In his senior year of 2013-14, at Surrey’s Tamanawis Secondary, Sukhjot Bains was voted B.C.’s No. 1 senior boys basketball player.
Now, three seasons later, his dream of playing NCAA Div. 1 basketball has come true. The 6-foot-6 Bains will join the roster of the Horizon Conference’s Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix this coming season. Bains was expected to ink his name and make it official Wednesday as part of NCAA signing day.
“I didn’t take the traditional route straight out of high school,” admitted Bains on Tuesday from the campus of Northwest College, a junior college located in the tiny town of Powell, Wyoming.
“I went to prep school and then juco, so it’s rewarding,” he continued. “I learned a lot of things along the way that have helped me get to Div. 1 and all of the hard work has really paid off.”
It has been a circuitous route to be sure.
After leading Tamanawis into the 2014 B.C. Quad-A Final Four his senior season, a campaign over which he averaged 28.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, Bains packed his bags for Peddie Prep, a school in Highstown, New Jersey which plays in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League.
He has since spent the past two years at Northwest College, where this past season, the same all-round versatility which made him such a high school threat for the Wildcats, emerged at the next level with the Trappers.
“I was recruited (to Northwest) as a scorer but as the season went along, they noticed I could do multiple things and I even played at the 5 (centre) and brought the ball up the court,” says Bains. “Coach liked my versatility and my ability to guard multiple positions.”
Mike McKay, who along with Surinder Grewal, coached Bains at Tamanawis, has watched from afar and seen a player who has stepped up in every level of his play and his preparation.
“He’s 10-to-15 pounds heavier and it’s all muscle,” McKay noted. “He’s super strong right now. He has a much better left hand than when he left. He still shoots it really well from the outside and he still loves to attack. But there is a difference in his strength, his ball-handling and his play off the ball.”
Bains was clearly ready for the move to college basketball’s highest level.
After his first season at Northwest College, he visited NCAA Fairfield University in Connecticut, but elected to return to the juco ranks for a second season.
Now, three seasons out of high school, he has found the program which best melds with his skill set.
“(Wisconsin-Green Bay) plays with relentless pressure for 40 minutes,” adds McKay. “They press and they run up and down, and they shoot it. It’s just the way we play at Tamanawis.”
It’s been dubbed RP40 by head coach Linc Darner (click here to read more) and it’s a style of play that requires a deeper-than-normal rotation. As well, the Phoenix have graduated six players from this past season’s group, giving Bains an even greater chance to make an impact as he joins the roster as a junior.
“Coach (Darner) stressed how fast they played and how he needed players with multiple skills,” says Bains, “and that is something I am comfortable with. I have never wanted to be a one-dimensional player. I want to be all-round and going to Green Bay will really benefit me.”
“My numbers are not the same as when I was in high school,” added Bains, “but in terms of playing-wise and position-wise, it’s become more similar.”
What has changed, and it’s apparent from the moment Bains answers his phone, is his increased comfort in talking with the media about his game.
“I have also learned to improve my communication skills and my personal skills,” admits Bains, one of the quietest players of note in recent B.C. high school history.
Most of all, he has shown the mettle required to persevere towards his goal.
“When I left Tamanawis, I thought ‘OK, one year of prep school and then I’ll get (Div. 1) offers and I’ll commit,” he says. “I wasn’t planning on prep school and then two years of juco. But finally committing, it’s been a long journey.
“I’ve learned a lot and it’s made realize how hard you have to work.”
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