• Madhya Pradesh born Harshwardhan Tomar has been invited to join the Stellazzurra Academy in Rome, Italy for the next three months to train with the team and gain exposure.
  • The 6ft 7 inch 14 year old Tomar was part of the Indian Youth (U16) Boys National Basketball Team at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship held in Indonesia last month, where he played the centre position.
  • Tomar received interest from various European clubs and chose Stellazzurra Academy (Italy) based on its stellar reputation of developing international talent.
  • If Tomar impresses his Academy coaches, he can land a full scholarship to study and play basketball in Italy on a long term basis.

Harshwardhan Tomar. Image credit: FIBA Asia

Bengaluru, 24th December 2015: Through the course of India’s campaign in Jakarta, Indonesia last month, quite a few players stood out for their performances. But one youngster in particular caught the attention of international scouts in attendance- the strapping 6ft 7 inch 14 year old Harshwardhan Tomar.

Tomar, who hails from Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind district has been given a three month tryout period with the Stellazzurra Academy in Rome, Italy to play basketball and study. If he does well, Tomar could land a full scholarship at the Academy.

Tomar flew out of India yesterday afternoon. He will be training with the Academy team, and playing in some unofficial matches to gain exposure and adjust to the system in Europe.  Depending on how he does, he would be invited for full-time Academy student.

As starting centre for India, Tomar had averaged 1.3 blocks, 5.2 rebounds and 5 points per game at the Asian Championship. But his talent goes well beyond numbers, with his raw size and tireless intensity on the defensive end eliciting queries from Europe’s leading clubs. Tomar ultimately decided to pick Stellazzurra because of its stellar reputation of developing international talent.

Explaining the recruitment, Mauro Matteo, Operations Manager for Asiatic and Pacific Region at the Stellazzurra Basketball Academy said, “We have our network of talent scouts in Asia and one of them noticed this kid…Harsh [has] got physical skills and a very good shape to work on, with the target to build him as an international level player.”

Raw Indian talent receiving international attention

Tomar’s imminent international move comes on the heels of numerous Indian talents who have quietly moved abroad for exposure at the high school, college and professional level. Besides the most well-known example of 7 footer Satnam Singh Bhamara (from Punjab) who is now the first Indian national to be signed by an NBA team, other equally inspiring examples include Amjyot Singh & Amritpal Singh (from Punjab) who are playing professionally in Japan. There are also other Indian basketballers who have privately pursued opportunities at the school and college level. Prominent among them is Kavita Akula (India women’s point guard who has joined a junior college in Kansas) and Ambati Prudhvishwar Reddy (junior Indian men’s team who joined a Barcelona based Academy before switching to a high school in the US).

Speaking about the positive development, BFI President Mr K Govindaraj said, “This is a big step for Indian basketball and its players. This recognition will only help spread the game across India as more families gain a better understand of the benefits of basketball. We wish Harsh the best luck and we look forward to his continued success.”

“Such interest elicited towards Indian players only underlines the rising stature of our basketball in the eyes of other nations. The BFI encourages foreign exposure, especially until a league in India becomes a reality. We are hopeful that our finest exports will utilise their foreign training and return to contribute at a much higher level in our national teams,” said Mr Chander Mukhi Sharma, Secretary-General (BFI).

Exciting Days Ahead

Will Tomar find it difficult to adjust to a new country? “Well, it will be a little bit different, but I am focused towards my ultimate target of playing in the NBA.” said the young lad, who is expected to be joined in Italy by his SAI Coach Rajeshver Rao Kalva.

“Through the achievements of our son, meri wife ka sapna poora ho gaya (my wife’s dream has come true),” said his elated father VP Singh Tomar. “My wife and I are both 5ft 11 inches tall and she was a state level basketball player. She would have gone on to play at the national level but conservative circumstances back in the day meant that her playing dreams were cut short.”

Tomar was first coached by the Madhya Pradesh (MP) State Department of Sports & Youth Welfare’s Roop Singh Parihar, before making the switch to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) advance training centre in Rajnandgaon, a sleepy town just beyond the MP border in the neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh. At Rajnandgaon, he was honed by veteran international coach Kalva.

“Naturally, Harsh’s selection is a matter of great pride for all of us. We have around 100 kids training here and his achievement will give all of them a new aim,” said Coach Kalva. “Earlier the ambition used to be limited to winning a medal at the national level and landing a job in the Railways. Now, children are beginning to realise that professional playing opportunities abroad is a distinct possibility.”

“We always believed Harsh would do something special. He is very hardworking and equally strong with both his right and left hands. Rebounding is his main strength. With his skills and size, I am confident he will do well in Europe,” said his first coach Parihar.

Little boy he might be, but big dreams ride on his shoulders.

About Stellazzurra Basketball Academy

Based out of Rome, Italy, the Stellazzurra Basketball Academy has been in existence since 1938. The Academy is known to focus on international talent and already has players from 19 different countries. Among other facilities, the Academy boasts of three basketball courts, a swimming pool, a physical work area, player analysis rooms, boarding facilities for upto 50 players, a canteen, an external playground, homework area. Their recruitment programme from the Asian region began a year ago and continues to grow with its network of talent scouts in the region. The Academy also recruits players from Europe and Northern Africa. It emphasizes education alongside basketball for its recruits and has a tie up with the Marymount International School in the city. Current NBA player Andrea Bargnani is a notable alumnus of the academy. For more details visit: http://www.stellazzurracademy.com/

Gopalakrishnan R
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