REGENSBURG (David Hein’s Eye on the Future) – Here’s hoping that China and Canada face off at the FIBA U17 World Championship. The two countries are not in the same group in Kaunas, Lithuania but both have a big man drawing loads of interest from basketball observers the world over.
Wouldn’t it be great to see what China’s long and lean 16-year-old Zhou Qi could do against the 17-year-old behemoth Tanveer Bhullar from Canada?
While both of these players have a lot of talent – and size (and mass in the case of Bhullar) – both of them are also huge figures in the world of hoops.
Many in China hope that 7-foot-1 (2.14m) Qi can be the eventual next big thing as the nation still weeps over the retirement of Yao Ming – despite the presence of Yi Jianlian.
But at least there have been some Chinese to play and star in the NBA – besides Yao and Yi Jianlian there was also Wang Zhizhi and Mengke Bateer.
Of course there have been hundreds of Canadians who have or are playing in the NBA. But the 7-foot-2 Bhullar – and his older (and even bigger) brother Sim – both are the big hope for India.
Sim and Tanveer’s father, Avtar, and mother, Variander, emigrated to Toronto from the northern Indian state of Punjab in the late 1980s.
And despite playing for the Canadian national team, the continued emergence of the Bhullar brothers could be a huge boost in increasing the popularity of basketball in India - and the 1.2 billion residents there, about 5 million of whom play basketball.
India has never had anyone close to the NBA and these sub-20-year-olds are the greatest hope thus far.
These are two youngsters who are absolutely huge, tipping the scales at more than 260 pounds at age 15 – and Sim weighed over 360 pounds in 2011. The biggest issue for both of them is conditioning. They have to be able to run up and down the court more than a couple times to have an impact on the game.
The 7-foot-5 Sim – who turns 20 in December – has impressed internationally for Canada the past two summers, averaging 6 points and 3.8 points at the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship including a 14 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks effort against the United States.
A year later, Sim averaged 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in six games - including 24 points and 14 rebounds against Korea - before breaking his nose at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Riga, Latvia.
Considering the size of Sim and Tanveer, it’s scary to think about them playing in the same frontcourt. And that was the case at The Kiski School, a small, all-boys boarding school in the mountains of Saltsburg, Pennsylvania with an enrollment of about 210 pupils.
They are the first tandem of 7-foot brothers to play together since Brook and Robin Lopez starred at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California before both playing at Stanford and being selected in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft.
Daryn Freeman, a former assistant coach at Duquesne who also worked for Philadelphia and New Jersey in the NBA, found the Bhullar brothers and brought them to western Pennsylvania – as the parents recognized there were limited chances in Canada.
The Bhullars eventually would move to different high school academies and then Sim enrolled at New Mexico State University (NSU) but was ruled ineligible until the 2012-13 season.
One reason Bhullar went to play with the Aggies was that NMSU’s roster includes Daniel Mullings, Christian Kabongo, Hernst Laroche, Tyrone Watson and Renaldo Dixon – all Canadian-born players.
Even though Tanveer says he will be looking for a college program that has a track record in developing big men into NBA centers, many believe he may become an Aggie in New Mexico with his brother as well.
That would allow Tanveer and Sim to once again do battle against one another in practice. Going against his older brother helps Tanveer develop as a player as he can work on his offensive skills and defense on one of the few players who is actually bigger than him.
Tanveer will recall those Bhullar brother sessions should he face off against Qi at the U17 Worlds in Lithuania.
And eventually they could make Bhullar a role model for more than a billion Indians should he make the NBA – even if he’s from Canada.
FIBA’s columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.
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