pro 3×3 Basketball League is the latest addition to this list. Sunny Bhandarkar, CEO of The Elite Pro Basketball League and Elite Women’s Pro Basketball League talks about how this league promises to foster a Basketball culture by building communities and nurturing young talents.
Why did you intend to start a 3×3 Basketball League?
Sunny Bhandarkar: We started with 5×5 Basketball league both for men and women. But our main focus is to work across the entire ecosystem. So we thought of starting a 3×3 league as well. This format is very fast, quick, agile and most importantly, for the new generation. Just what T20 brought to cricket, 3×3 can bring the same X-factor to Basketball. So we didn’t want to leave this opportunity and, in turn, also wanted to give opportunities to the next generation of Basketball players.
How did you choose the players for this format?
Sunny Bhandarkar: As I have said, we already have an existing 5×5 league. So the players who are already with us in that format and are consistently performing for the last three years were tried out for the 3×3 format. There we four try-outs in four zones from where we chose the players.
Is there any predetermined salary for the players?
Sunny Bhandarkar: Yes, our players are already getting a salary for 5×5. Now for 3×3 Basketball we will be giving them added incentives to play and participate. Besides, the first three teams will get a prize money and the amount is a surprise for them. There is also a separate prize money for the Most Valuable Player.
How far this format is popular in India?
Sunny Bhandarkar: The world governing body is doing some amazing work for this format to grow. However, for us, it’s a long journey ahead. But the game is definitely picking up in India. There is a very good cult following for 3×3 here. The new players coming up are eager to play in both the formats.
We find Basketball being played in almost all schools and colleges. Still why didn’t it grow substantially in India?
Sunny Bhandarkar: It is because we play sports like Basketball or Handball just as a PT period activity or a subject of PE. There is no motivation or inspiration to play it professionally. Some players just pursue it to get a good job in Railways or Defence. I, myself, was a Handball player who wanted a job in Navy through sports. But once, when I went to Germany, I found how big these sports are in Europe or America. So, what we need is to create role models in Basketball; we need to shape the talents into superstars. And that can be done by bringing state-of-the-art facilities, high-end infrastructure, sponsorships, extensive marketing policies etc. If we, and other stakeholders, work together with this mission, then definitely the landscape will change.
What is Elite Pro’s plan of action?
Sunny Bhandarkar: Actually, it isn’t a plan anymore; we are quite into action. Earlier, players used to play outdoors on cemented courts with broken backboard or torn nets. We are changing these with indoor courts, wooden flooring, floodlights, fresh nets, cool jerseys, cool nets, live streaming, giving the players platform, taking their interviews and going into a vibrant digital media exposure. We have also started scouting talents from colleges and universities. So all these are aimed to attract the Zen G players who will be following this sport for the next ten years.