Seven Feet High and Rising

Sim and Tanveer Bhullar, who attend The Kiski School, are shooting to be basketball's first mega-stars of Indian descent.



The Bhullar brothers' coach predicts that Sim (left) and Tanveer (right) will be ranked among the top NCAA recruits by their senior seasons.

Photos by Devin Jeffrey

When 17-year-old Sim Bhullar dunks a basketball, he doesn't pull a face or furrow his brow as he prepares for takeoff. He nonchalantly extends his 7-foot-4-inch body and 747 wingspan and reaches for the rim the way most mortals reach for a box of Oreos on the top shelf of the pantry.

"Dunking is easy for me, so I don't really even think about it," Sim admits. "It feels like doing a layup." Opposing coaches wish this were their worst nightmare. Unfortunately for them, Sim is joined under the basket by his 7-foot-2-inch younger brother, Tanveer.

Sim and Tanveer, 15, attend The Kiski School, the pastoral, 350-acre boarding school 30 miles east of Pittsburgh in sleepy Saltsburg, Pa. Kiski is known as an incubator for Ivy League eggheads, but thanks to the behemoth Bhullar brothers, the school's previously unheralded basketball team heads into the upcoming season ranked 25th in the nation, according to CBSsports.com.

Big-time college recruiters are already tripping over one another to secure the Bhullars' letters of intent—University of Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon is a regular at their games— making the brothers the first-ever NBA hopefuls of Indian descent. But life wasn't always a layup.

Sim and Tanveer grew up in Toronto, born to parents who emigrated from Punjab, India, in the late '80s. Sim first picked up a basketball in seventh grade and started dunking about a year later. Tanveer soon followed suit, but the brothers' talents were raw. Sim spent his first year of high school in Toronto practicing seven days a week— his coordination always a half-step behind a body that just kept growing.

But all of that changed when Daryn Freedman came along. The former Duquesne University assistant, 34, had just taken over the head-coaching job at Kiski when he stumbled upon the brothers in summer 2009. Freedman saw more than a sideshow or a "project;" he saw two unusually graceful extra-big men. Within a few weeks, he convinced Varinder Bhullar to send her boys more than 300 miles away to The Kiski School, where the dorm rooms would be equipped with 8-foot, extra-large bunks.

"Sim arrived at Kiski a very shy kid," Freedman says. "Conditioning was also an issue. I had the team running sprints during the first practice, and Sim did one and he was exhausted." (Hey, you try doing laps in size 22 Nikes.) Still, Freedman knew that Sim could become one of the best players in the nation if only he believed in himself.

"Everything was brand new to him," Freedman says. "The first game we played last year was in Connecticut in front of 150 Division-1 coaches." Sim struggled mightily. He fumbled passes and stopped calling for the ball, admitting to Freedman after the game that he had been extremely nervous.

"At first, I was a little bit homesick at Kiski, but having my brother there made it less lonely," Sim says, "and eventually I started making my own friends." With Tanveer's help, Sim started coming out of his shell and calling for the ball, posterizing pimply faced prep-school power forwards with flashes of Hakeem "the Dream" Olajuwon's breezy low-post moves.

This summer, as the hype surrounding the Bhullars spread on YouTube and sports blogs, Sim's home country of Canada came calling for his services at the FIBA Under-18 tournament, the premier international basketball showcase in San Antonio. Sports Illustrated described Sim's performance as a "showstopper."

But perhaps more importantly, the brothers have hit their stride off the court. On weekends, best friend and teammate Jason Sebak often takes them to his parents' house in New Kensington to hang out and to explore Pittsburgh. Last December, Sim wanted to do something fun for his birthday, so Sebak took him to a Steelers game. In the Strip District, home of anything and everything, Sim even found a 5-XL Santonio Holmes jersey; Sebak bought it for his buddy as a birthday gift.

"The shopkeeper said it was the first quintuple-sized jersey he ever actually sold," says Sebak, whom the Bhullars both call their "brother."

As kickoff approached and the wave of towels crested, one twirled high above the surf. There was the 7-foot-plus Canadian-Indian—now an adopted Pittsburgher— waving his Terrible Towel close to the heavens. The late Myron Cope, if he were around to see it, surely would have blessed the unusual scene with a "Double Yoi."

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind.
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Pittburgh’s Daya Dropping New Album, Headline Tour

Pittburgh’s Daya Dropping New Album, Headline Tour

The teen singing sensation from Mt. Lebanon’s tour concludes in Pittsburgh.
See it Now: Trailer for Filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Fences”

See it Now: Trailer for Filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Fences”

Directed and starring Denzel Washington, the first big screen treatment of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play arrives in theaters on Christmas Day.
2016 Athena Award Winners Announced

2016 Athena Award Winners Announced

Named for the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the ATHENA Awards are unique among regional honors for professional women because of the focus on developing the next generation of leaders through mentorship.
Watch: Tributes and More For Golfing Great Arnold Palmer

Watch: Tributes and More For Golfing Great Arnold Palmer

The golf icon from Latrobe, Pa. died Sunday of complications from heart problems.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind.
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

The things that are best about us? They’re not things. They’re ways.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Pittburgh’s Daya Dropping New Album, Headline Tour

Pittburgh’s Daya Dropping New Album, Headline Tour

The teen singing sensation from Mt. Lebanon’s tour concludes in Pittsburgh.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
e2 to Close in Highland Park

e2 to Close in Highland Park

Chef/owner Kate Romane will move on to a new project.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

The historic (and purportedly haunted) Harmony Inn is a fine stop for drinks and food.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates’ Ship Sunk But Salvageable

Pirates’ Ship Sunk But Salvageable

Of all that conspired to derail the Pirates after three consecutive trips to the playoffs, the unanticipated implosions of Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano proved, in retrospect, to be more of a deal-breaker than anything else.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Green Chic: The Boxcar Planter Set

Green Chic: The Boxcar Planter Set

The geometric set is available through the hip Ace Hotel shop.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

Reviews of the "Magnificent Seven" remake and "Storks," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

This Pittsburgh couple wanted their guests to be just as content as they were at their wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Make Your Design Work for You: Mecox Opens In Pittsburgh

Make Your Design Work for You: Mecox Opens In Pittsburgh

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Mecox will be opening its eighth location, but its first in Pittsburgh, in Shadyside.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Ken Gormley began his new tenure by delivering good news to University employees.

Comments