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Kristian Santiago (Africa)
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From Hollywood to Bollywood - Anish Sharda is putting India on the basketball map

[by Kris SANTIAGO] - In a time where people associate India with" Bollywood" ,"Tandoori Chicken" and the sport "Cricket", the rising of a young man in the basketball world could be changing things hopefully soon on the sub-continent and maybe attract more young Indians to participate in the sport. Growing up in Simi Valley, California, young Anish watched like millions of other kids the NBA and its star-player Michael Jordan.
"When I saw Michael Jordan crying after they beat the LA Lakers (I'm from LA) the passion in which he had for winning a championship is what made me fall in love with the game, "tells Sharda from his current home in Mainz, Germany. 


It was also his mother that decided to put him into a basketball camp even though Anish wasn't fascinated with the idea, "but she forced me to go as I was a very shy kid and I am thankful for that today, because I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her."

After successfully trying-out for the local high school-team, the "Pioneers" (he didn't make the team until he was 14 years-old), the point guard set higher goals." He lived in the gym this summer working to improve his overall game,'' his former high school-coach Christian Aurand knew to tell about Anish who missed several opportunities to visit his parents home-country.

"With basketball in my life, there have been a couple of occasions where everyone in my family would go to India but I would have to stay in the states because of a tournament or something like that," the polite Indian-American reminisces.

It would eventually pay off for him as he cracked the starting-five in his senior-year and did well for the Marmonte League top-team from Simi Valley (Which is in the northwest of L.A. and minutes away from Hollywood).

Anish added around 7 points and 4 assists per game in his senior-year for a team that included Branduinn Fullove (UC Santa Barbara; now in New Zealand) and Dustin Villepigue (Gonzaga and UNLV ; now in Bosnia).

After two strong years at Moorpark Junior College where he was named to the All-Western Conference ("It was ten minutes away from our house"), Anish took his game away from home to Bismarck, North Dakota where he attended a small catholic university named Mary with around 3.000 students. There once again, he proved to be a leader and scored 935 points in only two years (He is still one of the all-time scoring leaders at Mary) and was of course an all-conference player and an honorable All-American. "I had to grow up on my own for the first time and endure some
tough winters and when you want to go workout at six in the morning and
its 30 below zero outside it could only make you stronger", he remembers vividly.

With his steady improvement on and off the court ("I graduated from
college and earned my degree which is one of the best accomplishments
in my life"), he made it to the pro basketball circuit and ended up in the troubled ABA with a team in Indiana, the Anderson Champions.
He also played in Ireland for a team in a local tournament, but it wasn't until last year, that the talented guard made strides on a professional level when he joined ASC Mainz in Germany.

When he arrived and practiced, the word on the web was going around that Mainz brought in some pretty good player in. The season went on, and he carried his team with his 23 points per game (74 made 3-pointers) straight to the title.
I had the chance to attend the game that led to the championship last week and I was amazed.
Knowing that the league has some talented players and ambitious teams which are desperately trying to win by investing a lot of money, Mainz, and especially Anish made it all look really easy for them to seal the season.
"To be part of a championship and have a great coach with great teammates is all I could ever ask for, "Mentioned the 25 year-old proudly who should be earning the MVP-title as soon as the season is over as well.

But there is also another goal set for the Hindu from Cali: He is eager to represent his country internationally and he could be ending up soon on the national-team if the coaches of India's national-team recognize his talent.

That's why Anish planning to return to India within the near future:
"We had a very traditional Indian vibe in our household and they would tell me a lot about religion which is still a big part of my life. I was able to go (to India) when I was 12 years-old.
From what I remember the country was beautiful but being a skinny kid from Los Angeles it was a complete cultural shock, however I plan on going back to India again soon."

Asked about the fact that there are not many known Indian ball players out there, he responds: "The Indian culture places a lot of emphasis on school and getting a good job and I definitely went against that in a lot of ways, but I do have my degree in business and value that greatly.
But Indians never try and pursue athletics some maybe do not believe they are athletic enough which is horrible because I feel if your passionate about something and have good people around you and work at something you could do it."

Learning so much about the life of Anish, someone hopes that he can get the chance of playing for the country his parents emerged and emigrated from.
Growing up in the U.S. basketball-system and with a season in Europe under his belt, the next obvious step would be Asia.
His story of success may also be crucial in opening of the Indian market for basketball and for the NBA as well.

I am definitely going to follow his career and keep you updated at times, and I hope Anish is celebrating the recently won championship Indian style….with a big dance show like Indian Bollywood-actor Shakh Rukh Khan (Just to feed the stereotypes of you guys...).