Bhamara forces basketball to front page of Indian newspapers

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NEW DELHI (AP) It is a rare day in India when basketball makes the front page of newspapers, yet Satnam Singh Bhamara achieved that feat when he became the first Indian to be drafted to the NBA this week.

The 7'2'' (2.15-meter) 19-year-old was selected by the Dallas Mavericks and local media celebrated.

''Satnam Takes Giant Leap'' read a headline in The Times of India Saturday while the Hindustan Times carried a picture with the headline ''Going Big.''

The Indian Express headline was ''Hoop dreams: from Ludhiana to Dallas via NBA'' as a correspondent reported from Bhamara's village of Ballo Ke near the northern city of Ludhiana.

Television also featured interviews with his coach and family members who celebrated the achievement.

''There was no real vibe, there were no hints that one team was more interested in me than the other,'' Bhamara said in a statement after his selection.

National coach S. Baskar said Bhamara's selection could be a game-changer for basketball in India.

''We are all happy for Satnam and it's a big day for the Indian basketball fraternity,'' Baskar was quoted as saying by The Times of India. ''It's always good to play for a foreign club. They are more professional and the leagues are conducted in a more organized way.''

Celebrities too joined in to wish Bhamara.

''I am very happy for him,'' tweeted retired cricket great Sachin Tendulkar."I would like to wish him all the best for the coming season and his career. I am sure the entire nation will support him.''

''First Indian player to be in the NBA...congratulations!! India goes to time for NBA to come to India..!!'' film superstar Amitabh Bachchan wrote on his twitter page.

Bhamara has been training in the US for five years after being chosen to attend an IMG basketball academy in Florida.