Toronto's Sim Bhullar prepares for March Madness
At the A1 Petro Biz Gas Bar in Etobicoke, the walls behind the counter are plastered with pictures of Sim Bhullar. His father Avtar proudly shows photos of his 7' 5" son towering over his classmates during his high school career at Father Henry Carr.
Bhullar is now a freshman centre at New Mexico State and looking to help his team as it gets set for the NCAA Tournament known as March Madness.
The 20-year-old scored 16 points and added 15 rebounds and was named MVP of the Western Athletics Conference tournament that helped New Mexico State book it's place in the tournament.
"It's a blessing honestly. I didn't really think I'd come this far, but I guess you've seen how far hard work takes you," he said after the tournament.
His younger brother, 18-year old Tanveer, no slouch himself, at 7' 2" says his brother has made the family proud.
"Right when I heard he won MVP, I was very proud of him. He's come a long way, and it's crazy how where we first started off and now he's in the big dance," Tanveer says.
The tournament could be Bhullar's coming out party. The big man has already been profiled by the New York Times as a potential a star who could help promote the game overseas in India.
Tony McIntyre has coached Bhullar as part of his CIA Bounce summer development camp since Bhullar was in elementary school.
"When we first met him I think they were somewhere like 6'8 in Grade 8, so he was just absolutely huge"
Bhullar says was always bigger than everyone else, with a willingness to learn and work hard. He thinks Bhullar is still growing in to his body and he's still developing his skills.
"I think his potential is unlimited, we really believe that's he's a pro," he says. "He's done an outstanding job on his body and lost a lot of weight this year and got in shape and his play is showing it."
Tanveer says overcoming critics who think the Bhullars are all size and no skill is one of their biggest challenges
"That's a big pressure we have to overcome, and a lot of people are noticing that from my brother scoring 16 points and 15 rebounds, that's not just your height, that's skill too," he says.
Sim Bhullar has three GTA teammates with him at New Mexico State. Guard Daniel Mullings and forward Renaldo Dixon are from Toronto, while forward Tyrone Watson hails from Hamilton.
The school is ranked 13th in the midwest conference and faces No. 4 St. Louis in the first round. Their first game is Thursday. Bhullar's sister will be in attendance, while the rest of the family hopes to go if the team progresses deeper in to the tournament.