03:23 - Source: CNN
India's NBA dream born in tiny village

Story highlights

Satnam Singh was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the 52nd pick in the draft

The Indian-born 7 feet 2 inches sportsman has been playing in Florida

CNN —  

Making it big in basketball had long been a dearly held dream for Satnam Singh.

Making it happen was another matter.

Growing up in a remote village in India’s Punjab province, he was destined to become a farmer – like his father and his father’s father.

But that’s the thing about dreams. With hard work – and, in Singh’s case, a ginormous frame – they sometimes come true.

On Thursday, he became the first basketball player from India to be drafted by an NBA team.

The Dallas Mavericks selected the 7-foot-2-inch, 19-year-old with the 52nd pick in the draft.

He’s not expected to make the team right away, but rather will put in time at the Development League level.

But his arrival is a big moment for India.

For the moment, Singh is little known in his homeland, where cricket is by far the biggest sport and few follow the American National Basketball Association.

But success in the United States could change that – in the same way China’s Yao Ming galvanized interest in basketball in his country.

That’s certainly what the Mavs are counting on.

“We certainly created a legend,” owner Mark Cuban said. “There’s a billion new Mavs fans out there right now.”

Spotting potential

The village of Billoke is a tiny one in the proud state of Punjab, home of turbaned Sikh men and Bhangra music.

Singh’s father, Balbir Singh, works the flour mills and raises dairy cows, just like many of the men in the village of 3,000.

But one thing set Balbir Singh apart: In a land where the average man is 5 feet 4 inches, he towered over others by a full two feet.

It’s a genetic trait that even Satnam Singh, even at a young age, was exhibiting.

An eagle-eyed sports enthusiast recognized the potential in his friend’s 9 -year-old son, who was already 5 feet 9 inches by then.

“I can make out from his height that he could become a good player,” Rajinder Singh told CNN in 2012. “I took him to the ground to practice. Day by day he excelled and touched greater heights.”

Coming to America

Soon after, he arrived in the United States to train at a basketball academy. He was separated from his parents by more than 8,000 miles, connected to them only through Skype. He missed home, he said. And he missed the food.

But he had one dream, and knew that if he practiced hard and put his heart into it, it could be his.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

“I wish to become the greatest player in the world,” he told CNN. “I want to uphold the honor of India, the USA and of my coach and make basketball a prominent sport in India.”

He began practicing shooting hoops as a child, after a family friend spotted the potential in Singh’s height – he was already 5 feet 9 inches at age nine.

CNN’s Brian Walker contributed to this report