Great opportunity for players to get exposure - Sahaj Patel
The 26-year-old Sahaj, who has represented India at two major international tournaments, will compete for Jain University, Karnataka at the Khelo India University Games
India basketball star Sahaj Patel is geared up for the 2nd edition of Khelo India University Games 2021 which are set to begin on April 23rd in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Hailing from the Haridham Shokhda village in Baroda, Gujarat, the 26-year-old Sahaj has represented India at two major international tournaments. He made his India debut in December at the South Asian Games in Nepal, followed by another appearance at the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers in Bahrain in 2021.
Currently pursuing a Master's degree in Sports Psychology at the prestigious Jain University, Karnataka, Sahaj is set to feature for their Men's Basketball Team at the upcoming Khelo India University Games, and believes his experience at the international level will help him in the tournament.
"I am really excited to participate at the upcoming Games as it will be a great opportunity for me to play alongside some of the best players from across the country. With my experience of playing for India, I can help my team in understanding the importance of playing as a single unit and can also keep them motivated if things do not work out for us in a match," Sahaj said.
"I will be sharing all the experience that I have garnered over the years with the young players in the team and can also show them some strategies that I learned at the international level," he added.
Adding to the Jain University's Men's Basketball Team line-up is the vastly experienced Head Coach G.R.L. Prasad. The former India Men's Basketball Team Head Coach, who led India to the 2015 SABA Championship and also travelled with the team at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, has already helped his team in earning major plaudits.
Under his guidance, Jain University won Bronze Medal in the All-India University women's Basketball Championship in Murthal, Haryana in March. The Jain University Men's Basketball Team also won the NITK Basketball Championship 2022, under his tutelage, last month. And now, the team under Coach Prasad are touted to be the favourites at the Khelo India University Games 2021.
Speaking on training under a man of such stature, Sahaj said he is learning a lot from him. "It has been great training alongside Prasad Sir. He really understands the game and teach us how to play as a team. He has given us very good training sessions and it is a pleasure learning from him," he said.
For Coach Prasad, the upcoming Khelo India University Games 2021 is an opportunity for redemption. In the previous edition of the All-India Inter-University Basketball Championships, their team had missed out on a chance to play the final after losing in a closely-contested semifinal match. Speaking ahead of the start of the 2nd edition of the Khelo India University Games, Prasad made his intentions clear.
"Both our Men and Women teams are preparing to win the trophy at the Khelo India University Games this year. We have prepared good teams for the event. The mood of the team is quite upbeat. For the men's team, we want to amend our semifinal loss at the All-India Games and win the Championship," he said.
Both Prasad and Sahaj believe that Khelo India University Games is a great opportunity for the talented athletes at the university level to get exposure and showcase their talents on the big stage.
"Tournaments like this will help to tap the hidden talent of rural areas and all over India. There are good colleges and Universities in the country that promote sports and have a solid pool of young athletes. This is the place where we should be finding the talent and have competitions in the right sport," Prasad said.
Sahaj agreed with his coach and said that the players who represent India and then return to play at the University Games also get a chance to improve their skills.
"Khelo India University Games is a great platform for the young athletes to get exposure. Especially, for the basketball players who have played for India, they can compete at the university level in these games to improve their skills and learn different tricks of the trade from the other competitive teams," he said.