In the beginning, Vaishakh Nambiar was just one of the many young South Indians living in Mumbai. “I was born in Thalaserry, Kerala and then my family shifted to Navi Mumbai a couple of years later.”
Then basketball happened.
“I used to play volleyball until ninth standard and my coach told me to try out basketball instead because of my height.” Within a year, he helped his Father Agnel School win a state level tournament, and he made his debut in the Maharashtra u-16 team. “I’m the first person in my family who is into sports. My father is a project manager working in Dubai and my mother is a housewife.”
Describing himself as an “average student”, Nambiar has managed to pack in a couple of hours of training each day consistently for the last four years. “The only time I missed tournaments was when I was giving my board exams in the 12th standard. Fr Agnel School has a fairly strict academic policy, where all students need to maintain 75-85% attendance.”
Even with the school restrictions, the ‘Agnelite’ has represented his state as many as six times at the national level. “For me the highlight was the win over Punjab in the 2014 Junior National Championships in Kochi.” Nambiar is 6ft 2 inches but plays the centre position in a traditionally undersized Maharashtra team. “I was confident going into the Punjab match because I had played against many of those guys earlier in Delhi during the IMG Reliance School National finals.”
True to his kind, he idolises NBA player Tim Duncan, known as the ‘Big Fundamental’. “The secret to playing the centre position, if you are not too tall, is to be fundamentally sound when it comes to boxing out. We knew that against our athletic 6ft 8 inch opponents from Punjab, we couldn’t beat them in the air, so we had to keep them away from the basket.”
Like many other 18-year-old Indian ballers, Nambiar doesn’t have any local role model. “I guess that is because we lack proper training facilities due to which our senior players are not able to reach their full potential, compared to others in the west.”
The Mumbaikar has just joined the RA Podar College where he is studying commerce. “I really haven’t decided yet what I want to do in life. But I’m still playing basketball, that’s for sure.”