"We got to play and train alongside a lot of really good players. Being around that, I got a lot of ideas on how to work to take my game to the next level," said Khushmeet Singh Atwal of training in the 3rd UBA US Pro Performance Camp. His twin brother echoed his views. “I've always wanted to see the pure basketball of USA. It has always been my dream to go there and play with the players from the USA. Playing and training alongside them was really helpful. I got to absorb a lot. I was really happy to be around this level of talent. I could feel the competitiveness and felt hungry to absorb and learn from them and work to play like they do," added Loveneet Singh Atwal.
Loveneet and Khushmeet along with 10 other UBA players from India and more from all over the world trained in the 3rd UBA US Pro Performance Camp with UBA Director of Coaching Jody Basye, UBA League Assistant Coach Jon Kimberlin and Pro Advantage Systems' owner Keith Wilson at Ability 360 Sports and Fitness Center, Phoenix. "Coaches Jody and Jon are really good. They are very dedicated towards basketball and helping us develop into better players," said Loveneet. "The US camp was on a different level. The basketball there is something else. The coaches are very relaxed and funny at times and also really intense and aggressive as a coach should be,” added Khushmeet.
Khushmeet (pictured above) is the younger of the two by a few minutes.
Over the course of two weeks, the players also trained with some of the best Indian basketball players from around the world, along with talented American players. Training and competing with talented players helps basketball players give a potent boost to their own quality of play, the twins were very aware of the opportunity and were sure to make the absolute most of it.
"Seeing so many players of Indian origin in the camp was very nice, many of them were also Punjabi. We felt an instant connection of brotherhood. They are very friendly, and it was really challenging to play with them at the same time," said Khushmeet. "The new Indian players from overseas, they are at the level of the American players. Looking at them, I thought that there is no difference between them and us. And if they can do it, so can I. If they can give such tough competition to the US players, then if I practice with them and like them, I can play like them," added Loveneet. Benefiting from the tough competition is something which the twins have experienced a lot of with each other.
Loveneet and Khushmeet were born just 10 minutes apart, or 30 minutes apart depending on whose version you hear. It is hard to tell these two speeding blurs apart on the court, especially when they wear the same colored jersey of their team Bengaluru Beast. More so because they happen to be twins. "We are not just twins, our games are also very similar," said Khushmeet. There is a long history of one-on-one battles on court between the siblings, with a majority of them won by Loveneet; or perhaps Khushmeet, again depending on whose version you hear. "Growing up we would always compete against each other," said Loveneet. "The games would be really competitive. If we played to 15 and I beat him, he would insist that we play to 17 or 21. We would even have scuffles at times (chuckles). Neither of us likes to lose, so we would keep competing hard and pushing each other." Recalling those competitive games brings a smile to Khushmeet. "When we compete together, it’s a lot of fun and it's very challenging and interesting also."
The same competitive instinct was on full display during the camp, among all the players. With some returning American players, and many new faces coming on board, there was a strong sense of 'Grow and adapt or perish' as the players constantly challenged each other at every step, and helped raise each other's game as a result. "The practices there were really intense and very helpful. In terms of ball handling, shooting, strength and conditioning, I felt that we learned a lot there. I have not seen that level of coaching or training anywhere in India," said Khushmeet.
While the brothers have played abroad previously, this was their first experience of USA. "This was the first time I got to go to USA. I've always dreamed of getting to go train in the USA as part of a professional league. After coming back from the camp, we got a lot of good vibes, best wishes and positivity from friends and well-wishers. It felt really good. And it motivated me to learn and improve more," said Khushmeet. "My brother Khushmeet, all the way on the flight he kept saying 'Going to USA, my dream come true. Going to USA, my dream come true.’ He seemed to be in a trance seeing his dream come true," recalled Loveneet with a laugh.
The players got their wish of experiencing USA basketball, and then some. While familiar faces of American basketball players like Tevin Kelly, Jimmy Scroggins, Dermaine Crockrell, Alex Scales, Brendon Pineda and Pierre Newton made their return, the game was raised even higher with the addition of several other newcomers from USA and Canada. “The US players are quite friendly and also incredibly competitive and aggressive on court. Their game is really aggressive and intense. I saw that if I am similarly aggressive, I can also make my game like that." said Khushmeet. "The players from USA are very skilled, physically strong and they play physical as well. It took me a day or two to get adjusted to their pace, then I felt a lot surer of myself," added Loveneet.
The players spent the first week of the camp training and working on strength and conditioning, while the second week was devoted to competitive games in the Million Rupees Challenge. They got a chance to show their mettle, and Khushmeet in particular had a play-of-the-game highlight with a clutch Steph Curry-esque step back three-pointer. "The step back three-pointer is something I consider as my signature shot. I've practiced that move many times. When I found out that AC Green would be coaching our team, I was really very excited at getting to have a legend like him as my coach." said Khushmeet. "He told me, 'Read and react. Read and react.' and I tried to do just that and made the shot."
Basketball runs in the blood of the twins, with their father having been a basketball player in his own time. "Our father was also a basketball player. We learned a lot from him. When we were in Ludhiana Basketball Academy, after the practices would finish at 10 AM, our father would train us till noon," recalled Loveneet. "The Guru Nanak Stadium of LBA is close to our home and our father was a good friend of Dr. Subramanian also. Basketball has been a huge part of our life for a long time," said Khushmeet.
The twins came to the LBA the same year as Satnam Singh, and being reunited with him was another high point of the camp for them. “Satnam and we started our basketball journey together. Back in LBA in 2004, we heard that a new kid has joined, and he's really tall. He got a lot taller since! We went to the same school, played in nationals and for India together. I've played so many games with him. When he went to USA to train in the IMG Academy, we lost touch for a bit. But nothing has changed in our friendship. Now he's such a big player, but he's still as down to earth as the kid who walked into the LBA back in 2004," said Khushmeet fondly. "Satnam is a childhood friend. We played in many competitions together. It was really great to play with him again,” added Loveneet.
The two-week camp helped the players take their game to another level, and also gave them the tools they needed to take their game to another level. “We got to learn so much, I'm totally focused on how I can keep doing the things I learned and do even better in Season 5," said Khushmeet. "Going there, I felt that my game improved a lot and I learned a lot. Physically, I feel a lot stronger,” added Loveneet.
Look out for the twins blazing a trail on the court in UBA Season 5. Stay tuned to read more about the top UBA players going to train abroad in the UBA US Pro Performance Camp.