x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

India's got talent, says national and ex-NBA coach Natt

The coach is surprised to see better than his expectations and is determined to unearth potential stars as role models in the country.

New India coach Kenny Natt is surprised at how much talent his charges have.
New India coach Kenny Natt is surprised at how much talent his charges have.

NEW DELHI // Less than two months after taking on the India coaching job, Kenny Natt's intuition tells him that there must be a budding Yao Ming or LeBron James just waiting to be unearthed somewhere in the country.

The former NBA coach believes that basketball, a minor sport in the world's second most populous country, needed its first Indian superstar to inspire youngsters to take to the court instead of heading for the nearest cricket academy.

"Can you imagine 1.2 billion? There has to be someone in some remote area. We will find them," the former Sacramento Kings interim coach said.

"Basketball cannot be developed overnight. It was not done even in the US ... we had Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar. You need the Yao Mings," he said, referring to China's most recognisable athlete and an NBA All-Star.

Natt has been an assistant coach at Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers, where he worked with James, but he was not ready to downplay the significance of the India job.

"Who says this is unglamorous? This is a very glamorous job. It's a great opportunity to reach out and share all the knowledge with young, energetic group of players," said Natt, who signed a two-year contract in May.

"I did not know what to expect prior to coming over. I had some clue that some of the guys are talented. To my surprise, they are a lot better than I thought.

"It's just a matter of instilling in them some of basic things ... defensive and offensive techniques. They have the desire to learn and listen."

The former guard does not buy into the idea that it is too late to teach new methods to players already at a national level.

"We mould older players in NBA," he said. "They are responding well. They know what I'm teaching them. I worked with LeBron James. It's the same drill, they are learning the same thing. I must say they have been very receptive, working hard trying to please me."

That same work ethic could also help his new charges defy a distinct lack of height when compared to other international sides, the 52 year old said.

"You don't need height as much as you need heart and determination. You need to play smart. I don't think too much about height."

Natt's first task will be to lead India at the Fiba Asia Basketball Championship in Wuhan, China in September.