India’s Princepal Singh is unlikely to get “significant minutes” for Ignite when the 2021 G League season starts inside a bio-secure bubble in Florida next month, the team’s coach Brian Shaw told Firstpost on Wednesday night.
Ignite is a team in the NBA G League dedicated to developing top young basketball prospects with an eye on the 2021 NBA Draft.
The initial plan for Ignite was to get some games against G League opposition and international teams. However, with the league deciding to hold G League’s 2021 season inside a bubble — at the same location where it completed the 2019-20 NBA season after the coronavirus-enforced interruption — only 15 teams committed to playing. This opened an opportunity for the Ignite to become the 16th team in the mix and get at least 15 high-quality match-ups, starting with a clash against the Santa Cruz Warriors, led by Jeremy Lin. This will translate into more competitive playing time for the young players.
“It’s going to be tough for Princepal to get significant minutes (on the court for Ignite),” said Shaw, a five-time NBA champion who has been tasked with coaching Ignite.
Shaw pointed out that while Princepal was not at the same level athletically as the rest of his young teammates like Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga — both of whom are expected to headline the 2021 NBA Draft — he was encouraged by the leap of improvement the Indian basketball player had made in his time with the team so far.
“When you come here and you don’t really speak the language and you are as far away from home as he is, that can be a big obstacle. I can tell that he hasn’t played basketball for as long as the rest (of these prospects). He is not necessarily at the same level athletically in terms of having the experience of playing the game (as the rest of these prospects).
“But he’s probably grown the most of all our guys since he’s got here. He’s come a long way. He’ll be competing to get minutes on the floor, but I feel good about the fact that he’s gotten a lot better. His confidence has grown tremendously. His stamina and strength are getting better. His range — from what I saw before he got here, he was a pretty decent inside player and mid-range player. He has been able to extend his range to the three-point line because in today’s game big guys have to be able to space the floor and shoot threes as well. His understanding of what we call a player of a defensive scheme… being able to pick up on it right away that has grown.”
Princepal’s teammate Green also pointed out that the Indian was a bit shy, but they’re making him feel at home.
“Princepal is a little shy. He doesn’t speak so much English. But we try and make him feel comfortable. (On the court) he works hard. He can make shots, he can do it all. If he plays with a little more confidence he can be a really good player.”
All the players have been living in the same apartment complex, where due to COVID-19 protocols applicable in the county, their activities have been limited to taking part in training sessions and going back home. “The players have been almost living in a bubble,” said Shaw. “They are being tested every single day.”
Most of Ignite’s young players like Kuminga, Green, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix have been with the team since August, while Princepal joined them in October. He then flew to Bahrain in November to represent India in FIBA Asia Cup qualifying games. Consequently, he missed Ignite’s two scrimmage games against G League veterans in December.
“When Princepal came back from national duty there was a longer quarantine period needed due to international travel. That kind of set him back a little bit because it took him a while to be able to complete the coronavirus safety protocol and get back on the floor,” said Shaw.
When the G League season starts in less than a fortnight, the team’s centre Kai Sotto will be missing at least some games after choosing to play matches for his national team, Philippines. Does that open a window for Princepal to get additional minutes as a centre?
“Just because Kai left, it doesn’t necessarily improve Princepal’s minutes on the court. We have added veteran players like Amir Johnson and Donta Hall (who can play in that position). It’s going to be tough for Princepal to get significant minutes (on the court). But for him, the biggest benefit is to be able to play against these guys every day,” said Shaw.
Shaw mentioned that the 19-year-old from India had impressed him with his dedication.
“Princepal was probably the MVP at practice today,” Shaw said on Wednesday. “He came in early this morning, before everybody else got here and got an intense workout of about 45 minutes with our assistant coaches. It paid immediate dividends at our scrimmage today.”
Since Princepal’s teammates are some of the biggest draft prospects for the 2021 edition, a lot of emphasis has also been placed on all-round development of the youngsters as well. The players have had video calls and meetings with mental health professionals and even sessions with sleep study expert.
The initial plan was to get the players, who are based in California’s Walnut Creek, to play scrimmages with young stars of the Golden State Warriors, who are also based in Oakland, but the idea was shelved due to COVID-19.