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 ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

3 Pittsburgh Neighborhoods Where Homes Are Selling Fast

3 Pittsburgh Neighborhoods Where Homes Are Selling Fast

These neighborhoods saw the biggest increase in home sale prices in 2016.
Sunday in the Strip: 17 Photos That Capture the Neighborhood Perfectly

Sunday in the Strip: 17 Photos That Capture the Neighborhood Perfectly

A visit to Pittsburgh's Strip District is almost like going back in time, but in the best way possible. When you’re there you don’t feel the modern day rush, it’s just relaxed.
Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

After 60 years of supplying Pittsburgh oddities and party favors, the staff of Feinberg’s in the Strip District says they’ll miss the love the city has shown them.
Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

If you’re on the hunt for Friday night plans with a purpose, consider sleeping outside to benefit those in Pittsburgh who have to spend every night on the streets.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

In a year when youth-hockey participation is expected to increase, Pittsburgh Penguins players weigh in on the role of the hockey parent.
Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

There’s a magical, snowy landscape right in your backyard.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


3 Pittsburgh Neighborhoods Where Homes Are Selling Fast

3 Pittsburgh Neighborhoods Where Homes Are Selling Fast

These neighborhoods saw the biggest increase in home sale prices in 2016.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

It's the third year running for the concept, which was created by Simon Huntley of Pittsburgh's Small Farm Central.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

The one-of-a-kind night of bingo, trivia and madcap monologues returns in a new spot.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

The Hanson Brothers and other stars of the classic hockey film will return to Johnstown this weekend for a 40th anniversary celebration.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Chalk It Up

Chalk It Up

Doodle while you dine, or let your imagination run wild, with chalkboard placemats from Pittsburgh-based Chalk Lots.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Breaking down what we know and only think we know about the 2017 Academy Awards.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Get Your Craft — And Drink — On With New Hobby Prodigy

Get Your Craft — And Drink — On With New Hobby Prodigy

The BYOB- and family-friendly concept, where you make your own craft with help from experts, is now open at The Mall at Robinson.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Math Blast 2017 ‘Blasts’ Off at Grove City College

Math Blast 2017 ‘Blasts’ Off at Grove City College

Students studying education will provide fun and innovative math lessons to children.

Comments