Sydney Kings star's arrival delayed by Punjab riots
SURROUNDED by stunning Sydney Harbour on a sun-drenched Wednesday afternoon, the contrast couldn't have been greater for Kings recruit Amritpal Singh.
Just days before officially signing with Sydney for the 2017/2018 NBL season, Singh's flight from the north of India was delayed due to riots at the airport.
It's a real-life reality the Indian basketball captain has experienced on countless occasions in his village of 2000 people in the state of Punjab in Northern India.
Last Friday, at least 30 people were killed and more than 200 injured in violence in the two Indian states after a court convicted a spiritual guru of rape, incensing his loyal followers to riot.
Thankfully, Singh got through safely so he could fly to Australia to continue his emerging career with the Kings.
According to Sydney coach Andrew Gaze, the conflicts and challenges Singh has faced only add to his remarkable rise in the basketball ranks.
"It makes some of our issues seem absolutely irrelevant that you shouldn't even consider some of the challenges others have to go through," Gaze said about Singh, a promising centre.
"Because of the riots he couldn't get to the airport. The roads were blocks because of the unrest.
"I've been in this game for 30 years and there have been a host of imports that have come up with some excuses why they couldn't come.
"But then we saw the newspaper articles and it is hard when you are looking out at the bridge and harbour, it puts things into perspective."
Incredibly, Singh first picked up a basketball at the age of 19.
Now the 26-year-old 212cm (7'0") giant creates history by becoming the first Indian-born player to be signed by an Australian NBL team.
It's been an incredible journey for Singh, but Gaze stresses his signing isn't a PR move by the Kings.
"There is nothing tokenistic about it," he said.
"He is a good athlete and he runs the floor well.
"He is not a bad rim protector and he blocks some shots and his scoring ability is getting better.
"This is not about throwing someone in that we believe can't play.
"There is a genuine belief that he can help us and the main reason he is here is because he can play.
"We feel he has a lot of growth in him and the other stuff is a byproduct of potential benefit, but the primary reason he is a King is because he can help us win a championship."
Singh first came to the attention of the Kings in April at the NBL Draft Combine held in Melbourne, before impressing during the Sydney Kings Rookie Camp in June.
Those performances earned him a spot on the Sydney Kings Invitational Team that competed in the recent Atlas Challenge tournament in China, where he was a key component of the winning squad.
In particular, Amritpal was a dominant force in the championship game, tallying an impressive 17 points and 16 rebounds as the purple and gold overpowered Lithuania.
His size, mobility and work ethic will be a welcome addition to a revamped Sydney frontcourt that features rookies Isaac Humphries and Dane Pineau, import Perry Ellis and veteran Tom Garlepp.
Born: January 5, 1991
Birthplace: Gunna Pind, Punjab, India
Height: 212cm (7'0")
Weight: 110kg (243lb)
Captain, Indian National Team
High school: M P Senior Secondary School, Rayya
College: S. C. D Government College, Ludhiana
Professional: Tokyo Excellence, Japan (2015-2016)
Pune Peshwas, India (2017)