LONDON, Jan 17, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Troy Justice played a leading role in Satnam Singh becoming the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA, telling AFP it is such “life changing” events that that make his job so rewarding.
Justice, the NBA’s Associate Vice President, International Basketball Operations, came across Singh, who joined the Dallas Mavericks in 2015 — although he is currently in the Canadian League with St John’s Edge — when he was based in India for the organisation.
Justice, who features in the Netflix documentary ‘One in a Billion’ which charts Singh’s remarkable journey from a remote Punjab village to the Mavericks, says it is the human aspect that makes him enjoy his job.
“I am a heart guy,” he told AFP ahead of the NBA game in London on Thursday between the Washington Wizards and the New York Knicks.
“To see lives change through sport are the most powerful moments.
“They are what I live for. It is not about basketball. It is these kids and their journeys.
“To teach them how to grow as individuals is the biggest thing.”
Justice, a former player, says it is moving to be able to use basketball to give something to youngsters who have had nothing.
One such case that especially moved the American is a 16-year-old Haitian named Chedlet (only one name used).
“As you know Haiti is a rough place, but we ran a junior NBA programme there in four locations to select top players and bring them to an elite programme,” he said.
“Up in a mountainous region of northern Haiti where we had previously done nothing, we discovered a seven foot boy who had no coach, no court, nothing, but he had natural raw athletic talent.”
Justice says he will never forget Chedlet’s reaction, having been selected to come to New York for more training, when he took him to an NBA game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Golden State Warriors.
“He began to cry when we entered the arena,” said Justice.
“Then when we are sitting in the front row and he saw Steph Curry (NBA icon and three time champion with Golden State), he began to shake.
“I mean for him it was a special moment, being from where he was from. He has gone in two months from no one knowing who he is to sitting in the Barclays Center.
“He has been transformed by the game.”
– ‘He is a man now –
Justice admits Chedlet is far from the finished product with years of hard training and coaching to come if he is to make it.
“He is a good shot blocker, a great rebounder, but he has had no coaching,” said Justice.
“Right now he is a college prospect. He needs to go to college, and we can help him with that.”
Justice can see the Haitian youngster eventually becoming good enough to attend a Basketball Without Borders camp (BWB).
BWB has evolved from its original premise in 2001 to help 14-year-old youngsters affected by the Balkan Wars to holding four camps on four continents for 17-year-old boys and girl.
It culminates in the top players from each going to a three-day camp in the USA during the NBA All Star weekend, where they are put through their paces by NBA and WNBA players and looked over by coaches.
Justice says he is proud that opening-night NBA rosters boasted 27 players who had gone through the BWB programme, including two who will appear in London on Thursday — the Wizards’ Czech point guard Tomas Satoransky and Frenchman Frank Ntilikina of the Knicks.
Of Chedlet, Justice says his moment will come.
“Hopefully next year he will be good enough for the BWB Americas camp,” he said.
“We have a coach for him now because the federation wants to groom him for the national team.”
Chedlet may not yet be ready yet, but Justice is certain of one thing that should stand him in good stead.
“He is a man now.”