The Indian U-14 boys and girls basketball team took part in the second Junior NBA Global Championship and impressed with their performances over the last few days.
The boys and girls played against Latin America, Africa, Europe and Middle East and Canada in the international bracket, both sides losing to Canada in the quarterfinals of the youth tournament at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney World.
The highlight was the way the boys played against the mighty Canad, the second best team in the world, almost pulling off a major upset against the country which houses the reigning NBA champions, Toronto Raptors. The game went into overtime where they lost 56-64 after being down 16-25 at halftime.
In their first game of the meet, they had defeated Latin America to start on a high.
The girls, however, failed to conjure up a win in four matches but fought hard against Africa and Girls Northeast in the positive finish game with 13-year old Muskan Singh impressing with her speed and ball control.
"I think one of the things I've seen in India is the investment that has been there not just on the boys side but the girls side as well," Cash said on the sidelines of the competition where 314 of the top 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls from around the world are showcasing their talent.
Besides Cash, who led the Detroit Shock to their first ever WNBA title in 2003 and also represented the United States in two Olympics, players like Dwyane Wade, Aaron Gordon, Danny Green, Breanna Stewart and Jennifer Azzi have been roped in as ambassadors for the week-long event.
"When I first went to India, I had got an idea of what was going to happen in the field of basketball and how they are going to take this game," said Cash, 39, who was in India in 2013.
"I was learning a lot about cricket and other sports which were happening. But to see how the NBA has got infused not only with the resources there, but also the coaching staff, it was great.
"I mean, you see the way that kids from India interact with their coaches that are here. They're starting to become like a family. And I think that's in all of our academies across the globe," she said.
Among NBA's seven academies across the world, India has one at Jaypee Greens Integrated Sports Complex in Noida. Currently, there are 23 players in their roster out of which three boys are taking part at the Junior NBA world event. There is no residential academy for the girls yet.
Asked how a sport like basketball can find its feet in a country obsessed with cricket, Cash said: "You get foundations in the NBA and people that want to invest and put courts where the kids can go and play and that's probably the easiest way that you can grow it organically from a grassroots standpoint.
"Because whether it's cricket or other sports, you have to have the money, the gear and necessary equipment. But, that's not the case in basketball.
"All you need to do is lace up the shoes that sometimes people don't even play with.
"All you need is two baskets. And if you have a nice imagination like I had as a young kid, you cut out that milk carton, you put it up, nail it up on a tree to play anywhere," she signed off.
In the positive finish game on Saturday evening, India boys lost to Boys Mid-Atlantic. Both the boys and girls, thus, played a total of five games each.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be reached at debayan.m@.in)
( With inputs from IANS )