Riyanshu Negi's mantra in life is heart over height. It's something that was instilled into him by his father and grandfather, both of whom served in the Indian Army.
On Thursday, Negi's heart earned him a spot with DME Sports Academy, a prep school in Florida's Daytona Beach, making him the fourth Indian male student-athlete from NBA Academy India to commit to a high-school or college basketball program in the USA.
Just like his grandfather and father, Negi hopes to represent India someday, albeit on the basketball court.
"My father and grandfather played football for the Army. So they supported my dream of playing basketball," Riyanshu told Firstpost. "Because they were both in the army, they were always telling me to stay disciplined. They would say do whatever you want to do, but do it with all your heart."
Riyanshu's father fought in the 1999 Kargil War while his grandfather fought in 1965 and 1971 wars. But he says there was never any pressure on him to follow in their footsteps.
In 2017, the Rourkee native was part of the first NBA Academy India class of players identified through the ACG-NBA Jump Program. The youngsters picked came from unassuming towns like Salem, Ratlam, Rewa, Guna, Tiruvalla and Durg.
"I spent two years at the NBA India Academy," said Riyanshu. "I improved as a shooter. The coaches there helped me change my shooting form. You have to be good shooter if you're 6'3". They also helped me improve my ball handling skills and basketball IQ, which basically taught me how to make better decisions when on the court."
The stint also helped Riyanshu bulk up by 10 kilograms. The teenager has been part of multiple basketball development camps organised by the NBA, including the 2017 and 2018 NBA Academy Games and 2017 NBA Asia Pacific Camp in China.
Many of the Indian players who have gone to the US to play in the NBA G-League or come close to playing for the development league of NBA are much taller and play in the centre or power forward positions. (Amjyot Singh is 6'8", Satnam Singh is 7'2", Princepal Singh is 6'10" and Palpreet Singh is 6'9"). Similarly, the three Indian male student-athlete from NBA Academy India to commit to a high-school or college basketball program in the USA are also much taller. Jagshaanbir Singh, who was signed by Golden State Prep in July 2019 is seven-foot-tall, Pranav Prince, who joined First Love Christian Academy in August this year is 6'6", and Amaan Sandhu, who also joined First Love Christian Academy in October this year is 6'11".
Riyanshu, though, is a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, who can also play as the point guard if the team needs.
But that doesn't faze the 18-year-old. As his father and grandfather like to keep reminding him, it's always heart over height.