Satnam Signh is this year’s most interesting NBA prospect.
A ginormous human being hailing from a minuscule village in India, he’s unlike anything the Association has ever seen before. He didn’t play college ball. He didn’t play professionally overseas. He didn’t play in the D-League. He is, as Boston Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge put it, “the international man of mystery.”
And if all goes as expected (he’s going to be in attendance at the draft), he’s soon going to be the NBA’s man of mystery. Here’s everything you need to know about him.
1. He Is a Large Man
But his skill set isn’t exactly typical for a player of his stature. His size obviously allows him to protect the rim–always a desirable asset in the NBA–but he can run the court and has a jump shot that extends to the three-point line:
“He’s nice. He’s good,” said former Wisconsin guard Traveon Jackson, who worked out for the Washington Wizards along with Singh. “He set some big ball screens and he can really hit the pull-up, pick-and-pop shots. So he’s definitely going to be on a team.”
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2. He Would Be the 1st NBA Player Born in India
Last season, 7’5″ Sim Bhullar made history when he logged minutes for the Sacramento Kings, becoming the first player of Indian descent to play in the NBA.
But because Bhullar was actually born in Canada, Singh has an opportunity to take it a step further. Born in a small Indian village that had no basketball courts, Singh can still become the first-ever Indian-born player in the Association. A country with a population exceeding 1.2 billion, India is considered one of the great untapped basketball markets in the world, and Singh could be the catalyst to change that.
“Satnam could one day do the same thing for India that Yao Ming did in China — put the spotlight on basketball through an entire country,” said Troy Justice, the NBA Director of Basketball Operations in India. “It really could be something.”
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3. He Has Spent the Last 5 Years at IMG Academy in Florida
Despite not starting basketball until he was nine and not speaking a word of English, Singh was given a scholarship to the prestigious IMG Academy and made his way to the United States at the age of 15. The school, located in Bradenton, Florida, is more known for producing football and baseball stars, but its basketball alumni include Michael Beasley, Earl Clark and Erick Dampier.
Singh spent five years there, refining his game and working on his English. He averaged 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per contest to help the post-graduate team to a 23-4 record in 2014-15.
4. He Still Needs Development
The package is undeniably intriguing: Size, strength, and shooting touch. But don’t expect Singh to make major contributions right away.
“In the case of Satnam, the general feedback on him has been consistent on both fronts when looking at his strong and weak points,” said former Sacramento Kings head coach Kenny Natt. “To no surprise to us, nearly all have indicated that his speed, lateral quickness, and reaction time is lacking.”
In order to gain much-needed experience at the professional level, a trip to the D-League is likely.
5. He’s the First Player in a Decade With no College or Professional Experience
Since the NBA changed its draft eligibility rules in 2005, players have either gone to high school for a year, played in the NBA D-League or played professionally overseas before entering the draft.
Singh hasn’t done any of that, as his highest level of experience has come with India’s national team. Going to college was an option, but because he didn’t qualify for a scholarship, he instead chose the NBA.