When the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft begins in New York on June 26, one Indo-Canadian family will be glued to their TV. The Bhullars, from Brampton, Toronto, will be hoping that one of the premier American leagues — picking the future stars of basketball — will recruit their 21-year-old son Gursimran ‘Sim’ Bhullar and make him the first person of Indian origin to be drafted into the NBA.
Only 60 players will be chosen, but Bhullar’s chances are quite high, just as he is: at 7ft 5in, he could also be the tallest NBA player, if drafted. “I decided to declare for the draft this year as I felt it was the right time to take the next step to achieve my goals and dreams,” Bhullar, who isn’t a stranger to the attention his size gets him, told HT.
“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.
Sim is working hard and showcasing his skills to teams across the US and is garnering a lot of attention. “Any time there is a guy with his size, they have potential,” Toronto Raptors director of scouting Dan Tolzman said.