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

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.
8 Things You Might Not Know About Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit

8 Things You Might Not Know About Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit

When you compare what it cost to build the coaster in 1920 to what it would cost today, it's obvious Kennywood's owners got their money's worth.
Second New Restaurant Moving into Union Trust Building

Second New Restaurant Moving into Union Trust Building

The upscale seafood eatery is expected to open in late 2016 or early 2017.
Local Filmmaker Celebrates Pittsburgh Food

Local Filmmaker Celebrates Pittsburgh Food

Artist David Bernabo creates a series of films that track various aspects of Pittsburgh's food culture.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, 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

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Nearby Canonsburg is a rare find for antiques collectors.
U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

The U.S. Open is returning to Oakmont — and unlike previous tournaments, this one could make the community a vital part of the action.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.

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
Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

DeShantz owns three other Pittsburgh restaurants and is about to open a fourth.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

The in-house tavern at the Riverhounds' home stadium is now welcoming guests during weekdays. But is it worth a dedicated stop?

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

These Penguins have been downright unrecognizable, individually and collectively, on the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

An electrician by trade, designer Thomas Verscharen creates custom lighting out of repurposed pieces.

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.
The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

Reviews of "X-Men: Apocalypse," "Alice Through the Looking Glass," "A Bigger Splash" and "Love and Friendship."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Get with the (Wedding) Program

Get with the (Wedding) Program

Have you ever considered making programs for your wedding guests? If not, think again and get creative.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

Spread out across the city for these upcoming events, including a “Tiny House” exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center displayed by the FIY Network.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

The event will connect hundreds of small business managers and owners and provide useful information to help them take their enterprises to the next level.

Comments