The Sacramento Kings are reportedly poised to ink Sim Bhullar to a 10-day contract that would make the towering center the first player of Indian descent in the NBA.
ESPN was among the US media outlets reporting on Wednesday that the Kings, owned by Indian software magnate Vivek Ranadive, expect to bring Bhullar in from the Reno Bighorns, Sacramento's affiliate in the NBA Development League.
The 7-foot-5-inch Bhullar has spent the entire season with the Bighorns, after attending the Kings' pre-season training camp.
Bhullar is averaging 10.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in the D-League this season.
The 22-year-old, who was born in Canada to Indian-born parents, is expected to replace David Wear on Sacramento's roster after Wear's 10-day contract expires on Thursday.
Bhullar was a two-time Western Athletic Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player for New Mexico State University as they reached the NCAA Tournament in 2013 and 2014. He was undrafted last June but was brought into training camp by the Kings before landing in Reno.
Ranadive, the NBA's first Indian-born owner, said last August when the team brought Bhullar into training camp that he believed India was "the next great frontier" for the league.
Standing tall: Indian-origin Gursimran ‘Sim’ Bhullar
(From report by Anirudh Bhattacharyya, Hindustan Times, Toronto, in June 2014)
“He was getting a lot of attention in high school too,” his elder sister Avneet said. That was from college scouts looking for a big man on the court. Sim eventually picked New Mexico State University and its basketball team, the Aggies. He played there as a center — a position where size matters. And by the time he declared for the NBA draft, he had twice been the Western Athletic Conference tourney’s most outstanding player.
Aggies coach Paul Weir described Sim as a “tremendous defensive player”. In his favour, Weir said, was the fact that “Unlike a lot of players his size, he’s very coordinated”.
Size and agility aside, Sim also has the potential to pull in and inspire the desi crowd: “I think it would show other kids that they can achieve their dreams and goals if they work hard and stick to their goals. It would mean a lot for me, my family and the community.”
His younger brother Tanveer, who towers in at 7ft 3in, also plays for the Aggies and sees himself and Sim as pioneers, “We look at ourselves as role models, especially for those back in India”.
Height runs in the family. Sim’s father Avtar, who was born in Kapurthala, stands at 6ft 5in while his mother Varinder is nearly 6ft. Sim’s elder sister Avneet, a lawyer and an unofficial manager of the brothers, stands at an imposing 6ft.Sim attributes his success to his family’s support. His father moved to Canada in 1988 and operates a petrol pump and encouraged Sim to take up basketball. His sister helped out by driving him to his games. "My parents inspire me to be a better person and to work as hard as they do," Sim told HT.