Basketball superstar

Sim Bhullar could be Asia’s next basketball superstar

NORTH AUGUSTA, SC – As 7-foot-4 center Sim Bhullar walks through airports, people flock to him and ask him to pose for photos. When he recently visited India, where his parents were born, many approached him in Sikh shrine known as the Golden Temple that he was ushered into an office. People hung on the bars of the office windows to take a look.

Still, only a few who follow college basketball recruiting actually know who Bhullar is: a 17-year-old from Toronto who has verbally pledged to play for Xavier. Recruiting gurus also know his brother Tanveer, 16, another college prospect at 7-2 and 260 pounds.

But as untrained eyes from airport terminals to religious monuments have shown, Bhullar’s basketball potential is obvious. Regardless of his level, Bhullar is on his way to becoming the first male basketball player of Indian descent.

“I think it would be a blessing,” he said, “to be the first in an entire country to go to the NBA and be a role model.”

Chinese star Yao Ming, a former No.1 pick, is retiring from the Houston Rockets, so it’s easy to deduce that Asia is ready for its next big basketball ambassador. While Bhullar is yet to show the potential to be one of the NBA’s top picks, his size, hands, and need for a big body make it very likely that he will have a professional career somewhere.

In addition to all the glances drawn on him, Bhullar will also feel the pressure of millions of supporters. Coverage of his matches appears in the Toronto newspaper Punjabi, Parvasi, and Sports Illustrated India contacted Bhullar.

“It will be a difficult role to tie because of all the different groups, religious groups and just the athletic loving people watching you,” said Avneet Bhullar, Sim’s older sister, who is a law student in England. . “It will be difficult at first, but I know he will understand it and set an example for a lot of people as best he can.”

The emergence of Bhullar would be a boon to increase the popularity of the game in India, with a population of around 1.2 billion, including five million who play basketball. Bhullar said that while visiting Punjab, the northern Indian state where his family’s roots are located, he had never seen anyone play the game. Although Geethu Anna Jose, the captain of the Indian Women’s National Team, attended WNBA trials, basketball is not very well known in the country.

The NBA has made inroads in India, where it plans to open an office this year. It broadcasts five games a week there during the season, sponsors a community league in five cities – the Mahindra NBA Challenge – and made NBA jerseys available in India for the first time last year.

“To have an Indian player in the NBA is a matter of when, not if,” said Heidi Ueberroth, president of NBA International. She added: “We have no doubt that India’s elite players will emerge.”

In order for the game to really get the interest of the country, an Indian player would help greatly. Bhullar was not born in India, but his presence at a high level in basketball would resonate there.

“Like Yao for China and Dirk for Germany, he’s in that vein,” said Paul Biancardi, an ESPN recruiting analyst, referring to Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. “He could help populate the game and spark interest in this country. But first, he has to emerge here. And he hasn’t done anything yet.

Bhullar’s college basketball potential is a subject of debate among coaches, analysts and journalists. The positives it brings to the floor are obvious, as it obstructs the path with its thick frame, skilfully passes and does not hesitate to come into contact with the paint. He starred in the Nike peach jam tournament here last week with a broken nose he sustained with the Canadian National Under-19 Team. His 7-11 wingspan blocked and altered so many shots that his opponents felt his presence both physically and mentally.

“He hurts you when he fouls you,” Biancardi said.

Bhullar has sparked recruiting interest in some of the top university programs – Georgetown, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse – but many are skeptical of his ability to consistently contribute.

Although he fell to 330 pounds from 367 last year while playing Huntington preparation in West Virginia, Bhullar said he needed to lose an additional 30 pounds. He struggles to run from end to end, seems to tire easily, and is laterally limited. But for Xavier, a perennial NCAA tournament team, it’s probably wise to bet on a prospect who can tiptoe out of his size 22 sneakers.

Rob Fulford, his trainer at Huntington Prep, marveled at how far Bhullar has come since joining last November, with his improvement directly proportional to his weight loss.

“A lot of what’s holding him back is his body,” Fulford said. “When he loses weight, he will continue to improve. He has a long way to go with the lateral movements, but he knows how to play and has good hands and excellent footwork. ”

Bhullar, who was introduced to basketball in elementary school, faces a crossroads next month. He qualified academically to enroll in Xavier but could choose to spend another year in prep school. Bhullar said he would decide with his family in August.

Her father, Avtar, is 6-5 years old and grew up playing kabaddi, a physical sport with elements of struggle. He owns a gas station in Toronto, the walls of which are covered with pictures and articles highlighting Sim’s basketball exploits. Bhullar’s mother, Varinder, works at the station.

Another year at Huntington could see him lose some weight and polish his postgame. Bhullar could be modeled on Xavier’s 7 foot center, Kenny Frease, who has grown into a top-flight Atlantic 10 player by tightening up and developing his post-game. Bhullar said Xavier’s coaches discussed techniques and drills with Yao’s coach, but they cannot comment on Bhullar as he did not sign a letter of intent.

“In the past year and a half he’s had one of the biggest improvements or jumps I’ve ever seen in a child,” said Mike George, Bhullar’s summer team coach. , CIA rebound, based in Toronto. “Xavier has proven that they can get guys in good physical condition and they’ll use the big guys. It’s a different guy for the Atlantic 10.

After hitting 6-10 in eighth grade, Bhullar said, he got used to getting attention. He admitted that it was sometimes difficult to be a normal teenager, but said he took time for Xbox, Facebook and the movies with his friends.

Bhullar is calm and humble, with a dry sense of humor. When onlookers ask him what sport he plays, he smiles mischievously and says, “Hockey.

If Bhullar is losing weight and expanding his game, he might need a new joke. From Toronto to the Punjab, her name could one day be as recognizable as her silhouette.

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