UA basketball: Tall order — Cats must stop 7-5 center

2013-12-11T00:00:00Z 2013-12-11T18:44:38Z UA basketball: Tall order — Cats must stop 7-5 centerBy Bruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The numbers “7” and “5” next to Sim Bhullar’s name on the New Mexico State roster might look like a typo, but Brandon Ashley can assure you the height is correct.

Ashley, a forward for the No. 1 Arizona Wildcats, faced the Aggies’ big big man on the high-school recruiting circuit.

“Man,” Ashley said. “He’s 7-5. All of it. He’s big and talented.”

There’s more evidence on Kevin Pangos’ Instagram account. The Gonzaga guard posed next to his Canadian friend, with the top of his head not even reaching Bhullar’s shoulder.

And Pangos is 6-foot-2.

“You’re a shrimp,” one of Pangos’ commenters noted.

Bhullar is so big that he might remind McKale Center fans of, well, nobody. There was Cal’s 7-3 Max Zhang in recent years and, back in the early 1980s, a Russian team that played an exhibition at McKale with a giant center but …

“He’ll be the biggest player that’s come into McKale in a long, long time,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “Maybe in its history.”

Size is only one reason Bhullar has a different story to tell. In a brief interview Tuesday, after the Aggies bused to Tucson, he told part of it:

He’s Indo-Canadian

Bhullar — who averages 9.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocks a game — was born in Toronto to parents who emigrated from Punjab, a state in the northwest of India. Bhullar said his parents left Punjab for better opportunities in Toronto, where his father now owns a gas station.

The family lives among a sizable Punjabi population in Toronto, the biggest city in a country that has an estimated 1.1 million Punjabi speakers. Punjabi is so entrenched in the local culture, in fact, that there is even a “Hockey Night in Canada” game broadcast in Punjabi every week.

“It’s a multicultural place,” Bhullar said. “There’s people from all over.”

His gene pool is stacked

Bhullar’s father, who participated in a form of wrestling in Punjab, is 6-4 and his mother is 5-10. Bhullar knows there’s some other genetics at hand, too.

“The great grandpa on my dad’s side was 6-8,” he said. “I didn’t think I would be so tall. I was always a couple of inches taller than other kids.”

Of course, he played hockey

Bhullar is a Canadian, after all. But as a 6-8 eighth-grader, he said, basketball started becoming fun.

Even though Canadian youth basketball has gained significant momentum in recent years, Bhullar played two years of high school ball in Pennsylvania and another at powerhouse Huntington (W.Va.) Prep.

“I left for baskeball reasons, pretty much. I thought I had a chance to play beyond high school, and back then there weren’t many players in Canada.”

He’s shedding pounds

While many extremely tall basketball players struggle to gain bulk, Bhullar has another problem: He’s 360 pounds, and that’s after conditioning work since arriving at NMSU before last season.

“That’s one of the biggest things I tried to do over the summer. I just hung out on the track and went running. Somedays it was hot, but you try to get up early in the morning.”

He’s not homesick

Having lived in the United States for three years before arriving in Las Cruces, N.M., Bhullar has become used to living away from home. And even finding a good bite to eat isn’t all that difficult — at least if he’s willing to drive 45 minutes.

“There’s a couple of Indian places in El Paso. They’re not so bad.”

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pac-12 basketball standings

  Conference Overall
Arizona 0 0 0 0.000 12 1 0 0.923
Washington 0 0 0 0.000 11 0 0 1.000
California 0 0 0 0.000 10 2 0 0.833
Oregon 0 0 0 0.000 9 3 0 0.750
Utah 0 0 0 0.000 9 2 0 0.818
UCLA 0 0 0 0.000 8 4 0 0.667
Arizona State 0 0 0 0.000 8 5 0 0.615
Colorado 0 0 0 0.000 7 4 0 0.636
USC 0 0 0 0.000 7 4 0 0.636
Stanford 0 0 0 0.000 7 3 0 0.700
Oregon State 0 0 0 0.000 7 3 0 0.700
Washington State 0 0 0 0.000 5 6 0 0.455

AP Top 25

Pac-12 basketball schedule

Teams Date Time
Harvard at
Arizona State
12/28 12:00 pm
Cal State-Bakersfield at
12/28 1:30 pm
Cal-Davis at
Washington State
12/28 4:00 pm
12/28 4:30 pm
Stony Brook at
12/28 6:00 pm
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at
12/29 9:00 pm
Cal-Irvine at
12/29 9:00 pm
UC-Santa Barbara at
Oregon State
12/30 7:30 pm
Carroll (Mont.) at
12/30 7:30 pm
Vermont at
12/30 9:30 pm
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