It's OK if you don't know who Satnam Singh is. Even NBA teams aren't quite sure, and yet the Dallas Mavericks drafted him with the No. 52 pick anyway.
Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge called him an "international man of mystery." There's not really much tape on him. He's spent the last five years playing at the IMG Academy in Florida, but he's the first player since the NBA put age restrictions in place in 2005 to enter the league without first playing in college, a professional foreign league or the D-League.
But the potential Singh holds was more than enough for Dallas to take a shot on him in the draft. Singh is not quite ready for the NBA yet and might not be for a few years, but he's a rare combination of size and talent at 19 years old.
He also has one of the most interesting stories of any draft prospect. Here's everything you need to know about Singh:
Singh is 7'2 and 290 pounds. He was 7 feet tall when he was 14. From an 2010 profile by Tim Povtak:
For now, he wears a size-22 basketball shoe. His hands swallow the ball. His father, Balbir Singh Bhamara, is 7'2. His grandmother on his father's side is 6'9 ...
My father wanted to play basketball, but my grandfather insisted he could not. They were a family of farmers. He had fields to tend,'' Satnam said. "He never got the chance that I am getting now. He is very proud of me, and I want to play this game as well as I can play. That is my task now.
HIS GRANDMA IS 6'9!!!!!!!
Look at him lifting stuff, dwarving very tall people, and dunking stuff in this Draft Express workout video:
He's an Indian basketball pioneer
Although Canadian-born Sim Bhullar became the NBA's first player of Indian descent this past year, Singh would be the first player actually born on the subcontinent to make the league. He knows how important he can be for growing the game in the country of over a billion people. From a Washington Post interview after a workout with the Wizards:
"I feel good about it because in India there are a lot of Indian players who could have a chance to come here and play in college and high schools," Singh said Wednesday. "I think I can open the door for everyone to come here and play. So it's good for India and all the players. It's good for me and my country."
Singh was born in Ballo Ke, a village in Punjab with just 700 inhabitants. They nicknamed him "Chhotu" -- Punjab for "Little One." There were no basketball courts there -- his dad's wheat farm is 4 miles from the nearest paved road -- so he was sent off to a basketball academy at age 12. But the basketball infrastructure wasn't ideal. From the Povtak profile:
"First time I saw him play, he was wearing shoes that were falling apart. The seams had split, and he was coming right out of them,'' [NBA director of basketball operations in India Troy] Justice said. "That's all he had. He was growing so fast. We helped him get shoes."
Singh was selected as one of 29 students to spend three months at the IMG Academy in Florida, but once he got to Florida, they didn't want to let him go back to India. At the time, he didn't really speak English. But eventual he became so popular amongst his classmates that he was elected homecoming king.
He can play!
You'd probably think that a 7'2 guy from a basketball-poor nation would completely lack basketball skills. You'd be wrong. Look at his range, which extends all the way out past the three-point line:
Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge called him a "stretch five-and-a-half." After a workout with the Wizards, Wisconsin guard and draft hopeful Traveon Jackson praised his shooting:
"He's nice. He's good. He's definitely rough around the edges, but, man, he's big," Jackson said of Singh. "He was on my team. He set some big ball screens and he can really hit the pull-up, pick-and-pop shots. So he's definitely going to be on a team."
Former Kings coach Kenny Natt, who has worked with Singh for several years, told The Indian Express that folks are excited about Singh's strengths:
"In the case of Satnam, the general feedback on him has been consistent on both fronts when looking at his strong and weak points. To no surprise to us, nearly all have indicated that his speed, lateral quickness, and reaction time is lacking. However, they have all spoken very highly of Satnam's body size, hand size, physical strength, solid work ethic, crafty inside footwork off post, soft perimeter shooting touch with range, as well as his positive upside as a young player."
Everything Singh must improve is related to his athleticism, whereas he's already acquired some hard-to-develop basketball skills. For a player with Singh's background, that's surprising. For a player with Singh's physical attributes, that's downright incredible. The upside is obvious and astounding.
... but he's still pretty raw
Don't expect Singh to be able to contribute on the NBA level any time soon. Singh didn't get any scholarship offers -- colleges were concerned about his eligibility -- so he went into the NBA draft. That doesn't mean he's ready for the NBA yet.
Singh has never played basketball on any level even close to resembling the NBA. He's played high school basketball for four years and prep school basketball for one. He was injured for some of those years. He needs to play more basketball.
Singh's coaches think he has a lot of work ahead of him, and will be better in three or four years, from SI:
"This is the best route for him to begin peaking at 22 or 23 years old," said Dan Barto, IMG Academy's head skills trainer who will be working Singh out. "He can now focus 24 hours a day and seven days a week on competing with players his size along with expert coaching daily."
He'd be best served working on his game somewhere besides the NBA, most likely with the Mavericks' D-League affiliate.