Amaan Sandhu chases NBA dreams heading to US on basketball scholarship

October 14, 2020



Mohali boy Amaan Sandhu’s mother, Rajinder Kaur Sandhu, is a former basketball player. Yet, when her youngest left home to join the NBA Academy India at Greater Noida as one of the first 21 student-athletes in 2017, she found it hard to make peace with his going away. A year later, Amaan’s elder sister Aakarshan—a former age-group national basketball player—shifted to Canada to pursue higher studies, Rajinder was even more in despair.

“That was a phase in my mother’s life where she slipped into depression,” Amaan said. “My mother is very attached, possessive about me. At first when I was in the academy, she would call me 3-4 times a day. She didn’t want ki unka beta unse door ho jaaye (her son get separated from her).”

Amaan, 18, will soon fly to the US. He is on a high-school basketball scholarship with First Love Christian Academy High, Washington. Amaan is going further away from home but his mother has accepted that it is best for her son’s basketball career. “After three years, she is now fine with my not being with her. She knows this is for my best. If I want to play basketball, this is my life. I need to take this opportunity.”

Amaan made his India debut at the South Asian Games last year and played in the 2021 FIBA Asia Qualifiers earlier this year. He is the third boy from the NBA academy to get a high-school scholarship in the US. Despite coming from a basketball family—his father too played the game—that would wake up early morning to watch NBA matches, Amaan’s first love was swimming. Going with his parents to a basketball nationals led to a change of heart.

“During a match, I thought ‘ok, from today I’ll try basketball’. At that point I thought basketball is what I love and want to do. I started getting serious about basketball only after joining the academy,” said Amaan, who was selected through the ACG NBA Jump Program.

There was a weighty problem to sort out first up. While Amaan’s height was promising—he is over six foot–he weighed around 130kg. The first task on joining the academy was to get trimmer to play basketball.

“It was very challenging to get into shape for basketball. The strength and conditioning coach at the academy worked hard on me. My diet was completely changed. Eating parathas and butter chicken is in the blood of Punjabis. In Greater Noida I couldn’t even have roti-dal; I would take protein shake, salad, grilled chicken, etc. After one-and-a-half years, I was down to 109kg,” Amaan said.

Once the issue of weight was addressed, the now 6 ft 11 in forward’s career began taking shape. In 2018, Amaan and Princepal Singh were the India players to be chosen for the NBA Global Camp in Italy. Last year, he participated in the third NBA Academy Games in Atlanta and was picked as one of four Indians for the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp in Tokyo. He was also part of the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in Chicago earlier this year.

“In the beginning, I used to get scared when I went out of India to play. But that is when I got to know what basketball actually is. Players from outside India, even the Europeans, are strong in their fundamentals. I would get scared just seeing them. Now with experience, I’m up for any challenge.”

The box on school scholarship in the US ticked Amaan wants to take it step by step. “It’s a new chapter in my life. One door has opened and more may open once I’m there. It’s a big opportunity. I have to take that and then think about the next step, whether it is playing for a college, getting scholarship or whatever. I will give it my all to get into NBA.”

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